Louis “Red” Klotz, who turned his legacy as the "losing-est" coach in basketball history into a mega-successful career for doing just that, died July 12.
The Margate, N.J., resident was 93.
A former NBA player — he was part of the Baltimore Bullets team in 1947-48 — and star of two championship teams for South Philadelphia High School in 1939 and 1940, Klotz was also a standout player with the South Philadelphia Hebrew Association team, known as the SPHAs. Nevertheless, Klotz, at 5-foot-7-inches tall, scored his biggest successes as the coach who was always on the wrong side of the scoreboard in games against the Harlem Globetrotters, the clown princes of basketball.
His teams — he owned and occasionally played for the hapless Washington Generals — were doomed to failure, playing eternal runner-up to the magical Globetrotters in pre-ordained outcomes.
Except once in 1971, when the diminutive Klotz stepped in as a player against the Globetrotters and swished in his classic two-handed set shot to beat the team.
“It was as if I had just killed Santa Claus,” he recalled in an interview with the Jewish Exponent.
He was 50 at the time — and that feat didn’t stop a new losing streak from beginning the next game. The Generals lost some 14,000 games to their world-famous opponent.
It was a sign of the Globetrotters’ respect for their less-than-formidable opponent when they retired the Klotz’s jersey at a game in Philadelphia's Wells Fargo Center three years ago.
In the past year, Klotz was the focus of two books: The Legend of Red Klotz: How Basketball’s Loss Leader Won Over the World — 14,000 Times, and a children’s tome, Homecourt: The True Story of the Best Basketball Team You’ve Never Heard Of, which detailed his time with the SPHAs.
Despite his retirement from the court and the coach’s seat on the bench, Klotz still could be seen as recently as three years ago going for the net at the Katz JCC in Margate, where, he claimed, “I hold my own.”