Interview Spotlight with Women’s Basketball Head Coach Carlotta Kloppenburg-Pruitt

Southern Oregon University Athletics

Recently, The Siskiyou interviewed the new women’s basketball coach Carlotta Kloppenburg-Pruitt. Kloppenburg-Pruitt just finished her first full season at SOU this year. In this season, she guided the team to the round of 32 in post-season play and had a 29-6 record for this season which tied the second-highest win in the team’s history. Also, adding to her first season accolades, she helped coach Kami Walk who received All-CCC team and All-American honorable mention. 

Before coming to SOU, Kloppenburg-Pruitt was an assistant coach at San Jose State University for three years. However, her love for basketball started long before coaching. Kloppenburg-Pruitt grew up in a household of basketball. Her father has been a coach in the WBNA since 2000, while her grandfather was a coach in the NBA for 17 years. So, naturally, Kloppenburg-Pruitt gravitated towards playing college basketball.

Her playing career started in junior college. She played at Ventura College for two years before transferring to Point Loma Nazarene for her last two years. There, she completed her undergrad with a degree in exercise science. Eventually, she went on to receive a masters in sport and fitness administration from Winthrop University. 

On why she chose SOU, Kloppenburg-Pruitt says, “when I looked at the university and applied for the job, I felt like it was a really good fit… I just felt like [this was] a place that I can really impact women and just have a lot of fun… and then when I stepped on campus, it was ‘yeah, this is where I want to be.’”

As the head coach, Kloppenburg-Pruitt has several responsibilities. She states, “I’m like the director of ops of where we play and travel… I think a lot of people don’t realize that coaching is definitely not just coaching. You’re really running a whole program and doing a lot of different stuff… I would say a typical day is getting in the office, making sure the laundry is done, planning practice, going to practice, making recruiting calls, making sure [we’re] ready for the next trip during the season, and then making sure that [we’re] staying within our budget.”

Besides just managing coaching responsibilities, Kloppenburg-Pruitt is trying to build a winning culture for the basketball program which was something she wanted to focus on from day one as the head coach. She says, “that’s number one to me. You can have a lot of talent, but if you know that your team has not bought into what you are doing or bought into playing for each other, then you’re not going to be very good. So, from day one that was a big thing. It was about team bonding and making sure that they know me too.” She also stressed the importance of creating a culture of accountability, but along with creating a new culture comes some challenges and lessons learned.

Kloppenberg-Pruitt commented on the challenges of being a new coach this season and remarked, “my biggest thing was just coming in confident and prepared. And I think to be honest…if you’re organized, working hard, and passionate about it, your players [are] gonna follow that… and there’s definitely a lot that I learned and want to improve on…I learned throughout the season what I can do and what we can’t do. You kind of figure out your players too…But it was a blast.” 

Reflecting on the season and post-season results, Kloppenberg-Pruitt had some great comments. She says, “I honestly couldn’t have imagined a better season…they were just tough-minded kids, and it was a lot of fun to coach them. I couldn’t imagine winning as many games as we did. I really can’t. They did that. They just played really, really hard. And to go undefeated at home, that’s huge.” Adding to the mix, Kloppenberg-Pruit said that her favorite moment came down to two moments: the moment she told the team she was pregnant, and then winning the tournament. “That was a really special game because we had just lost to LC State the week before…we just put everything together and stuck to our game plan. [The players] were insanely focused on that game…and it was fun to watch. Then, to win that and be able to cut down the net on somebody else’s court is always kind of fun doing.”

Kloppenberg-Pruitt coaching from the sidelines

In addition to commenting on the challenges of her first year, Kloppenberg-Pruitt answered some questions regarding coaching difficulties. She said, “I’ve been in a couple of seasons where we weren’t very good. We played hard, but we weren’t great and we weren’t winning a lot. So, I think it’s challenging to continue and to make sure our players are still motivated every day… and so I learned a lot through that because you are not going to win every game. And it’s your character that is going to help you overcome some of that.” 

Unique compared to other coaches, Kloppenberg-Pruitt was pregnant throughout the season. And on the topic of women empowerment and coaching, she had some great remarks. “I think it was good for our team to see you know that you can be pregnant on the sideline and still be a normal person. You’re still doing your job with passion and pride…We’re still continuing to strive for women to be in a higher role, and you can still do that while trying to build a family. You don’t have to be at home… and just continuing to be a part of that shift is pretty awesome,” she said. 

Looking forward to next season and acknowledging the graduation of four great seniors, Kloppenberg-Pruitt says, “we had four awesome seniors, and it’s gonna be tough losing them… but I also think they helped develop our next leaders and our next younger players… I think we have players right now that are ready to step up into those roles that our seniors were playing at and were working in… [also] we were pretty successful this year. And when you get a taste of that you’re a little bit more motivated. And I think a lot of them have a taste of it and want to be more successful next year.” 

Currently, the women’s basketball team is putting in the off-season work. You can find the athletes doing some skill work, weight lifting, and putting some time on the courts a few times a week. 

Last, but not least, the fun question:

M: Favorite food and why?
C: my favorite is just pepperoni and pineapple pizza. And shout out to Bobby Heiken. Hopefully, he likes pepperoni and pineapple pizza too.

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