Duquesne Great Chuck Cooper

Duquesne 2009-10 schedule includes the inaugural Chuck Cooper Classic on December 5, 2009. The twin-bill opens with two Division II West Virginia teams matching up before the Dukes take on Division I independent Savannah State. This story provides more detail about Duquesne's Chuck Cooper, "... one of (DU's) all-time greats..."

More on Chuck Cooper's life and playing careers with Duquesne and the Boston Celtics.

  • He was born on September 29, 1926, in a residentially-segregated Pittsburgh to a mailman father and a former schoolteacher mother.
  • The 6-foot-5 center starred at Westinghouse High School. In his senior season, Cooper led Westinghouse to the City Championship and was named All-City first team.
  • Cooper's initial college career at then-historically black West Virginia State College was interrupted in the fall of 1944 when he joined the U.S. Navy. He was stationed on the West Coast when the World War II ended.
  • Cooper joined head coach Chick Davies' Duquesne basketball team for the 1946-47 season. Among African-American basketball players who preceded Coop on the Bluff was Cumberland Posey (1916-18). Posey is best known as a player, coach, manager, owner et. al with the Negro Leagues Homestead Grays.
  • Duquesne did not back down when southern schools challenged Mr. Cooper's participation. Here's an example from Pennsylvania Basketball History
      "12/23/46 - Duquesne takes a stand--Duquesne head coach Charles "Chick" Davies, honoring the stand of DU administration, refused to yield to Tennessee coach John Maurer's refusal to send his team on the floor in protest of DU's black center Chuck Cooper taking part in the game. Judge Sammy Weiss, acting chairman of the Duquesne athletic committee, addressed the 1,500 disappointed fans on hand: "In accordance with the athletic policy of Duquesne University, we do not bar anyone because of race, creed or color. Therefore we cannot jeopardize our principles by agreeing to Tennessee's demand." Cooper told his teammates he would not be offended if they played without him. The players immediately took the stand that they did not wish to play unless he was in the lineup. Said Duquesne's legendary trainer Brue Jackson - who was also black: "I appreciate the pressure on all of you. I wish to say, speaking both for myself and Cooper, that Duquesne is to be congratulated on its stand."
  • Cooper led the Dukes to a 78-19 record and two NIT appearances in his four-year career. He was the captain of his senior team (1949-50) that finished 23-6 with a No. 6 national ranking. The '50 Dukes were the first Duquesne team to be ranked for an entire season by The Associated Press.
  • Cooper and four-year teammate Ed Dahler were Duquesne's first 1,000 point scorers. Dahler is 30th with 1,034 and Cooper is 32nd at exactly 1,000.

    Red Auerbach getting Chuck Cooper ready

  • Cooper signed on with the Harlem Globetrotters following his graduation with a bachelor's degree in education.
  • On April 25, 1950, Cooper became the first African-American drafted by an NBA team the Boston Celtics' coach Red Auerbach and owner Walter Brown selected him in the second round. (Nat "Sweetwater" Clifton was the first Black to sign an NBA contract (Knicks) and Earl Lloyd, by one day, was the first Black to play in an NBA game (short-lived Washington Capitols).
  • Cooper played with the Celtics, the Milwaukee Hawks and the Ft. Wayne Pistons. In 409 games, he scored 2,725 points (6.66 ppg), had 2431 rebounds (5.9 rpg) and 733 assists (1.79 apg). His roommate with the Celtics was Hall of Famer Bob Cousy.
  • He obtained a Master's Degree in social work from the University of Minnesota in 1961. Back in Pittsburgh, Cooper was director of several neighborhood antipoverty organizations; head of the city's parks and recreation department in 1970, becoming Pittsburgh's first black department director; and head of urban affairs at Pittsburgh National Bank.
  • He was inducted into the Duquesne Sports Hall of Fame in 1969 and the Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame in 1974. In 1983, Duquesne established a Chuck Cooper Award to honor talented basketball underclassmen.

    Red Auerbach eith Chuck Cooper, Jr.

  • On October 30, 2000, the Celtics raised a banner with Cooper's jersey no. 11 to the FleetCenter rafters. The following day, Cooper, Lloyd, Clifton, Hank DeZonie were honored at Madison Square Guarden as the NBA's Black Pioneers on the 50th anniversary of Lloyd's first appearance on an NBA court.
  • On January 27, 2001, Duquesne University retired the jerseys of Cooper (#15), Dick Ricketts (#12), Sihugo Green (#11), Willie Somerset (#24) and Norm Nixon (#10). They rise above the Dukes first half basket in the Palumbo Center along with those of Korie Hlede (#25) and Beth Friday.


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