Cooper-Dyke feels ‘at home at UNCW’
Published: Wednesday, November 2, 2011
Updated: Wednesday, November 2, 2011 22:11
A three-time WNBA All-Star, an MVP during her international playing career, the only WNBA player ever inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame and an Olympic champion, UNC Wilmington women's basketball coach Cynthia Cooper-Dyke accomplished numerous titles and honors during her playing career.
That success as a player has followed her into coaching, as well. During her first head coaching position at Prairie View A&M University, her impact was immediate as she led the Panthers to the SWAC tournament title and their first-ever NCAA tournament appearance in her second season. Now she looks to keep her winning tradition alive while leading the Seahawks.
Hired at UNCW in late spring of 2010, Cooper-Dyke received players and schedules set from the previous coaching staff. This season, she's more in control.
"It feels a little more like my team this year," the University of Southern California graduate says. "I still inherited a lot of the schedule with returns and teams we had on our schedule, but I feel at home at UNCW."
Never one to shy away from competition, "Coach Coop", as she is affectionately known to her players and around campus, has made it a point to schedule high-profile teams this season in hopes of bettering her Seahawk squad.
"As a conference, we had a head coach meeting with the CAA and one of the things that was discussed was that they wanted us to look to get more top-25 teams on our schedule so that our conference can have a better RPI and we can get some of those at large bids for the NCAA tournament," she said. "Me, I'm not scared to play anyone so I go and get Duke—No. 2 in the country."
One of the more significant moves Cooper-Dyke has made since she was hired was bringing on former UNCW basketball standout Brittany Blackwell to her staff as a graduate assistant. Cooper-Dyke views her addition as an opportunity for current players to learn from her previous experience in the program.
"I was chasing Brittany around. We needed her because, even though she isn't playing, she still carries a leadership role for us and is mentoring the players," Cooper-Dyke said. "She knows exactly what I want and the level of intensity we need to have in the CAA conference. She lets the players know that too. She tells them where they need to be, where they need to go on plays."
Entering her second season, expectations are high for the Seahawks to continue their success from last season's first postseason run. With a more hands-on approach, personal input into this year's squad and the addition of Brittany Blackwell to her coaching staff, Cooper-Dyke has set herself up to accomplish great things within the collegiate coaching ranks, just as she did during her playing career.