Goodbye, Jack Cooley. The big man was waived by the Utah Jazz recently and has since signed with the Cleveland Cavaliers.
At first glance, Jack Cooley looked more like a football player than a basketball player. At second glance he looked like another former Notre Dame basketball player, Luke Harangody. But when you saw Cooley on the court, you knew he belonged there. It’s safe to say that while his time was short with the Jazz organization, his style of play and his demeanor quickly made him a fan favorite. So while tributes are usually reserved for those who consistently stuff the stat sheet or a player remain with a team for years, the respect I have for Cooley compels me to pay homage to his short stint as a Jazzman. So without further ado, I give you the best moments of Cooley’s career with both the Jazz and their D-League affiliate the Idaho Stampede.
29 rebounds in a single game. Twenty-nine! Jazz fans always know to take D-League stats with a grain of salt (thanks for the life lesson, Morris Almond), but it is necessary to give credit where credit is due. When you aren’t the most gifted athlete on the court, the quickest way to make a name for yourself is with hustle plays. Cooley will never be one to “jump out the gym” but he always hustled, and on February 24, 2015, that hustle was never more prevalent.
Although this next moment occurred prior to Cooley joining the organization, it surfaced while he was donning a Jazz jersey so I am going to count it. In an article by the Deseret News’ Jody Genessy, Cooley tells the story of how he became the owner of a dog named Lola. After going undrafted, Cooley signed to play professionally in Turkey, where his living arrangement was less than ideal. The landlords of Cooley’s townhouse had a dog that needed to be watched, and a classic canine-basketball player friendship was formed. The article continues:
Lola had been treated “horribly” and made to sleep outside in the cold, but Cooley pampered her. The American needed this Turkish girl as much as she needed him. They quickly bonded.
Call it puppy love.
“I became extremely attached to the dog,” Cooley said.
He was so attached, in fact, that when he left Turkey to return to the United States to pursue the NBA closer to home… he had some news for the dog’s owners.
“When I was leaving,” he said, “I told them, ‘I’m taking the dog with me.’”
How could you not love this guy? I just imagine him kicking in the door, cigar in mouth, wearing a pair of aviators and telling a couple of Turkish people that their dog is now his dog. That is such a great story. Here is a link to Cooley’s retelling of the story during media day this year.
This is the play that sums up Jack Cooley’s time with the Utah Jazz. Missed shot, rebound, put it back in, hustle down for the clean block, no respect from officials, get everyone hyped. That is the play that solidified Cooley as a fan favorite, and why he is a player I will follow for the rest of his career.
The NBA is a business. Players are traded, waived, called up from the D-League only to be sent back down; all at the drop of a hat. So while Jack Cooley certainly won’t be the last player to fall victim to roster cuts, he’ll definitely be one of my favorites.