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Thanks Klop, and Congrats

 

My sincerest congratulations and heartfelt best wishes are offered to Gary Kloppenburg. I know that I speak for the entire Indiana Fever franchise when I wish him the best of luck with his new head coaching gig in Tulsa. I also know that the entire Fever franchise would echo my sentiment that Gary deserves this opportunity.

 

Klop, as he is known universally within our franchise, is a worker. He knows the WNBA and its personnel inside and out. He has scouted the college game and he will work endlessly to get the job done.

 

He has played the loyal assistant’s role under Lin Dun for seven seasons, between here and Seattle. He also was with the Phoenix Mercury for one season and with the NBA’s Charlotte Bobcats for three. He has helped develop players – male and female – in the CBA and internationally. He and his dad, Bob, who was a longtime NBA assistant coach himself, have traveled internationally conducting clinics and helping develop coaches worldwide. In short, Gary Kloppenburg has paid his dues.

 

Klop is a player’s coach in that he will do everything within his means to assist in the development of his athletes. He will take time as a communicator with them and he’ll work tirelessly to ensure they get the attention that they need and deserve. Klop was always the first Fever assistant onto the floor prior to any game or practice, when it meant passing to players and providing extra work. Likewise, he always was the last coach off the floor for the same purpose. Klop always had a singular message with his players during his summer months in Indianapolis – “call me if you want to get any shots up.”

 

Klop was always the practice defender when post players needed to be challenged during a particular drill. He was the passer and motivator for any perimeter player putting up shots or working on moves. He was a constant. His efforts and even his demeanor never changed. While writing this “Ode to Kloppenburg,” I am challenging myself to ever remember a time when Klop was ever angry, emotional, upset or miffed by anything. Certainly, yes, like any coach, he was bothered by losses or poor performance. But in my four years with Klop, it is difficult to recall any of those moments. He wore his struggles on his sleeve in much the same manner that he celebrated his successes – very calmly.

 

The laid-back native of San Diego was often the most casual in any setting, whether with staff or with players. I often kidded him that if it was at least 60 degrees, I knew he’d be in flip-flops just about any time that he wasn’t on the court, whether for game or practice. His demeanor was casual and he very rarely displayed much emotion – except for the trademark smile and grin.

 

He was assertive when he needed to be and other coaches, staff and players took notice. The man spoke from experience and passion, and his dedication was earned. He may be mild mannered, but his message was certainly heard. When Klop speaks, people listen.

 

For someone who practiced what he preached; for someone who treated people as they would wish to be treated; and for someone who put in his dues in every level of the game, I wish Gary Kloppenburg all the success in the world. I hope the Tulsa Shock go 32-2 next season – those two losses coming, of course, at the hands of the Indiana Fever. I would love to see a Fever-Shock matchup in the WNBA Finals.

 

My favorite Kloppenburg memories often came while kidding him about the flip-flops and his relaxed, Southern California mentality. Or kidding him about his favorite sports teams — which usually included any and every team that claimed the West Coast as its home. At one point or another, I think he identified the San Diego Chargers, San Francisco 49ers, Oakland Raiders and Seattle Seahawks as his favorite NFL team. By the same token, I know that I have heard him proclaim the San Diego Padres, L.A. Dodgers, L.A. Angels, Oakland A’s and Seattle Mariners all to be his favorite baseball team. C’mon, Klop!! You can’t claim the entire coast as your favorite!

 

Another fond memory came during what was an 11-hour road trip between Tulsa and Indiana. Following the Fever’s first venture to Tulsa in 2010, Klop joined Chris Denari and I on an all-night drive back from Tulsa, in order to get Denari on the air for the Indianapolis 500 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway the next morning. I guess it is fitting that Klop return as Tulsa’s new coach because he was, in part, responsible for the team’s first home win at BOK Center. Yes, the Shock beat Indiana 79-74 for the franchise’s first win in Tulsa, barely 24 hours after the Shock-Fever trade that landed Shavonte Zellous. Following the loss, Klop, Denari and I – along with most of Zellous’ personal belongings – boarded our rental SUV for that memorable overnight drive along I-44 and I-70.

 

Gary Kloppenburg has certainly deserved this head coaching gig and we all congratulate him. We’ll stay in touch and we’ll wish him well. He also owns distinction as the first Fever assistant coach ever to leave the franchise at the call of a head coaching position elsewhere.

 

To Klop – congratulations. You deserve this. We’re rooting for you 32 games per year!

 

KM

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