WT Hoops Coach Rick Cooper Retires Suddenly

Cooper will be replaced by top assistant Vinay Patel (middle)
Cooper will be replaced by top assistant Vinay Patel (middle)

From the West Texas A&M Sports Information Office:

West Texas A&M head men's basketball coach Rick Cooper announced his retirement effective immediately at a press conference Thursday afternoon in the Buffalo Club Room at the First United Bank Center.  Associate head coach Vinay Patel will be named interim head coach for the remainder of the season.

"It's been the best 21 years of our lives, we raised our family here," Cooper said.  "We think now is a good time for our family and team.  My primary concern is the guys, but I think our program and team is in a good position and good hands.  At this stage of the game I am grateful to Michael (McBroom) and a whole bunch of people and I am excited to turn the reigns over to a very confident man in Vinay Patel who is going to do a great job with this program."

Cooper is in his 21st year at the helm of the Buffaloes.  He is 391-193 (.670) at WT and is the winningest coach in school history.  He is 543-240 (.694) overall in his 27th season as he coached six seasons at Wayland Baptist prior to WT.  Cooper is one of just 14 active Division II coaches with 500 career wins at four-year programs.  He also is 10th among all Division II coaches with 543 victories.
During his time at West Texas A&M, Cooper guided the Buffs to nine 20-plus win seasons and no losing seasons at either WT or WBU.  Under Cooper, the Buffs reached the NCAA tournament 10 times and finished in the Elite Eight in 1997-98 with a 26-5 record.
"I am grateful to Rick and everything he has done for this university," West Texas A&M Director of Athletics Michael McBroom said.  "He has clearly thought about this and, from my perspective, he knows this, the timing isn't great.  He has thought things through and I accept that.  We lose one of the most respected guys on campus, not just for basketball, for a lot of other reasons, too, and a guy who has been a mentor for countless players and coaches who have come through here.  Rick and I have talked through the years about body of work and his is amazing.  I wish him all of the best."
On Jan. 8, 2004, Cooper became WT's all-time winningest coach and is just the second coach in school history with over 200 wins.  He is a six-time Lone Star Conference Coach of the Year, winning the award in his first season in 1993-94, 1997-98, 1998-99 and from 2005-2008.  He also was named the South Central Region Coach of the Year by the National Association of Basketball Coaches (NACB) in 1997-98.
Cooper began his coaching career in 1987-88 at Wayland Baptist where he took the Pioneers to three NAIA national tournaments in six years.  He compiled a 152-47 (.764) record which still stands as a school record.  Further, he guided WBU to at least the NAIA district semifinal round in each of his six seasons.  Cooper also had a distinguished playing career at WBU as he was a four-year letterwinner and he helped lead the team to the Pioneers' first 20-win season and NAIA district championship.   Cooper was inducted into the Wayland Baptist Hall of Honor in 2012.
He graduated from WBU in 1981 with a bachelor's degree in education, while majoring in English and physical education.  He earned his master's degree in secondary education, specializing in physical education from WBU in 1984.
Cooper and his wife Janie are the parents of Tyler and Kori. Tyler lettered from 2005-08 at WT is now married to former Lady Buff standout Emily Brister and the couple resides in Temple, Texas, where Tyler is completing his residency to become an Orthopedic Surgeon.  Kori registered a successful collegiate career of her own, playing volleyball at the University of Nebraska and winning the 2006 National Championship, she currently is a teacher/coach at Amarillo High School.