Indiana's Influence

Fever to Face Kloppenburg and Diggins Again Thursday

By Ethan Armour | July 24, 2013

The terms “All-California” and “West Coast” define Coach Gary Kloppenburg’s laid back lifestyle perfectly. Kloppenburg joined the Fever staff in 2008 as an assistant coach under Lin Dunn. Klop spent four seasons with the Indiana Fever until he was given an opportunity to become head coach for the Tulsa Shock. Indiana was great to Kloppenburg but Tulsa’s warm weather definitely fits his flip flop lifestyle a little bit better.

Traveling back to Indiana last month, Kloppenburg was welcomed at Bankers Life Fieldhouse for the second time as Tulsa’s coach. It was a special evening for Kloppenburg, despite his team’s outcome. The Fever pulled out an 80-69 victory, reversing a seven-game losing streak and beginning its recent win streak.

Kloppenburg and the Shock will seek to avenge that loss in Thursday’s showdown with the Fever at the BOK Center in Tulsa.

Despite Kloppenburg missing the Fever’s championship season in 2012, the Indiana influence and particularly his relationship with Dunn have had a lasting impact on his career. Coaching together in two separate stops, Seattle and Indiana, helped him understand Dunn’s coaching philosophies.

“I learned a lot from Lin and I consider her a mentor and a teacher. I think she has really helped me gain knowledge on how to be a head coach. I owe a lot to Lin Dunn,” he said during his trip to Bankers Life Fieldhouse last month.

Although Kloppenburg and Dunn have vastly different personalities, they still live by the same basketball philosophies, often living by the cliché that defense wins championsips.

“Lin and I are both philosophically grounded in playing tough defense. Defense is probably one of the major tenants that we share,” he said.

When asked of his relationship with Kloppenburg, Tulsa GM Steve Swetoha referred to the soft- spoken coach as “The Silent Assassin.”

“The Silent Assassin?”

Swetoha, who had spent time with Kloppenburg working in the Charlotte Bobcats organization, assisted in the hiring process two years ago at Tulsa. Swetoha already knew what kind of a person Klop was. That is where the moniker, “Silent Assassin” comes into play.

Swetoha explained, “This goes with how he handles his business and I say that in a very sincere way. Coach Kloppenburg is not the most vocal coach in the WNBA, but it is quite clear that he leads by example.”

For his quiet, unassuming demeanor, Klop has been compared to Bernie Bickerstaff and Gregg Popovich, a pair of top NBA coaches. The comparison alone, is an honor, though perhaps understandable when you understand it was Bickerstaff who hired Kloppenburg when the Charlotte Bobcats were founded as an expansion team in 2004. Gary’s father, Bob Kloppenburg, also coached with Bickerstaff in Seattle and Denver.

Like father, like son.

While some at a young age learn to throw a ball or fix a tire, Klop was busy trying to understand the game of basketball. He started by observing his father’s coaching styles and defensive philosophies. Many of those same philosophies are now seen when as the Shock takes the court each night.

While Kloppenburg was influenced by coaching experiences with his father, his own travels have influenced his relationship with his daughter, Carlotta Kloppenburg. For Carlotta, Indiana’s influence played a big role.

She traveled recently Indiana for last month’s game, and though her Twitter page bears a Tulsa Shock logo, she still an Indiana fan at heart.

Entering her senior year of college at Point Loma Nazarene University, Carlotta returns as the Sea Lions’ starting guard. Her player profile notes Tamika Catchings as her favorite athlete. When Tamika’s name was brought up in conversation, Carlotta responded with a smile saying, “I love Catchings. She puts her heart out there every single game and she is just a great role model for all girls. Her faith in God means a lot to me coming from a Christian family. She will always be my favorite player.”

Indeed, that is Indiana’s influence.

Although she is busy living the college lifestyle, Carlotta recognizes Indiana’s influences through her dad’s coaching. She added, “My dad has taken a lot from Coach Dunn and he definitely makes references to his time with Indiana.”

Whether he is enjoying a warmer climate in Tulsa or eventually coaching somewhere else, the Dunn and Indiana influence will remain with Kloppenburg and his family.

No Place Like Home

And the Tulsa Shock select … Skylar Diggins!

Shock guard Skylar Diggins was the #3 overall pick in the 2013 draft and was ready to start a new life in the WNBA. It was only the beginning of what many anticipate will be a bright career for the rookie.

Last month’s game at Bankers Life Fieldhouse was about to get underway as starting lineups were being announced. The fans were excited, the Indiana players were pumped up and the refs were ready to go. Although this was a home game for the Fever, something very strange happened as the lineups were being called. Skylar Diggins received more cheers than many of the players on the floor. You would have thought she was the star player from Indiana.

Well in this case she is … sort of.

Diggins graduated from South Bend Washington High School and Notre Dame University, both located in Indiana. She played in three high school state finals and two college Final Four games at the Fieldhouse.

Prior to that game on June 28, Diggins spent a few moments with to reflect on her past history at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. “When I think about Bankers Life Fieldhouse it reminds me of home,” she said.

In her busy college career at Notre Dame, Diggins still made time to come to Indianapolis and not just to play basketball.

“I had friends that went to school in Indianapolis and I would come visit them,” said Diggins. She also visited Fever games each summer, knowing her WNBA days lie ahead.

Friends and family came to the game to show Diggins their support and Notre Dame shirts were visible throughout Bankers Life Fieldhouse.

When asked about specific memories of Indiana and Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Diggins said, “Being here with Notre Dame in the Final Four was one of the most memorable moments of my career. I think about so many memories that I have had in this building and in Indiana. I would come down two or three times a summer to watch the Fever. I have always been a fan of the Fever, especially Catch. I also remember when I came and watched Tamika’s rookie year (2002), and now I am playing against her.”

In last month’s game, the Shock’s starting point guard made just one jump shot with 34 seconds remaining to score her only two points of the night. Though her debut against the Fever did not exactly go how she wanted, Diggins still expects great potential.

One would have to bet that when the Fever visits Tulsa on Thursday, she’ll seek a little redemption against her home-state team.