If you seek to witness history repeating itself, you may want to pay close attention to Rob Cooper’s upcoming first season with the Nittany Lions.
Cooper joins Happy Valley looking to dramatically change the baseball team that went 4-20 in the Big Ten and hasn’t seen a conference tournament win since 2008. He hails from a nine-year tenure at Wright State where he built a legacy of his own.
Even though the Raiders had six losing seasons in a seven-year span, Cooper transformed Wright State into a perpetual contender in the Horizon League with seven 30-win seasons, two regular-season titles, three tournament crowns and six championship game appearances.
Cooper said he’s very excited for his first season coaching at Penn State and trusts that this university obtains all of the fundamental ingredients to win, including a great education and administration’s support, among others.
“A big reason for why I took the job is I believe you can win here at Penn State,” he said.
Zach Ell, a senior outfielder, said this is the first year he believes winning the Big Ten Championship is a huge possibility for the team and the “mental game” he spoke to Cooper about is a major factor in winning games.
“You face so much adversity that mental game is really going to make a huge difference during the middle of the season,” Ell said.
Ell describes Cooper as a “hybrid” because of his ability to simultaneously get to know the players while professionally coach their playing capabilities, as well.
“I hope that when these guys are done playing for me, they’re going to understand that I care about them deeply,” Cooper said. “We want them to be successful. I want to see them be in the best position possible to succeed on the field.”
It’s obvious that Cooper’s compassion for his players leads off with Wright State’s history as he had a direct impact on 21 Raiders signing professional contracts, seven of which were MLB draft picks.
Steve Jones, emcee and play-by-play voice for Penn State football, also weighed in on Cooper’s dramatic change in the program.
“We’re really excited about what coach Cooper and the baseball program are going to do, not even just this year, but longer,” Jones said. “The vision that he is trying to sell to the recruits and the players that are here. We’re really excited to see the fruits of those labors.”
Jones also said the flourishing team and coaching staff is already contrasting from past seasons and senior right-handed pitcher Ian Parvin agrees with him.
“[Cooper] brings a different attitude,” Parvin said. “Real hands-on with everything. I love the way he coaches. I’m excited to get to the season and see how everything shapes out.”
Cooper said he loves his job because he gets the chance to coach “unbelievable human beings” that continue to work hard, day in and day out.
“I believe in staying on the course and working the process,” he said. “If we do that then we can win and win at a high level.”
Deesha Thosar can be reached at email@example.com or (814) 865-1828. Follow her on Twitter at @deesha_thosar.