John Cooper was announced as the 23rd head coach of the Miami University men's basketball program on April 6, 2012.
According to Miami Director of Athletics Brad Bates, Cooper's experience as a head coach at Tennessee State and as an assistant coach at Auburn, Oregon, South Carolina and Fayetteville State was a major determinant to his hiring at Miami, but his emphasis on academics also played a role in his selection.
"John Cooper symbolizes the extraordinary future of Miami Basketball that we all envision," Miami Director of Athletics Brad Bates said. "He excelled as a student-athlete, as team captain, leading scorer and rebounder, and a Rhodes Scholar candidate. John has been mentored by some extraordinary leaders in the sport and has coached in the Southeastern Conference and the PAC 12 Conference. He has annually increased three critical variables during his time in Nashville: competitiveness, Academic Performance Rating and attendance. Most importantly, John genuinely cares about his players as high school prospects, students and alums. We are excited to welcome John, Melissa, Kennedy and Kameron to Oxford and look forward to a great future of Miami Basketball."
Cooper's 2011-12 Tennessee State squad posted a 20-13 record, the school's first winning mark since 1995-96 and the Tigers' first 20-win season in 32 years. The team had an 11-5 league record in Ohio Valley Conference play. Perhaps TSU's most impressive victory this past season came on Feb. 9 when it defeated seventh-ranked Murray State, 72-68. The loss was only one of two in '11-12 that was suffered by the 31-2 Racers. Cooper's team nearly earned a berth in the 2012 NCAA Tournament, losing at the hands of Murray State by a score of 54-52 in the OVC Tournament final. On Feb. 19, 2012, Cooper led TSU to a 68-61 victory over Miami at Millett Hall. TSU also claimed its first win over an SEC opponent this year when the Tigers beat South Carolina 64-63. His three-year overall record at TSU was 43-51, including a 27-25 mark in OVC games.
"As I look forward to Miami, I'm certainly excited about working with such a great administration," said Cooper upon his hiring at Miami. "It was so evident that they're fully supportive of the program. When we played at Miami in February, it was clear to see the youthful talent on the RedHawk team and that has me excited. They worked so hard for Coach Coles and I want those guys to know that we're always going to have their best interests at heart. We want to create a family atmosphere and become successful, but also to feel comfortable that we'll be completely supportive to their needs. We will strive to help them improve as athletes but, more importantly, we want them to become better people."
Cooper was a finalist for four different coaching awards this past season, including the Jim Phelan National Coach of the Year Award (national coach of the year), the John McLendon Award (top overall collegiate coach), The Hugh Durham Award (nation's top Mid-Major coach) and the Ben Jobe Award (nation's top minority coach in Division I).
Cooper joined Tennessee State following a five-year stint as Associate Head Basketball Coach at Auburn University under Jeff Lebo. He played a vital role in the revitalization of the Tigers' basketball program with Auburn recording its first winning season since 2003. Auburn posted a 24-12 record in 2008-09, advancing to the quarterfinals of the National Invitation Tournament.
Prior to his time at Auburn, Cooper spent two seasons at Oregon where he helped the Ducks to a 41-23 mark. Oregon went 23-10 with an NCAA Tournament appearance in 2002-03 and had an 18-13 record in '03-04, losing in the NIT semifinals.
From the 1995-96 season through the 2000-01 campaign, Cooper served as an assistant coach to Eddie Fogler at South Carolina. During a three-year stretch from '95-96 to '97-98, the Gamecocks posted a 66-28 record. The '96-97 squad won the Southeastern Conference title, finishing with an overall record of 24-8 and finishing No. 6 in the national rankings.
Cooper's first coaching job was as an assistant at Fayetteville State from 1993-95.
A native of Kansas City, Mo., Cooper played collegiately at Wichita State under Fogler. He led the Shockers in scoring and rebounding during his junior and senior seasons. Cooper was a two-time team captain and a Rhodes Scholar candidate in his senior year.
Fogler praised Miami's selection.
"John Cooper is the perfect fit for Miami University," said Fogler. "A high achiever both on the court and in the classroom, Coop will compete for championships with student-athletes that graduate and who are prepared for life after basketball. John was very instrumental in my own personal successes as a player for me at Wichita State University and as my assistant coach at the University of South Carolina. What he accomplished as head coach at Tennessee State the past three years is remarkable. He's a great young coach and even a better person."
He played professional basketball with the Ft. Wayne Fury of the Continental Basketball Association in 1991-92 and with Holland's Commodore Mustangs in the European Professional Basketball League in 1992-93.
Cooper earned a B.S. in business administration from Wichita State in 1991.
He is married to the former Melissa Mathis. They have a daughter, Kennedy, and a son, Kameron.