Atlanta Dream head coach Michael Cooper has been diagnosed with early stage tongue cancer, and will take a brief leave of absence, the team announced Wednesday.
Cooper will undergo a surgical procedure this week in Atlanta, and a full recovery is expected. Recovery time is typically two weeks. Assistant coach Karleen Thompson will take over coaching duties while Cooper is away from the team.
Cooper has led the Dream to a 15-6 record this year, his first with the team. Cooper played 12 seasons in the NBA, all with the Los Angeles Lakers. He won five NBA championships in the 1980s and was named Defensive Player of the Year for the 1986-87 season. Cooper served as the head coach of the Los Angeles Sparks from 2000-2004 and again from 2007-2009. In 2004, he coached the Denver Nuggets for 14 games as interim head coach. The Nuggets went 4-10 under Cooper and the team hired George Karl.
The Dream is the top seed in the Eastern Conference with 13 games to play.
- Alex Hampl