POSTED ON JUNE 13, 2012:
Shock to the System
Bumpy road turns smooth for the Tulsa Shock
When the Shock debuted in 1998 in Detroit, everything was far from spectacular. After going through two head coaches and posting a record of 65-93 in their first five seasons, the team was looking for a change -- and got it when they hired Detroit Pistons legend, Bill Laimbeer during the 2002 season. Although the Shock finished 9-23 that year, Laimbeer's motivation and drive influenced his team and the front office to turn things around and become contenders.
In order to contend, the team had to create new ways to win. The first step was to rearrange their roster. All of that hard work led to a big reward when the Shock defeated the heavily favored Los Angeles Sparks to be crowned the WNBA champion in 2003. This feat would catapult the Shock to greatness, when they were also crowned WNBA champions in 2006 and 2008. But like the saying goes "... all good things must come to an end," and that is exactly what happened in 2009. After missing the WNBA Finals for the first time since their 2005 season, the Shock had played their last game in Detroit. In late 2009, the announcement came that the Shock would move from Detroit to Tulsa.
The transition from Detroit to Tulsa wasn't an easy one for the Shock. Investors were hit with a severe blow when several Shock players didn't make the move with the team: Cheryl Ford was plagued by injuries, Taj McWilliams-Franklin signed a free agent contract with New York Liberty, Deanna Nolan decided to step away from the game of basketball and Katie Smith signed with Washington Mystics. On top of these players not making the journey, by the middle of the 2010 season, no Detroit players were on the team.
There would be a familiar face to Tulsans on the sidelines, though: Former University of Tulsa basketball coach Nolan Richardson was named head coach and general manager. With the team finishing 6-28 during their inaugural season, they missed the playoffs for the first time since 2002. But the Shock was rewarded with the second pick in the 2011 WNBA Draft and signed WNBA veteran, Sheryl Swoopes and former Olympic Track star, Marion Jones. But between all the roster changes and Jones ending up being a bust, Richardson stepped down as coach and the team finished 3-31.
After going 9-59 in their first two seasons, the Shock franchise is now recreating itself for the 2012 season. On January 4, 2012, Gary Kloppenburg was named Head Coach of the Tulsa Shock. Before making his way to Tulsa, Kloppenburg spent four years as an assistant coach with the WNBA team, Indiana Fever. He also spent time as part of the staff for the NBA team, Charlotte Bobcats.
Known as a defensive genius, Kloppenburg feels he can bring glory back to the Shock. "I feel like I can come in and make a difference and try to rebuild the Shock. The fans here are extremely supportive and I'm passionate about building a winning team for them and this entire community," Kloppenburg said. And with his passion for the game and instilling his philosophy of defense, it has shown here recently. As of May 31, the Shock had forced 104 turnovers, which ranks them 1st in defense in the WNBA. And with expectations being high this season, Kloppenburg plans to meet those expectations.
"My expectation for this season is that we ... be a very competitive team and have a chance to be in or win every game," Kloppenburg said. Jennifer Lacy, who plays forward for the Shock, has some pretty high expectations herself. "My expectations are extremely high for this season. I think that we have all the pieces in order now. It would be an extreme let down to not get significantly better than we have been in the past. I believe in this team and I just think we are a lot better than years past," Lacy said. With Kloppenburg guiding the Shock into the future, basketball fans of all ages have something to look forward to this season.
This season is all about improvement for the Shock, and Shock fans should remain patient because rebuilding a team takes time. Kloppenburg is the right man for the job and if the team should finish above last place in the Western Conference, expect to hear Gary Kloppenburg's name when he wins Coach of the Year. Although the road has been a bumpy one for the team, it looks like time is finally on the Shock's side and Shock fans have been there through it all. "I would have to say the fans and the support from the community. We've had some tough times here in Tulsa and they have stuck with us throughout. It's just really great to see them at every game and feel that support and love from them," Lacy said.
With a new energy pumped back into the team, basketball fans should go see what the buzz is about. "They should come out and watch us play because we're exciting to watch. We play hard. We are competitors and you can see the passion that we have in every possession," Lacy said. Fans of all ages can catch all Shock home games at the BOK Center. You can catch their next home game on Friday, June 15, when the Shock face the Seattle Storm. Tipoff is at 7:30pm and tickets can be purchased at the BOK Center ticket office or online at wnba.com/shock.
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