Tennessee State University head men's basketball coach John Cooper was named a finalist for the Jim Phelan National Coach of the Year Award as announced by CollegeInsider.com. As of Friday, Cooper is now a finalist for three national coach of the year awards.
On Thursday, Cooper garnered finalist recognition for the Hugh Durham Award, which goes to the nation's top mid-major coach. He also received finalist honors for the Ben Jobe Award, which is given to the nation's best minority basketball coach.
The award is named after Jim Phelan who coached his entire career at Mount Saint Mary's University. He led the Mountaineers to the 1962 NCAA Men's Division II Basketball Championship. When he retired in 2003, after coaching for 49 years, he amassed 830 wins (overall record of 830-524) in over 1,300 games in all divisions. In those 49 years, 19 of his teams amassed 20 or more wins in a season.
Among this year's finalists are Mike Brey (Notre Dame), John Calipari (Kentucky), Tom Crean (Indiana), Tom Izzo (Michigan State), Bill Self (Kansas) and John Thompson III (Georgetown).
The winner will be announced at the CollegeInsider.com awards banquet on March 30 in New Orleans, site of the men's NCAA Basketball Championship.
In just three seasons at Tennessee State, Cooper has resurrected a TSU program that had suffered through 16 consecutive losing seasons. The Tigers went 9-23 in Cooper's first season and completed a 14-16 mark in 2010-11.
This season, the Tigers notched a 20-12 record - the first winning season since 1995-96. TSU's 59-52 win over Morehead State in semifinals of the OVC Tournament ensured the Tigers first 20-win campaign in 32 years.
There were plenty of notable firsts for Cooper. His squad was the first ever to knock off an SEC opponent (64-63 at South Carolina) and the first since the NCAA Division I era to defeat a top-10 program (72-68 at No. 7/9 Murray State).
On Tuesday, it was announced the Tigers earned their third postseason bid in the NCAA D-I era and the first since 1993-94. TSU will play at Mercer in the first round of the CollegeInsider.com Postseason Tournament next Tuesday, March 13. Tipoff is slated for 6 p.m.
-- TSU TIGERS --