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Sunday October 22nd, 2017 11:40AM

Atlanta Dream fire coach Michael Cooper after 12-22 season

By The Associated Press
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ATLANTA (AP) — The Atlanta Dream fired coach Michael Cooper on Tuesday after plummeting to their worst season since 2008.

The WNBA team said it "decided to part ways" with Cooper, the former Los Angeles Lakers star who guided the team the last four years.

With leading scorer Angel McCoughtry deciding to sit out this season to rest , Atlanta struggled to a 12-22 mark that included a nine-game losing streak in July and August. It was the Dream's worst showing since a 4-30 record in their inaugural season as an expansion team.

Cooper was hired after Atlanta reached the WNBA final for the second time in 2013. The Dream earned the top seed in the Eastern Conference in his debut season, even as he was treated for tongue cancer .

But the inspiring season ended with the team squandering a 17-point, fourth-quarter lead in the decisive game of its opening playoff series against Chicago. Pulling off the greatest fourth-quarter comeback in WNBA playoff history, the Sky defeated Atlanta 81-80 .

The Dream never seemed to get over that crushing disappointment. Atlanta missed the playoffs in 2015 and lost to Chicago again last year in the second round.

"I am very proud of the young and cohesive team we've built and I want to thank the Atlanta fans, the Dream organization, and, most of all, our players for their dedication and hard work," Cooper said in a statement released by the team. "We've grown as a team and I'm confident these talented and exciting players will continue to realize their potential both as a team and individually."

Cooper guided the Los Angeles Sparks to consecutive WNBA titles in 2001-02 and earned coach of the year honors.

During a 12-year career with the Lakers, Cooper was a key defensive player on the "Showtime" teams that won five NBA titles in the 1980s

Cooper won another championship coaching in the NBA Development League, making him the only person to win titles in all three leagues as a player or coach.

Dream owners Mary Brock and Kelly Loeffler released a joint statement thanking the 61-year-old Cooper for his contributions. He finished with an overall record of 63-73 in the regular season and 2-3 in the playoffs.

"Michael shared a wealth of experience from his championships in the NBA and coaching two WNBA championship teams," they said.

Cooper did another stint as the Sparks' coach from 2007-09, but didn't have the same success. He also coached the Southern California women's team for four seasons, quitting in 2013 after an 11-20 record.

___

Follow Paul Newberry on Twitter at www.twitter.com/pnewberry1963 . His work can be found at https://apnews.com/search/paul%20newberry

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