In a span of 48 hours, Atlanta Dream head coach Michael Cooper has experienced the entire spectrum of human emotions.
Just days after coaching the Eastern Conference team to a thrilling, heart-stopping 125-124 overtime victory over the Western Conference in the WNBA All Star Game — led by a record 29-point, 8-assist explosion by his rookie Shoni Shimmel no less — Atlanta Dream head coach and 5-time NBA champion will take an immediate medical leave of absent to treat the beginning stages of cancer, the Dream announced.
Cooper has been diagnosed with early stage tongue cancer, and will undergo a surgical procedure this week at Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University in Atlanta. Typical recovery time for the procedure is two weeks.
Cooper, who also won a WNBA title when he coached the Los Angeles Sparx, expects to only miss a few weeks from the team. Assistant coach Karleen Thompson will assume head coaching duties.
“The doctors and staff at Emory have been tremendous, and I know I’m in good hands,” said Cooper. “I’m fortunate that my condition was diagnosed early, and this episode illustrates the importance of screening and early detection. 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.”
The Dream stated they will release no further details.
Cooper has led the Dream to a 15-6 record and a first-place standing in the Eastern Conference in his first season leading the Dream. The two-time WNBA Champion head coach has the Dream in contention for its first Eastern Conference regular-season title in team history, as the team holds a five-game lead with 13 games remaining. He coached the East to a 125-124 overtime victory at the WNBA All-Star game on Saturday in Phoenix.