Former Laker legend returns to Polson

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  • FORMER LOS Angeles Lakers player Michael Cooper poses with the University of Montana Lady Griz basketball team (from left): Abby Anderson, McKenzie Johnston and Emma Stockholm pose with Michael Cooper at his camp Friday afternoon at Salish Kootenai College. (photo courtesy of Monty Marengo)

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    FORMER LOS Angeles Laker Michael Cooper instructs three students of his camp Friday afternoon at Salish Kootenai College. (photo by Jason Blasco/Lake County Leader)

  • FORMER LOS Angeles Lakers player Michael Cooper poses with the University of Montana Lady Griz basketball team (from left): Abby Anderson, McKenzie Johnston and Emma Stockholm pose with Michael Cooper at his camp Friday afternoon at Salish Kootenai College. (photo courtesy of Monty Marengo)

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    FORMER LOS Angeles Laker Michael Cooper instructs three students of his camp Friday afternoon at Salish Kootenai College. (photo by Jason Blasco/Lake County Leader)

Former Los Angeles Lakers’ basketball superstar Michael Cooper has come to Polson, Montana since he was a Los Angeles Laker in 1983.

Cooper, who met Monty Marengo in 1983 when Marengo was a photographer, was invited to Polson so he and his wife could water ski and that started the birth of the basketball camp.

“(Polson) is like a second home and I’ve been coming up here for a long time,” Cooper said. “The camp isn’t about making money. It’s about delivering a good, positive message to the kids.”

Cooper said the camp is about developing and delivering good habits the kids can apply to themselves the rest of their life.

“I promote five words so that they can build on it and somewhere along their life, they apply it,” Cooper said. “It’s about if I can get the kids attention through basketball and pass along that message.”

Cooper, who has taught second and third generations of Mission Valley area players the game of basketball, has seen several parents and grandparents he has instructed over the last 35 years.

“I’ve seen second and third generations when I was at camp and it was a great camp with a great message,” Cooper said. “They’ve told me they really like coming back because the camp taught them to be positive about themselves. It was a good enough product to put out on the floor for kids.”

Cooper, who said he transitioned to being a coach when he fathered four of his own kids and is also a former coach for the WBNA in both the WNBA and NBA D-League, said he learned a lot from his former coach Pat Riley.

“It transitioned when I became a father,” Cooper said. “Being a father, you have to always be a mentor and teach your kids positive information. I really learned a lot about being a coach from Pat Riley. He coached us to pay attention to detail. I got into coaching and it has obviously turned into teaching.”

Cooper was joined by three members of the Lady Griz including McKenzie Johnston, Abby Anderson and Emma Stockholm.

“I really like the beauty and hospitality shared up in Polson,” Cooper said. “Polson is like a second home and every time I come back, I notice changes. I see it growing and it is actually fun to see the growth in the kids and be part in the community and the state of Montana.”

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