The legend, part II

Cochran coaching during the 2019 basketball season.





WHEATLAND – Some players such as Bradon Douglas, now the Lady Bulldogs JV basketball coach came back and wanted to work with Cochran to further fine tune his own craft and to be able to spend another year with the coach.
“Coach Cochran will always put his team in the best position to win games,” Douglas said. He knows the game in and out and he is one of the few people I’ve met that can think two steps ahead or in this case two plays or passes ahead. Not only does he teach the game as well as anyone I know but also attaches a life lesson to every basketball situation. He has played a substantial influence on the coach I am but more importantly the person I am. There is one quote that has stuck with me and is true in every situation I’ve been in, “life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react.”
To teach a student is a powerful thing. To have him recite your creed is inspiring.
Not only has Cochran gained the respect and the admiration of his players, but other coaches he has coached against and the peers and colleagues from Wheatland as well. At times, the relationship between coaches and athletic directors could be described as polite to rocky, but not in the case of Wheatland’s Athletic Director, Cedric Philo.
“Mick is an invaluable resource, Philo said. “He knows the history of almost any program and provides that historical reference piece. He has a lot of great ideas and has been through what works and what didn’t work so well. Even with Mick’s lows, they still somehow seem like a high. He’s one of those coaches that, if you ask any other coach in the conference, who they would want to face the least, it would be Wheatland High School.  Even if it’s a down year or a year where the team seems to be struggling for wins, that’s the last team that people want to play – especially with Mick’s defenses.”
Cochran is successful because he has evolved as the sport has grown. He is constantly looking for new and improved techniques, drills and adaptations for each team he has. He is not a coach that “traditionally uses the same things that have worked in the past.”
He is a man who has an eye to evaluate the personnel he has been dealt each year and instead of simply having each team adhere to the traditions of what may have worked in the past, he looks at what his team will need to not only survive, but to succeed.
“I came here in 1999,” Cochran said. “I coached the Wheatland JV for six years before becoming the head coach. 2005-2006 was my first year as head coach here.”
In 1997-1998 as a young coach, Cochran took the ninth-grade team at Laramie High School where his freshman went 23-2 for the year. From there the next year, in 1998-1999 he was the head varsity basketball coach at Fort Yates Public High School, in Fort Yates, North Dakota.
His first year as a varsity coach, he had a won/loss record of 15-9.
“I don’t know my JV record at WHS,” Cochran said. “I can look through some scorebooks and see about the JV record. I would speculate 90-42 as JV coach.”
Again, if it were not for record-keeping, the won/loss record may be the farthest thing from his mind.
For a varsity record as close as anyone can come, he has just recently gone over the 250-win plateau and has amassed a total career coaching record of 381 and 210 for a 65% winning record. He is closing in on his 400th career victory which may be reached as early as 2022.
In his years as head coach at Wheatland, his teams qualified for the state tournament in 10 of his 15 years. His best year was 2011 where the Bulldogs took State Runner-up honors with a 23-7 record. Last year may have been one of the best teams he’s ever coached. The team went 21-4 and was headed to the state tournament before COVID cut the tournament run short.
Although this year’s team is currently only 8-10, it has a great chance of qualifying for state again if it can get past Burns Thursday in the regional tournament.
Cochran is a Wheatland High School graduate who walked across the platform in 1991 before heading to the University of Wyoming and got to work with Joby Wright who played both college ball at the University of Indiana and professional ball for the Seattle Supersonics before becoming a head basketball coach at the University of Miami and then the University of Wyoming.
“I worked with him for about three weeks and took his theory class,” Cochran said. “I spent a lot of time around him and some of his coaching staff and then that’s when I got into education and decided I was going to go be a teacher and a coach. I started on the same track my son was on, which was pharmacy, but he was a little better student than I was so I said I need to find something different, so here I am.”
And Wheatland is forever grateful that instead of writing prescriptions for patients, he is writing prescriptions for successful lives in the many kids he has coached, shaped, mentored and befriended.
For those who haven’t coached, it is a profession that is always done from within a glass pressure cooker. A good look at what a coach is was penned back in the ‘70s by Don Linehan and is simply called, “Coach.”
“Since vaudeville’s passing, it is one of the few public callings where a person not only may make a fool out of himself, but is encouraged to do so.  It’s emotional work.  It is practiced by kneelers, foot-stompers, kickers, hand wringers, towel-swingers, cheerleaders, penitents and exorcists.
It’s contradictory work.  Your players should love to hate you, not hate to love you.  You treat your center like a dog in October so that he will not BE a dog for you in March.  You grind away like some merciless dentist at your guard’s indifferent practice passing.  Three nights later waiting to go into the deafening hostility of the arena, you use that same intensity to convince that same guard that he’s going to move the ball through a defense that looks impossibly difficult.
Why?  To make them better.  To stimulate.  To challenge.  To arm and prepare and force growth and maturity.  To touch their hearts.  To win… and to lose.
Teacher?  To a degree, but more personal.  They’d slap a law suit on you if you were to grab a handful of a slow student’s shirt and shake him because he missed an assignment.  Father?  To a degree… but less personal.  Because he’s yours for such a short time, and just a part of him…  Coach.”
Mick Cochran’s complete interview can be viewed on the local HOMESPUN television program in two weeks where you can learn more about the man, the coach and the legend.  For information visit our website at pcrecordtimes.com.

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