Nov. 30—Grand Forks native Alex Cooley, a rare three-sport UND athlete and baseball teammate of NBA legend Phil Jackson, died last weekend in Arizona at the age of 75.
Cooley, a 1964 Grand Forks Central graduate, was a member of the Central Athletic Hall of Fame, UND Athletics Hall of Fame and the North Dakota Amateur Softball Hall of Fame.
"He was successful because he was very competitive," said Marv Cooley, Alex's older brother and UND teammate. "He was a multi-sport athlete. We played just about everything — from golf to tennis to baseball to hockey ... then he eventually decided basketball was more his sport than hockey."
The Cooleys grew up near UND's campus. Their dad, Albert, was a UND professor in mechanical engineering.
Alex Cooley was inducted into the UND Athletics Hall of Fame in 1992. He has a rare distinction of lettering in three sports (baseball 1966-68, track 1965 and basketball 1966). He was an all-conference baseball player in 1967 and 1968.
Cooley played three seasons in the Oakland A's organization after leaving UND, finishing his minor-league career with a .301 batting average with 153 hits, 11 home runs and 100 RBI.
Despite strong numbers, Cooley wasn't able to break through in the A's organization. Marv said some of the challenge was related to the strength of the A's at the time, who would go on to become World Series champions in 1972, 1973 and 1974 behind the play of star outfielder Reggie Jackson.
Cooley was UND baseball's highest draft pick in program history until 2016 when Zach Muckenhirn went in the 11th round to the Baltimore Orioles. Cooley was picked in the 17th round by the A's in 1968.
Cooley held the Grand Forks Royals' American Legion baseball season batting average record for more than 30 years. He hit .422 in 1964, holding the program record until Craig Riendeau hit .435 in 1997.
In high school, Cooley was an all-state basketball player for the Redskins. After his pro baseball career, Cooley would win a national doubles racquetball title.
After moving on from his baseball career, Cooley worked at UND's Energy Research Center before moving to Arizona in 1981.
In Arizona, Cooley was an engineer on the Waddell Dam projects, designed to channel water from the Colorado River throughout Arizona.
Cooley was married to Jane Bogan, the daughter of former UND men's basketball head coach Louis Bogan (1951-1962).
According to Marv, Cooley, who his brother said was vaccinated, was in the hospital for the last three weeks battling COVID-19.