Cooper out as Saints hoops coach

mwochnick@theolympian.comMarch 6, 2013 

Saint Martin’s University fired men’s basketball coach Keith Cooper on Tuesday, three days after the conclusion of the 2012-13 season with an eighth-place finish in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference.

Cooper, who was hired in 2003, compiled a 116-158 record (.423 percent) in 10 seasons. The Saints’ season concluded Saturday with an 82-71 win at Central Washington to finish 10-16 overall and 6-12 in the GNAC. It was the second consecutive season with a 6-12 record in GNAC play.

Cooper’s dismissal was surprising to the players, who were told at a meeting Tuesday.

“He’s been a huge part of my life in the past five years,” senior point guard Brady Bomber said of Cooper. “I have a ton of respect for him and can’t say enough about what he’s done for me and my teammates.”

The Saints’ best season under Cooper came in 2008-09. Led by point guard Jake Linton, the Saints went 22-8 overall and 10-6 in the GNAC for fourth place. His 2006-07 team won the conference’s academic title.

Prior to Saint Martin’s, Cooper spent three seasons as an assistant coach at two GNAC schools — one at his alma mater, Seattle Pacific, and two seasons at Central Washington. He also was boys basketball coach at Federal Way’s Decatur High School from 1995-2000.

“We sincerely appreciate Keith’s contributions to the university and to our basketball program over the past decade,” Saint Martin’s athletic director Bob Grisham said in a news release. “After considerable evaluation, we have resolved to make a change in leadership with the goal of moving our men’s basketball program forward.”

Said Cooper in the news release: “It’s been an honor to coach such talented, dedicated student-athletes season after season, and to see those young men succeed on and off the court.”

The Olympian’s attempts to reach Cooper for further comment were unsuccessful.

The coaching change comes on the eve of the GNAC tournament, which is being held at Saint Martin’s Marcus Pavilion today through Saturday. Neither the Saint Martin’s men’s nor women’s teams qualified for the tournament.

Meg Wochnick: 360-754-5473 @megwochnick

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