Michael Cooper

This is a June 1, 2014 file photo showing Atlanta WNBA head coach Michael Cooper during the second half of a basketball game against Connecticut in Uncasville, Conn. Cooper has had surgery for tongue cancer. The WNBA team said Friday, July 25, 2014, that Thursday’s procedure was successful and Cooper “will be back coaching soon.”

Michael Cooper, coach of the WNBA’s Atlanta Dream recently announced that he has early-stage tongue cancer.

According to the team, Cooper, 58, will undergo surgery soon at the Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University in Atlanta. A full recovery is expected, although he will miss two weeks.

Cooper has taken a leave from the team and assistant coach Karleen Thompson will fill in for him during his absence.

“I’m fortunate that my condition was diagnosed early, and this episode illustrates the importance of screening and early detection,” Cooper told ESPN.  “I know the team will be in good hands with Coach Thompson at the helm during my absence, and I look forward to returning to the court soon.”

In his first year as the coach of the Dream, Cooper has had early success. His team leads the Eastern Conference with a 15-6 record. In the WNBA All-Star Game on July 19, Cooper coached the East and led them to a 125-124 overtime victory over the West.

Cooper won five NBA titles as a shooting guard with the Los Angeles Lakers from 1978 to 1990, and won two WNBA titles as a coach with the Los Angeles Sparks.

Courtney Jacobs

AFRO Staff Writer