One of Show Low High School’s players yelled “Arizona!” before inbounding the ball against Pusch Ridge on Saturday night.
As the player did that, in front of the Cougars’ bench, Troy Cooke slowly paced while calmly navigating his team, which includes his son Cougar, a junior guard.
“It was one of Lute Olson’s plays,” Cooke later said with a laugh about the “Arizona” yell from his player. “We run some of his stuff.”
Cooke has an abundance of exploits as an athlete from his high school, college and professional careers in various sports, but he is endeared the most to being a member of Olson’s first team at Arizona in 1983-84.
“I have a lot of his style,” Cooke said of the late Olson, who passed at age 85 on Aug. 27. “People have said, ‘You look like Lute on the sidelines.’ I guess playing for him, you just kind of get that. … He had a big impact on my life and my coaching style.
“He was nothing but class. You won with class, you lost with class with the character of the players and how you handled yourself. He taught me a lot of lessons, some of them were hard to learn. The style we played and having the team prepared … there’s a lot of Lute Olson in my coaching style.”
Cooke, who will turn 60 on May 9, won the state championship in the high hurdles at Flowing Wells while also being a standout in football and basketball. Before attending Arizona in 1982, Cooke played basketball for El Camino College in Torrance, Calif., where he helped lead his team to the California JUCO Championship with a 32-4 record. After his Arizona career, he played professionally in Europe for two seasons.
Upon his return from Europe, Cooke bulked up after purchasing the Peoria Athletic Club and had a tryout in 1988 as a tight end with the Denver Broncos. He did not make the final roster but signed a two-year make-good contract.
Always active, Cooke turned to steer wrestling in rodeo and also became a Modified car racing champion while getting into the real estate business and working on a 27,000-acre ranch in the White Mountains.
Cougar is taking after his dad’s multi-sport exploits. Although Cougar scored 30 points in the 64-53 loss to Pusch Ridge, Cooke said his son’s future might be more in baseball as one of the state’s top shortstops. Arizona baseball coach Jay Johnson and his staff are recruiting Cougar.
“We have high hopes,” Cooke said. “We hope that he can possibly have a choice of playing baseball or basketball at the next level. He’s really come on. He’s become a pure shooter. He is a very good athlete and competitor and has a high basketball IQ.”
Show Low’s loss to Pusch Ridge has the Cougars at 0-3. Despite the slow start, Cooke said he has confidence he will make Show Low a winner again.
“We’re going to try to get the program back to where it was,” Cooke said.
He coached the Cougars to immediate success after taking over in 2012-13 when they previously had 10 straight losing seasons. He turned the program into one of the best at the Class 3A level in the state.
Show Low had back-to-back 20-plus win seasons and state tournament appearances in his two seasons as head coach, qualifying for the quarterfinals in 2013 and semifinals in 2014. He also earned a sectional championship in 2014.
In 2014-15, Cooke was hired as an assistant at Western New Mexico and made a return to McKale Center in 2018 when the Mustangs played the Wildcats.
His oldest son Canyon is a bio-medical engineer student at Arizona.
After five seasons at Western New Mexico, Cooke decided to return to Show Low last season as an assistant to help develop Cougar with the team. He took over the head coaching duties again late in the season when Matt Thacker stepped down.
“Looking back — hindsight is 20-20 — I wish I would have stayed on Lute’s staff as a graduate assistant and I probably would have been a Division I coach somewhere and been fired three times and retired by now, ” Cooke said, smiling. “But here I am at my age still coaching high school basketball and enjoying the game and feeling like I’m giving back.”
FORMER ARIZONA ATHLETES WHO ARE HEAD COACHESList of head coaches of various sports and different levels who competed at Arizona. Compiled by AllSportsTucson.com.
|Adia Barnes||1995-99||Arizona||Women's hoops||2016|
|Heidi Bomberger-Bruschi||1993-97||Attleboro (MA) Feehan HS||Volleyball||2020|
|Matt Brase||2003-05||Pallacanestro Varese (Italy)||Men's hoops||2022|
|Robert Bonillas||1995-98||Desert View HS||Football||2012|
|Tod Brown||1990-94||New Mexico||Baseball||2022|
|Casey Candaele||1979-82||Buffalo (AAA) Blue Jays||Baseball||2021|
|Jackie Coburn||2002-05||Scottsdale Horizon HS||Softball||2013|
|Clark Crist||1977-80||Pulaski (VA) River Turtles||Baseball||2021|
|Shelley Duncan||1999-2001||Scranton/Wilkes-Barre (AAA) Yankees||Baseball||2023|
|Byron Evans||1983-86||South Mountain HS||Football||2020|
|Terry Francona||1977-80||Cleveland Indians||MLB||2013|
|Tanya Farhat-Villarreal||1994-97||West Bend (WI) Slinger HS||Softball||2015|
|Brenda Frese||1989-93||Maryland||Women's hoops||2002|
|Jason Hisey||1988-91||Canyon del Oro HS||Baseball||2019|
|Jack Howell||1983||Tri-City (A) Angels||Baseball||2021|
|Krista Humphreys||1993-96||Corona (CA) Centennial HS||Softball||2015|
|Mark Keel||1979-82||Silverdale (WA) Central Kitsap HS||Football||2000|
|Steve Kerr||1983-88||Golden State Warriors||NBA||2014|
|Andy Litten||1999-03||Scottsdale Horizon HS||Football||2021|
|Hunter Long||2013-15||Douglas HS||Football||2019|
|Brandon Manumaleuna||1997-00||Lawndale (CA) Leuzinger HS||Football||2020|
|Jennifer Martinez-Walls||2008-09||Abraham Baldwin (GA) JC||Softball||2017|
|Craig McMillan||1984-88||Santa Rosa (CA) JC||Men's hoops||2000|
|Richard Mercado||2002-04||Santa Ana (CA) Mater Dei HS||Baseball||2019|
|Leighton Milton||1992-93||Hollywood (CA) HS||Football||2020|
|Edwin Mulitalo||1995-98||Southern Virginia||Football||2018|
|Ronnie Palmer||2005-08||Monterrey Peninsula (CA) JC||Football||2020|
|Jose Portilla||1996-97||Heritage Academy||Football||2017|
|Rebekah Quiroz||2002||Pima CC||Softball||2019|
|Colt Sedbrook||2006-08||Crown College (MN)||Baseball||2024|
|Jason Stewart||1997-99||Encinitas (CA) San Dieguito HS||Boys hoops||2014|
|Damon Stoudamire||1992-95||Georgia Tech||Men's hoops||2023|
|Rafael Valenzuela||2008-10||Bowling Green (A) Rays||Baseball||2023|
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ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He is a former Arizona Daily Star beat reporter for the Arizona basketball team, including when the Wildcats won the 1996-97 NCAA title. He has also written articles for CollegeAD.com, Bleacher Report, Lindy’s Sports, TucsonCitizen.com, The Arizona Republic, Sporting News and Baseball America, among many other publications. He has also authored the book “The Highest Form of Living”, which is available at Amazon.