New USC women's basketball Coach Cynthia Cooper-Dyke, 50, had a 150-106… (Damian Dovarganes / Associated…)
Time will tell whether Cynthia Cooper-Dyke can restore USC to relevancy in women’s basketball.
But on Tuesday, when she was introduced as the Trojans' new coach, it was clear that her hiring already had infused the program with a new energy.
A group of former Trojans teammates, USC administrators and fans and football Coach Lane Kiffin were among those on hand at a rousing news conference to welcome Cooper-Dyke, who grew up in Los Angeles, played on USC national championship teams in 1983 and 1984, won an Olympic gold medal and led the Houston Comets to four consecutive WNBA titles.
“This is my dream job,” said Cooper-Dyke, who coached last season at Texas Southern.
Cooper-Dyke, 50, had a 150-106 record in eight seasons at Texas Southern, UNC-Wilmington and Prairie View A&M. She replaces Michael Cooper in a program that last qualified for the NCAA tournament in 2006.
“We want to be on top of the Pac-12 [Conference] and be a national powerhouse again,” Cooper-Dyke said.
Forward Cassie Harberts, who will be a senior next season, said players were excited about the hiring of Cooper-Dyke, whom Athletic Director Pat Haden described as “a Trojan icon.” Cooper-Dyke worked out her new players for the first time Monday.
“She’s more of a college, back-to-the-basics teaching coach,” Harberts said. “That’s something we really need.”
Cooper-Dyke said she was “on fire” about recruiting and “in awe” of the McKay Center and other USC athletic facilities.
“We should be able to compete with anyone recruiting nationally and, absolutely, in our backyard,” she said.
Cooper-Dyke said she watched from afar through the years as the USC program struggled.
“I followed USC women’s basketball every single season, every year, hoping and praying that they would make the tournament and be a national powerhouse once again,” she said. “That’s one of the reasons why I’m so excited to be here. And hopefully, my staff and I, we can get the program where it needs to be.”
Cooper-Dyke said she had learned from her coaching successes and her mistakes.
In 2008, the NCAA penalized Prairie View for violations that occurred during Cooper-Dyke's first season in 2005-06. The violations reportedly included Cooper giving players small amounts of cash and allowing unauthorized workouts.
The NCAA found that the school had failed to educate Cooper-Dyke about rules.
Haden said last week that USC had “fully vetted” Cooper-Dyke's involvement at Prairie View and that all coaches receive compliance education at USC.
“I had bumps in the road in the beginning,” she said of her first season at Prairie View. “I was coming from the pro circuit, I hadn’t had rules training. And what I learned is that the NCAA is serious and the rules are complicated and you better go learn them.
“And now, I know the rules. But more than just knowing the rules, I have a mentality of compliance…. The rules are ever-changing and evolving and you have to be able to ask the question before you get yourself into a situation.
“I’m well aware and now I’m surrounded by a culture of compliance -- and it’s a good thing. When you’re surrounded by a team that wants you to get it right, it’s really seamless and I welcome it.”
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