Another late night for Kenny Klein, the sports information director at the University of Louisville on Wednesday. But this time the focus was on him, not one of UofL’s 22 teams.
The time was around 6:45 p.m. when he tweeted the news that Anas Mahmoud would be having knee surgery to repair a knee and would be out for six weeks. Kenny’s day was not done yet, however, finally leaving the office with assistant Rocco Gasparro to attend a hospitality event sponsored by Gatorade at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium.
When he walked into the PNC Cub, Klein was greeted by applause from a lot of familiar faces. No sign of anyone from Gatorade. He figured quickly what was up, passing by a large sheet cake with the words, “Congratulations, Kenny.” It was a surprise party to congratulate him on being named a member of the Hall of Fame by the College Sports Information Directors of America. He will be inducted June 16th in Atlanta.
Over the next hour or so, Klein would be praised for by members of the media, his staff and his boss Tom Jurich as the best in the business. Jurich described Klein as a role model, a professional committed to the highest principles, thanking him for his expertise during many challenging times for himself and the university. “There have been a few rough spots along the way, but Kenny has always helped through those times,” he said.
One by one, such notables as Fred Cowgill, Howie Lindsey, Jeff Greer, Russ Brown, Jody Demling, and numerous other personalities told their stories, about Klein’s accessibility, his recognition of competing interests between the coaching staffs and the media, and his ability to serve both in a professional way. His staff was equally complimentary of Klein’s work ethic, noting that he’s always first one in the office in the morning and the last to leave at night.
While Klein is the ultimate professional, he also likes to have little fun, sometimes playing elaborate pranks on staff members and friends. A photographer told a tale about how a photo of his car wound up in the classified section of the Courier-Journal. The only problem was that he hadn’t placed the ad the asking price was about $5,000 less than the value of the car. He got lots and lots of calls, of course.
Alluding to the pranks, Klein declared, “Sports are supposed to be fun so we try hard to have a little enjoyment and laughs on the job.”
Kenny gave credit to Donnie Russell for luring him to UofL a couple of years after he graduated from Murray State University. His first job was sports information director at Morehead State. Russell, a former play-by-play TV announcer was also assistant athletic director for external affairs, hired Klein in 1983 after Joe Yates went to LSU. “He’s the reason I’m at the University of Louisville,” he said. “I will be forever grateful to Donnie for hiring me.”
He also had some high praise for his boss, Tom Jurich, choking up at one point, saying, “He’s my best friend and the best boss ever,” he said. “I love this job, what a great job, with so many rewarding moments and highlights over the years.”