When Brian Kloman sings, he belts lyrics like he’s in the shower, whether he is or isn’t.
The Winthrop assistant men’s basketball coach flings his voice toward the heavens any and everywhere for a simple reason: he’s a happy guy that enjoys music.
“It wakes my family up in the shower,” Kloman said Thursday. “I get bangs on the door from my wife, ‘turn it down!’ I think that’s me in general but singing is something you can do any time. It’s a release. It just puts people in good moods… especially when you’re a bad singer like me. If I was a good singer, it wouldn’t be as effective.”
The college basketball season is a long and arduous slog, full of the difficulties any sports team encounters tossed into a mixer with the typical struggles and tribulations of male college students. A little bit of levity is needed from time to time. That includes Kloman crooning to Winthrop players before practice.
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“People love Kloman,” said senior guard Jimmy Gavin. “It’s a long season, you know? We love practice, but he brings the joy, humor, goofy stuff, he comes in the gym singing. He says every room he’s in, he’s got to test out the acoustics. I mean, he sounds terrible, but he’s a great guy. He brings a big heart to the team.”
I sing songs I like and then I’ll sing songs that surprise the guys sometimes, that they might like. Keep them on their toes a little bit. I enjoy doing it but it’s more about providing some type of voice, some type of energy, some type of vibe to practice.
“A heart the size of the state of South Carolina”
As soon as one game ends, Winthrop basketball coach Pat Kelsey is studying the next opponent like it’s a final exam.
Without fail, as soon as the cramming begins he’ll hear a voice bounding down the hall of the Winthrop Coliseum basketball offices: Kloman stretching his pipes again.
“He drives me nuts,” said Kelsey, with one of his heartiest laughs of the basketball season.
It’s impossible to get upset with the 36-year old Kloman.
“He’s got a heart the size of the state of South Carolina,” said Kelsey. “Very hard-working and he has a heart of gold. He loves those kids.”
Kelsey said Kloman always has the pulse of the players, the mood, the feel of the locker room. That intuition is invaluable to keeping a team in sync through the season.
“He’s like the middle man,” said sophomore Xavier Cooks, who like many of the Eagles players spends hours working on his shot with Kloman. “He connects us to the coaches so well. The coaches have so much of a job scouting that sometimes it’s hard to hear the communication between us and them.”
Gavin described Kloman as a relational coach more than an X’s and O’s guy. Cooks said Kloman texts him nearly every day to see how he’s doing, something the Australian appreciates being so far from home.
“Everyone can relate to him, everyone can communicate to him,” said Cooks. “He really cares about us too. Really, really good guy.”
Just being involved in their daily life – when it doesn’t come to basketball – I think is a big role I play. And being a person they can come and talk to about anything.
Straddling the line
Growing up with an African American father – Chris, a longtime college basketball coach, now an assistant at Charlotte - and a Caucasian mother, Kloman straddled two different cultures. That influenced his musical tastes and also helped make him the people person he became.
Because of his father’s occupation, Kloman moved around constantly during his youth.
“I probably went to 12 different schools growing up, from elementary to high school,” he said. “And when you get in that new school situation you do one of two things; you can learn to appreciate the situation and everybody or you can just be by yourself, because you’re the new kid.
“From a social standpoint I had to develop relationship skills because I was always moving.”
Kloman - who has two daughters, Anna and Delaney, with his wife, Beth - reached the point where he wasn’t burdened by what other people thought about him. He fit into any box that people felt the need to put him into; he felt comfortable in any of them.
On the road
Kloman’s Winthrop job isn’t limited to human relations. He’s also the program’s ace recruiter, willing to drive to Texas on a whim to see a potential recruit.
“He’s done that before,” said Kelsey. “He’s driven to Texas and back in a couple of days. He loves it, to be out there and find a hidden gem and meet people and talk to people. He’ll cover every inch of the road with a smile on his face.”
The long trips give him plenty of time to practice his craft - singing. He loves country music - Garth Brooks and Kenny Chesney especially -, modern hip-hop - Fetty Wap is a favorite -, Led Zeppelin, name it. He’s considering unleashing Zeppelin’s anthem “Stairway to Heaven” on the Winthrop players in the future, though that might require another jaunt to Texas to perfect.
Kloman is just as hard a worker in Rock Hill. His relationship with the players means he’s never more than a text or phone call away. That makes him readily accessible for 1-on-1 skill development sessions, especially before practices when the early arriver will almost always see him working with one of the Eagles on some facet of the game.
“Always available for workouts,” said Gavin. “I shoot free throws with him all the time, pick-and-pops with Xavier (Cooks), rebounds for Keon (Johnson). He’s the type of guy that will do anything for you.”
More than winning games
Kloman’s goal is for his players to know that accessibility isn’t limited to hoops. Coaching for him is about more than winning games or climbing the career ladder.
“I’m gonna hopefully be invited to every single one of these kids’ weddings,” he said. “When you do stuff like that, the basketball takes care of itself. Like our guys right now, they’ll run through a wall for us, and that happens to do with our relationships with them.”
The Eagles have won six straight games after an early January hiccup. They’re humming at the moment, and Kloman’s voice probably sounds as sweet as it ever will, except maybe to the head coach about to plow through six hours of an opponent’s game film.
“I’ve got my blinders on and he’ll be down there singing Kenny Chesney,” said Kelsey. “He loves country. Or some 80’s hair band ballad, and I’m like, ‘will you shut up?’ But that’s just who he is; he’s always bright side, he’s always half full, he’s always very positive and he’s got a terrible singing voice.”
Bret McCormick: 803-329-4032, @BretJust1T
One of Kloman’s favorites
Winthrop assistant coach Brian Kloman loves singing and he loves listening to an a capella group from Vanderbilt University, called the Melodores. Here’s one song he’s been singing quite a bit lately, the Melodores’ take on Zac Brown’s “In Colder Weather:”