Chuck Cooper Classic a Success - On and Off the Court
Feb. 7, 2012
As part of its Black History Month efforts, the Duquesne University Department of Athletics, in conjunction with The PNC Financial Services Group, Inc. and the Chuck Cooper Foundation, hosted the third annual Chuck Cooper Classic event series, Feb. 3-4 on Duquesne's campus.
The events honored the legacy of Pittsburgh's Chuck Cooper, the first African American drafted into the N.B.A., and paid tribute to his many accomplishments in professional basketball and community development.
The festivities opened on Feb. 3 with a courtside luncheon at the A.J. Palumbo Center as Founder and CEO of the Manchester Craftsmen's Guild, Bill Strickland, accepted the second annual Chuck Cooper Award, which honors an individual who has contributed to Pittsburgh's African American community.
On Feb. 4, Duquesne's men's basketball team hosted and defeated the Richmond Spiders, 81-72 in the Chuck Cooper Classic in front of a sell-out "red-out" crowd of 4,481 at the Palumbo Center. All fans received a red Chuck Cooper t-shirt to wear for the game which was televised nationally on ESPNU and Krystal, the Red Panda Acrobat, awed the crowd with her halftime act.
In addition, on Fri., Feb. 17, PNC will also partner in hosting "Synthesis III," a musical journey of pop, soul, hip hop and jazz, and tribute to Chuck Cooper, at the August Wilson Center for African American Culture in downtown Pittsburgh.
A Westinghouse High School graduate, Cooper attended West Virginia State prior to enrolling at Duquesne University following World War II. While at Duquesne, he led the Duquesne Dukes to a 78-19 record and two National Invitation Tournament appearances. In 1950, Cooper was signed by the Boston Celtics, playing with them for four years and then with the Fort Wayne Pistons for two seasons.
He went on to earn a master's degree in social work from the University of Minnesota in 1961 and returned to Pittsburgh, working for various anti-poverty neighborhood organizations. Cooper was named head of the city's Parks and Recreation department in 1970, becoming Pittsburgh's first African American department director. Later, he moved into an urban affairs position at PNC, where he spearheaded development and affirmative action programs. Cooper died on Feb. 5, 1984, at the age of 57.