Like Father, Like Son
Shock Head Coach Gary Kloppenburg’s dad was on hand to see his son’s first game as a head coach at the BOK center in Tulsa on Saturday May 19. Sitting courtside, Bob Kloppenburg took in the action not only as a proud father, but also as a mentor and teacher of the man who now sits at the helm of the Tulsa Shock.
For those of you who don’t know about “Papa Klopp” and his coaching prowess, here is a taste of what he has accomplished in his 50 years of experience:
Once referred to as “a basketball genius” by the legendary NBA coach Pat Riley, Kloppenburg is best known as the innovator of the SOS defense—an imposing scheme based on ball-denial and the trap defense—a style that has been adopted by nearly every defensive minded coach in the game today. Kloppenburg’s greatest years came as an assistant coach for Seattle Supersonics from 1985-96, where his SOS defense made the Sonics the premier defensive team in the NBA. During the 1993-94 seasons under Kloppenburg, the Sonics defense generated 200 more turnovers than any other team, nearly setting an NBA record by forcing the opposing team to turn the rock over in 18-percent of their possessions.
That same defense carried the Sonics to the NBA finals in 1996, where they faced the Chicago Bulls—a team that posted a historic 72-10 record during the regular season. But thanks to Kloppenburg’s stifling defense, the Sonics held their own against the Bulls, forcing the series to go six games and holding Michael Jordan to a career-low in points per game for any playoff series.
Kloppenburg has also reached the highest point of his profession when he was named interim head coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers in 1982, and again in 1991 as the interim head coach for the Sonics. Now, here in Tulsa, he is witnessing his son follow in his footsteps.
“I’m very pleased [watching my son as a head coach],” Kloppenburg said. “He’s so well prepared and he’s really earned this, and now he’s got a chance to put his own thinking in place. I’m very pleased for him and I think he’s got a wonderful opportunity here.”
Since joining the Shock, Gary Kloppenburg has stuck to his roots, building a team around the defense his father created, hoping to find the same kind of success.
“He’s just grown up with this defense,” Bob Kloppenburg said. “He’s worked with me for so many years … so it’s kind of fun to watch him put it into place here as a head coach.”
Although the Shock would fall 88-79 to San Antonio in Gary Kloppenburg’s debut as head coach, they were able to keep the game close by forcing 24 turnovers.
“Coach [Gary Kloppenburg’s] defensive mind is amazing.” said Jene Morris, a first year member of the Shock who played for Coach Kloppenburg in Indiana, “It all stems from Big Klopp… it’s just a defensive family. Our defense has come a long way since he’s been here, and we work hard on it every single day. And it’s only going to get better from here. The foundation is there.”
Despite the 88-79 loss the Silver Stars, Gary Kloppenburg was happy with his team’s effort, and thrilled that his dad was on hand to witness his first moments as a head coach.
“It meant a lot [to have him at the game],” Kloppenburg said. “I grew up at a young age hanging around his teams as far back as I can remember. He’s been real supportive through all these years. I’ve learned a lot from him. He’s one of the legendary coaches, even in the NBA, and I’ve taken a lot of my coaching from him. I’m sure he will have some [advice] for me after this one as well.”