UTRGV basketball adds former NBA assistant to staff

Local Sports

HARLINGEN, Texas — (KVEO) – The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley Men’s Basketball Head Coach Matt Figger announced on Tuesday the hiring of assistant coach Dean Cooper.

Cooper has worked in the NBA since 1999 coaching some of the best offenses and defenses in the league. They include the Houston Rockets, Minnesota Timberwolves, Portland Trail Blazers, Utah Jazz, and the Chicago Bulls.

During his second season an assistant coach with the Bulls in 2019-20, Cooper helped the team set an NBA record in opponent turnover percentage (18.3% per game) while also leading the NBA in deflections (17.4 per game), steals (10.0 per game) and points off turnovers (21.2 per game).

In his second stint as a Rockets assistant coach from 2012-14, Cooper helped the team increase its defensive efficiency from 17th to 11th in the NBA. He developed a situational and scheme related “Defensive Possession” tracking system, utilizing SportsCode to provide team and player level data and video analysis. On the offensive side, Cooper helped the Rockets to rank fourth in the NBA in offensive efficiency in 2013-14.

As an assistant coach with the Timberwolves in 2008-09, Cooper helped the team improve its rim defense from 11th to sixth in the NBA, its corner three defense from 17th to sixth, and its non-rim two defense from 11th to seventh. The team also improved its rim offense from 17th to 12th, corner three offense from 27th to 11th, and non-rim two offense from 14th to ninth.

While serving as the head coach of the Idaho Stampede and Salt Lake City Stars, the NBA G-League affiliate of the Utah Jazz, from 2014-17, Cooper’s teams were the best at stopping corner threes, rankings first in corner three defensive field goal percentage and corner three combined defense and second in corner three defensive rating in 2016-17. His teams were in the top half of the league in defensive efficiency rating during his final two seasons. Cooper’s teams led the league in call-ups during those three seasons, including a league-best seven in 2015-16.

“Dean and I have a 20+ year relationship,” Figger said. “He brings 21 years of NBA experience in all aspects, from scouting to personnel to on the floor coaching with a lot of different organizations. He’s coached some of the best players in the world, such as James Harden, Yao Ming and Hakeem Olajuwon. That NBA experience is very valuable for our kids as Dean can help them understand what it takes to play at that level. He also brings a high level of analytics knowledge to our staff.”

In addition to an initial stint as an assistant coach with the Rockets from 2001-03, Cooper has significant experience in non-coaching roles, serving as a pro-personnel scout for the Jazz in 2017-18, the Director of Player Development for the Trail Blazers from 2010-12, an NCAA and pro-personnel scout for the Timberwolves in 2009-10, the Vice President of Player Personnel for the Rockets in 2007-08, the Director of Scouting for the Rockets from 2004-07, a pro-personnel scout for the Rockets in 2003-04, and a video coordinator and scout for the Rockets from 1999-2001.

“First of all, I’m honored to join Coach Figger’s staff as he begins his tenure at UTRGV,” Cooper said. “He’s had a lot of success at Austin Peay and is a proven Division I head basketball coach. I’m looking forward to returning to college basketball and bringing all the different elements that I was fortunate to learn in the NBA so I can be of assistance to Coach Fig, my colleagues, and our players, both now and in the future. I look at this as a great opportunity to work with someone that I’ve known for a long time and to provide the Valley with its first opportunity to experience the NCAA Tournament.”

Cooper has prior collegiate coaching experience, starting as an assistant coach at his alma mater, Aquinas College, from 1995-97. He then made the jump to NCAA Division I with the University at Buffalo, serving as the Director of Basketball Operations in 1997-98 and an assistant coach in 1998-99.

While at Aquinas, he also served in an advance scouting role for the Connecticut Pride of the Continental Basketball Association for one season.

Cooper began his coaching career at a pair of Michigan high schools, spending five years at Belding High School and three years at Caledonia High School.

A native of Belding, Mich., Cooper was a camp director in the NBA’s Basketball without Borders program from 2003-14. He was also the Game Plan Coordinator for Team USA at the 2006 FIBA World Championships.

Married to Melanie Cooper, Dean Cooper earned his undergraduate degree in Business Administration from Aquinas in 1991.

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