Michael Cooper is a beloved former Laker who won five NBA championships. Now he’s coaching at Culver City High, which plays host to Buena on Tuesday in the Southern California Regional Division III boys’ basketball championship game.
Culver City has never been this far in the state playoffs.
Cooper has coached professionally for the WNBA Sparks and Dream, and coached previously at the high school level, but he’s making an impact at Culver City.
“We’re so lucky to have him,” athletic director Tom Salter said. “He’s so energetic. He leads rallies at the school.”
Cooper, in his second season as head coach, missed two playoff games because of a long-time commitment to the Lakers for a trip to Germany. Culver City has won some close games to get to the final.
“It’s our defense working,” Cooper said of the late-game stops.
The sophomore Singleton brothers Braylon and Myles, who are also top football players, lead Culver City, along with 6-foot-5 senior Connor Scales.
Culver City (19-12) played a competitive nonleague schedule that resulted in losses to Bishop Montgomery, Windward, Mira Costa, Birmingham, Crossroads and Beverly Hills, among others.
“We took our knocks and lumps early and it’s paying off now,” Cooper said.
If Culver City advances to Sacramento to play for a state title at Golden 1 Center, Cooper might be greeted as a celebrity from those who remember his NBA days.