Former Lakers star Michael Cooper is diagnosed with tongue cancer

Cooper has been diagnosed with early stage tongue cancer and will take a temporary leave of absence.

Former Lakers star Michael Cooper has been diagnosed with early-stage tongue cancer and will take a leave of absence from his duties as coach of the WNBA team in Atlanta.

Cooper is expected to recover fully after surgery this week at Emory University.

"I know I'm in good hands," he said in a statement released by the Atlanta Dream. "I'm fortunate that my condition was diagnosed early."

Known as a tough defender, Cooper won five NBA titles with the Lakers through the 1980s. He served two stints as coach of the Sparks -- guiding the team to two championships -- and also coached the USC women's team.

The Dream announced that assistant Karleen Thompson will fill in while Cooper is out.

"I know the team will be in good hands with Coach Thompson at the helm during my absence, and I look forward to returning to the court soon," Cooper said.

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