Dragan helped lead Cooper basketball team to district title — as a player and then as a coach

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Patrick Dragan, an assistant boys basketball coach at Cooper High School, was not only a part of the coaching staff that led the Jaguars to a 33rd District title this year, he also played on the 2014-2015 Cooper team that won the 33rd District championship. 

It was Jan. 22, 2015, and the Cooper Jaguars Boy’s basketball team was sitting at 9-6 and looking like they could miss the Ninth Region tournament for the second straight season.  They would then rattle off nine wins in their next eleven games, including wins over Conner in the district semifinals and Boone County in the district championship.  

“It was really a special thing to be a part of, and then to be able to do it in my senior year on our home court was really really cool. That went down as one of my personal favorite memories as a player,” Dragan said. “I always just felt like, I was never the most talented player. I just kind of felt like I knew where I needed to be in situations and things like that.”

Cooper Head Coach Tim Sullivan said that Dragan played with some really good players, so it was hard for him to get on the floor.

“His senior year guys got hurt,” Sullivan said. “Now all of a sudden he got to play out a bunch of minutes and he came right in and what’s he do? He just picks us right up and had some really big games down the stretch.”

On Feb. 11, 2023, the Cooper Jaguars were 12-11 and it seemed as if they stood no chance of knocking off the Conner Cougars in the 33rd district tournament. Two weeks later the Jaguars had defeated the Cougars in overtime and players and Coach Dragan were once again cutting down the nets in their home gym. 

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A 40% three-pointer shooter, Dragan played with future Divison I basketball players Sean McNeil and Adam Kunkel in their upset victory over the Boone County Rebels in the district finals in 2015. Dragan was able to keep that underdog mindset with this year’s Jaguar squad. Going into the Feb. 24 matchup against Conner, whom many believed the favorite to win the region, not many around Northern Kentucky gave Cooper much of a chance. 

“We always had a couple of guards that were really really talented with Sean McNeil and Adam Kunkel,” Dragan said. “This year, we’ve got two sophomore guards in Yamil Rondon and Andy (Johnson), that started for us and do a lot of scoring and things like that.”

In 2015, Dragan, Kunkel, and McNeil combined for 27.8 points per game and this season Rondon, Johnson, and senior Gavin Lutz have combined for over 30 points for the Jaguars.

Dragan credits Sullivan for turning him in to the player, and now the coach, that he is.

“I loved playing for Sully. He was truly a mentor off the court and on the court,” Dragan said. “I always knew he was there for me if I needed anything. And that’s something that I reiterate to players.” 

Former and current Cooper basketball players have truly bought into Sullivan’s family mindset.

“I really think it’s just the culture of our program from day one has just been you know, it’s been a family it’s been a brotherhood,” Sullivan said. “When you get young people to understand that it is about a bigger cause, and it’s about playing for others. It just resonates with them and they continue on with that in life and understanding that it is about serving and taking care of others.”

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Sullivan said he loved the way, as a player, Dragan came in day in and day out and “would do anything to help the team and was never a selfish kid. Just kind of a really, really good teammate and did things the right way.

“I think they feel a sense of that belonging and that sense of loyalty to each other because of what they’ve been through,” Sullivan added.

That’s part of the reason why Dragan decided to return to Cooper to coach.

“I knew I wanted to be a coach one day and I just continue to stay around sports because sports have always just been a huge part of my life and make me what I am today,” Dragan said.

Everyone in the program loves Dragan, Sullivan said.

“It’s always nice to be a good cop but you know, there are days where he gets on guys pretty good, but he loves them just as hard and that’s a big thing,” Sullivan said. 

The Jaguars will continue their postseason run on Sunday at 3:30 when they face Covington Catholic in the semifinals of the ninth region tournament. 

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