Rick Cooper retires as WTAMU head basketball coach - KWES NewsWest 9 / Midland, Odessa, Big Spring, TX: newswest9.com |

Rick Cooper retires as WTAMU head basketball coach

Canyon, Texas -
Canyon, Texas - Long time head coach Rick Cooper won't be on the bench coaching the West Texas A&M Buffaloes.

A press conference was held  Thursday afternoon at the First United Bank Center, where just seven games into the season coach Cooper announced his retirement. Cooper, WT's winningest coach of all-time, finishes his career with more than five-hundred victories as a head coach.

For the first time in more than thirty years, Cooper says he is unsure of what he will do with his time.

"I'm scared to death. I'm going to tell everyone in this room, I'm really frightened. This has been my identity for 32 years, and that's a long time. I've coached at basically two schools. I sure as heck hope Vinay doesn't look up one day and I'm standing in the doorway because I just did that out of habit for the past 21 years. That could happen," Cooper said.

But it's not just at WT, Cooper comes in 10th among Division II coaches with 543 wins. An impressive way to end his career. Another highlight, Cooper also brought the Buffs to the Elite Eight in the 97-98 season.

But taking over for the rest of the season will be long time Cooper assistant, and current associate head coach Vinay Patel. Patel, a Shamrock, Texas native has spent nine years on the side-lines at WT most of which was along-side Cooper.

In the press conference an emotional Patel spoke of the mentoring he received from Cooper, and how it will benefit him moving forward.He says while this is not the way he would've wanted it, he will relish the opportunity.

"I don't plan on making any big changes at all. Everything we're doing right now, coach and I put in place together. I don't think it is necessarily his offense or defense. I've always considered it our offense and our defense. So, I don't see any big changes. I've told the guys that today. We're going to keep doing the things that we're supposed to do, and expectations are still the same at this basketball team." Patel said.

Patel will make his debut Saturday as the Buffs take on the Newman Jets down in Canyon. Tip-off is set for 4 o'clock.


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