Oct. 11, 2013


Meet Penn State's Rob Cooper

By Sean Ryan

CollegeBaseballInsider.com Co-Founder

sean@collegebaseballinsider.com @collbaseball


It was a big summer for Rob Cooper.


On one hand, Cooper was Penn State’s choice to replace Robbie Wine, who resigned in June, as head coach of the Nittany Lions. On the other, Cooper guided USA Baseball’s U18 team to a gold medal at the IBAF U18 Baseball World Cup in Taiwan. Calling it the “highlight of his coaching career,” Cooper’s squad rallied from behind in three games before beating Japan in the title game.


That resiliency mirrored what Cooper did while at Wright State. Inheriting a program that had six losing seasons in seven years, Cooper led the Raiders to seven 30-win seasons and three Horizon League Tournament titles in nine years. Consistently playing a demanding schedule, Wright State twice knocked off No. 1 teams – Georgia in 2009 and Virginia in 2010.  


First Inning - What was intriguing about the Penn State opening?

There was just so much that was intriguing about Penn State. The world-class education, the top-of-the-line facilities, the Big 10 Conference and the commitment from the administration were all major factors that drew me to Penn State. I believe with time we can win at a very high level, while not sacrificing the well-being of the student athletes. Also the people of the Penn State community and their love for this university is something very humbling to be a part of.


Second Inning - Why now, and how difficult was it leaving Wright State?

It was very difficult to leave Wright State. I will always love that place and what those players were able to accomplish. Bob Grant, the AD, was the one who believed in me and gave me an opportunity to be a head coach. However, Penn State was the right opportunity at the right time for my family and my career. I was only going to leave Wright State for a place that was special and that I could see myself finishing out my career. Penn State is all that and more.


Third Inning - Big Ten schools have been making investments in baseball. What are some of the Penn State baseball program’s strengths, and what’s on the horizon? 

The commitment by the administration was very evident, and I believe we can win at a very high level. Obviously Medlar Field is one of the finest college baseball facilities in the country; it gives us a huge advantage in recruiting. Also, 15 years ago, if you wanted to really develop as a player, you had to go to warm-weather climates in order to play and develop. However with the commitment to facilities by “Northern” schools, that is able to happen at a place like Penn State as well. Holuba Hall is an indoor field house that allows us to legitimately play full intrasquads any time of the year. If we need to play a nine-inning game in January or February, we can. Recently, the strength and conditioning facility has gotten a complete facelift and upgrades to facilities are always being discussed.


Fourth Inning - At Wright State, you regularly played a demanding schedule. How did that influence your program there, and will that continue at Penn State?

I think it helped make our players better. I firmly believe that in order to get better, you need to challenge yourself by playing the best competition you can. Especially at Wright State, because if we made it to a Regional, that was the type of environment we would be sent to. I think our players really embraced the challenge and liked playing against the best. I fully intend to challenge our program by scheduling top programs from around the country.


Fifth Inning - What are a few of your favorite memories at Wright State? 

I am fortunate to say there were many, but watching our players dog pile and win a championship and them being rewarded for their hard work was really great. Seeing how former players would come back frequently and the source of pride they had in Wright State was really special. Our 2011 Championship was won at home and having my two boys, Tyson and Jake, in the dugout when we got the final out was a really cool “Dad” experience. Also, seeing Greg Lovelady being named head coach and being rewarded for all his hard work is a great thing to look back on.


Sixth Inning - You spent a few years as a professional scout with the Dodgers. How does that compare with recruiting college players? 

I think it helped me refine and learn how to evaluate players. I was in junior college and a local scout allowed me to be an associate scout. It was a great way for me to watch games, evaluate players and form an opinion on them. I think evaluating college players is similar, because you are trying to determine if they can help you during their 3-4 years on campus. 


Seventh Inning - Describe your experience this summer with Team USA. 

That will go down as the highlight of my coaching career. I was so fortunate to represent USA Baseball and be surrounded by great coaches and players. Watching that group of 20 young men come together as a team, in a foreign country, in order to be a part of something bigger than themselves is something I will take to my grave. They were a special group of young men that can call themselves world champions.


Eighth Inning - Name three coaches who have influenced you the most, and how? 

Jerry Weinstein, Rick Jones and Andy McKay. Jerry was my mentor and truly taught me this game. I wouldn't have the things I have in my life if not for him. Rick Jones taught me how to truly run a program and how to constantly look for ways to make it better. Andy McKay is one of the smartest, most complete baseball people I have ever known. Also, I never played or coached with Wally Kincaid of Cerritos College, but he influenced so many coaches I respect and admire... Dave Snow, Mike Gillespie, Dave Serrano, George Horton, Don Sneddon.


Ninth Inning - What are some of your initial goals as coach of the Nittany Lions?

To teach our players that it is a process and there is no quick fix. I also feel it is very important to show our players our staff is as committed to them as we want them to be to each other.


(photos courtesy of PSU Media Relatons)