Mar 3, 2012; Nashville,TN, USA; Tennessee State Tigers head coach John Cooper during the second half of the finals of the 2012 Ohio Valley Conference tournament against the Murray State Racers at Municipal Auditorium. Murray State defeated Tennessee State 54-52.
MORE SURPRISES. In a world where the MAC was poached, Miami was not only replacing a retired coach, but poached themselves. They hired Tennessee State coach John Cooper. Feels great, doesn't it? THIS IS WHY EVERYBODY ELSE DOES IT.
Cooper's claim to fame is
being unable to beat Michigan football guiding TSU to Murray State's lone regular season loss. Their 20-13 record followed 15 straight losing seasons for the Tigers. Fun tangent: the last time Tennessee State had a winning season (1995-1996), Charlie Coles was not the head coach at Miami. So a bunch of constants were broken.
Now Cooper has only been around for two of those "rebuilding years" at Tennessee State so that's still not a lot of head coaching experience. On the other hand, it's neither a fresh face nor a fired friend. It's a happy medium for the RedHawks — someone who knows what they're doing yet isn't married to a particular school.
But I find this fascinating. Now the MAC had only three coaching changes (so far, and that's probably it) and two of them were existing head coaches in the Mountain West-Big XII and Ohio Valley Conference. The third was recently fired from the Big East. It's a pretty good pull. You can sometimes tell the strength of a conference based on where they get their head coaches. I don't think a year ago this conference would be boasting the return of Jim Christian or hire someone like Cooper.
Still, the job ahead of him is still as challenging as any MAC job. The players he has left is a group of young-but-not-young people. The team projects to have one senior (little-used center Vince Legarze), five juniors including Jon Harris and Quinten Rollins, and a few sophomores, notably sharpshooting Brian Sullivan.
And the real question is: will he let his players touch the sandwiches before Fostoria?