Gary Kloppenburg is a rookie. A rookie head coach in the WNBA, that is. Sure, Kloppenburg has an extensive coaching resume loaded with experience including coaching jobs in junior college, the CBA and overseas — but after a career where he made his mark by being an assistant, Kloppenburg now finds himself with the weight of an organization and the expectations of an eager fan base on his shoulders as the head coach of the Tulsa Shock.
Kloppenburg is facing a new challenge head on by staying true to his roots and coaching the way he has always coached. But even he will admit, this is still unfamiliar territory.
“It’s different.” Kloppenburg commented on the difference between being a head coach and an assistant. “You slide over about six inches, but its different, everything is on you.”
Despite an 0-4 start to the season, the Shock have been competitive under Kloppenburg so far in this young season, with a drastically improved defense and a visibly transformed attitude on the court.
Perhaps no one knows the ups and downs of the coaching profession quite like Bob Kloppenburg, Gary Kloppenburg’s father who has over 50 years of experience in the coaching profession.
“It’s tough [to transition] especially if you really have strong beliefs in something, just sitting back and be an assistant, it’s very difficult,” said Bob Kloppenburg, who moved from an assistant coach to a head coach multiple times during his career in the NBA, “The biggest [change you experience] as a head coach is that you don’t have to hold back anything, and you can instill all your beliefs on both ends of the ball.”
Instilling his defensive-minded basketball-beliefs in the Shock organization is where Gary Kloppenburg finds himself today as he prepares the Shock for success on the court after only having his team together for a mere five weeks.
“Just be yourself.” Added Bob Kloppenburg when asked about what advice he’s given his son to help with his transition. “He has a much better temperament than I ever had. He’s intense but without being vocal, and he handles things a lot better on the court. He never gets too hot or too cold. He teaches his kids very well, so it’s going to be fun to watch this team develop and become successful. This is his first real big opportunity to be a head coach.”
Gary Kloppenburg was brought to Tulsa by the Shock organization to do one thing— to instill his defensive philosophy on the court. So far, he’s done that and more, taking the change in stride and building a disciplined program on the basketball court.
“I’m up to the task,” Kloppenburg said. “I have a good coaching staff, and we will get better too. It’s a learning curve for all of us, but we are going to get there.”