Part 1 of my Interview with Coach Kyle Cooper and Assistant Coach Cassie Seth.
The Lady Hilltoppers are not having the season they hoped, but in Coach Kyle Coopers first season, he has seen a great deal of growth and hope for the future. I can not tell you what a pleasure it was to sit down and talk with these two coaches and their players. Both coaches are basketball junkies that share the love of a game and binding friendship that helps them provide a family atmosphere for their team. There were several players in the office during the interview that also participated and I can tell you that it felt every bit like a family. It was just plain fun!
Being Best friends growing up, both young Kyle Cooper and Cassie Seth learned to lean on each other for motivation and moral support. Now that they are both here at West Liberty, That friendship and family atmosphere along with a strong Basketball acumen will provide them the tools they need to rebuild this winning program. But for a reference, this is not their first rodeo with regards to coaching together.
“We actually had our first coaching moment together in high school. We coached the Keystone game together, as we represented the Erie county team, Cassie was the head coach and I was the assistant. The other assistant was the best man in my wedding.”
I had a whole litany of questions, but I just had to ask about the home town thing because I did not know all the back ground on how close these two really were. So I asked, Just how does a head coach and an assistant coach from different programs end up coaching in the same program, coming from the same home town? (Did you follow that? Both are from Waterford PA)
(The Story Begins)
“It did not happen like you would think.” “I was a couple of years behind her and I grew up watching her play. Girls basketball at our high school was just it. As I was Growing up, I was just following in her footsteps while all along we became close friends.” Cassie jumped in and said, “Yeah, my Dad actually coached Kyle in High School.” Basketball junkies for sure, once out of High School they went their separate ways. But as their playing careers came to and end and their coaching careers got started, Kyle asked her, “if things would ever happen to align at some point, would you be interested?”
She obviously said yes….
That alignment would happen on the Hilltop as Kyle would take over a program that has seen some very good basketball for many years. Cooper was the assistant for 4 seasons here and then once he was promoted, he stole his long time friend and assistant coach away from Baldwin Wallace University. Just there one season, Coach Seth helped guide that team to a 21-5 record before joining Cooper here at West Liberty.
Coach Seth said, “programs always like to talk about, it’s. family… we’re a family. Only here, we really are. I know when I accepted the job, I did not have a place to stay and Kyle and his wife, without a thought said, stay with us until you find a place.” This family atmosphere that they feel so strong is referred to as #WLUFamily on Twitter or Facebook.
(The Teams Results)
Last year was a struggle as they were short-handed nearly all season forced to play a style of basketball they don’t particularly care for. And after a slow start this year, Cooper and Seth find themselves in full-scale rebuilding mode.
When I asked coach about this season and the streaky play, I tried to find out if that was because of the youth of the team. Although they have a couple of upper classman, this team as a whole is young. Coach Cooper said, it’s all about “Growth.” I later clarified my comment as inexperienced more than youth.
“We sit there and people see where we are academically, McKenna’s a senior, Marissa is a junior, and so on and so forth. But people don’t realize, that is academically, in the classroom. They’re not upper Classmen on the court. McKenna came from Gannon a year ago. Last year we had to play a band aide style, not true West Liberty Basketball because of the circumstances. So we are very young. We are growing up right in front of everyone’s eyes.” “We’ve played 7 games now, that have come down to a 2 possession games with seconds to go and we have lost more than we have won. That comes with experience.”
(A Look at the Youth)
When I asked coach which one of his freshmen have stood out the most this season he gave me a great answer… challenging for his player for sure, but a great answer.
After he looked at coach Seth,(which happened often during the interview) they both nodded and Kyle said it “starts with Audrey Tingle, but we told her that it was going to be that way in the beginning. When we took her aside when we recruited her, we told Audrey, if this is going to work and you are going to come here, you are going to run the show and we are not going to treat you like a freshman not for one game or one practice.” “Her eyes got big… but She was hyped about it.”
All Audrey has done thus far is put up assist numbers that rival some of the greats of the past including Joanna Bernabei. Mind you, she is doing it as a freshman.
Men’s Basketball Coach Ben Howlett followed a legend. Well, Coach Kyle Cooper has the same issue as he followed Coach Ullom, whom was promoted to AD at West Liberty. He was the winningness coach in WV Collegiate history and in his 26 seasons, he averaged over 20 wins per season. He has a pile of hardware to go along with all of those wins… these are some big shoes to fill.
When I asked the coach what changes he has made since taking over and he told me… laughing “ I changed my desk around.” We laughed and he began to explain the significance of that subtle change. He said “Coach Ullom had the desk over there, tucked behind the wall where as it is facing the door so we can see what is going on at all time. And in this family, the door is always open.” Coach Seth jokingly said after Kyle adjusted the desk,”the players walk … right past me in the assistants office, straight to his desk.”
He talked about little tweaks. One little tweak I believe could be gigantic. Coach Kyle Cooper understands the position he is in and how important the players are to the program. “We probably have more player meetings then we ever had because I want them to know that this is as much their team and program as it is ours.”
I asked about recruiting… and I asked Coach what he looks for when recruiting. They laughed then Coach Seth said… “When I got here , I asked him that same question.” Coach Cooper then stated, “No one had every asked me that, let me get back to you.” Cooper then replied…”Coach they got to be able to hoop… we gotta win games.” Coach Seth said, “that is not what I am talking about.” After thinking about it, Coach Cooper pointed at the picture of his 2 year old son and said, “obviously the players are talented enough to be recruited to come here, but If I can’t have them around my son or I’m not comfortable with them around him, they don’t make the cut.”
He is looking for high character women to play and represent this program.
GOOD ANSWER COACH!!!!
In Part two of the interview, we dive deep into what makes Coach’s Cooper and Seth tick. I had the privilege of sitting down with a couple of the Lady Hilltopper players and in turn we were able to have a little fun with some Q and A. So Stay tuned!