WHEATLAND – The definition of a legend is a story coming down from the past. Especially one popularly regarded as historical. One of the other sub definitions of the word is “a person or thing that inspires.”
By those explanations alone, you could rightly say that Wheatland varsity boys basketball coach Mick Cochran has the heart of a legend.
To quote Frank Morgan, is perhaps a better way to describe a man who would never blow his own horn. “A heart is not judged by how much you love, but by how much you are loved by others.”
Cochran is loved and endeared by a grateful community. His record stands for itself in the 24 years he has given himself to coaching. Although he has coached many sports, the game that this article is written about is basketball since it is through a similar love for the game and the same lens that the it was chosen to be written.
He has been coaching in Wheatland for 22 years and in the span of his career, he had a hard time trying to figure out his career coaching record only because those numbers weren’t something at the top of his list of priorities.
What numbers do impress him are the hundreds of kids that have graduated and gone on to be successes in life. Cochran is a coach that teaches a game of basketball and with it, a teaching on how life parallels the sport.
From the time restraints that you have to make a difference, to learning different roles. From learning how to work as a team within the boundaries of play, ruled and judged by officials you have most likely never met.
From current to former players to coaches, to colleagues, each one that talks about Cochran holds him in the highest esteem.
JP Anderson, a current player just coming into Cochran’s system is no stranger to the ways of this coach and has looked forward to playing for him for many years and watched intently as his brother, Luke Anderson not only played for Cochran for four years but also went on to win the coveted Mr. Wyoming Basketball award last year.
“I watched him coach for years,” Anderson said. “I couldn’t wait to get on varsity so I could learn from him. He’s a great coach, he knows it all, I mean, he’s coached for a long time. When you mess up, he just tells you to how get it together and lets you know what to do to correct it. He’s a great guy.”
A current player, Ned Hageman, who has been with Cochran throughout his high school career is one who Cochran calls, the man of many expressions.
“Well I’d say as a coach he always does a great job having his teams prepared,” Hageman said. “Especially for big games. He also does a really good job of comparing sports to real life scenarios, like when things don’t go your way it’s not about how you react it’s about how you respond.”
Cochran has had many coaching mentors, but one in particular that he draws wisdom from is the late and former South Dakota State basketball coach Don Meyer.
“I’ve never met him, but feel like I know him,” Cochran said. “I use a lot of his stuff and as far as getting into the kid’s heads and getting them prepared, Meyer was the master.”
Some players who have learned under Cochran for the past 22 years have gone on after high school to be successful coaches and have gleaned some of his teachings to put the “Cochran stamp” on their own programs.
Check out next week's Record-Times for the second half of Cochran's story.