The Gear Guru: Go Behind The Scenes With Jazz Equipment Manager Adam Klauke
The truck slowly backs up to the loading dock and the men inside exit into the dark garage. In 24 hours, the building will be alive and bright, with thousands of fans screaming as the Utah Jazz take on the Memphis Grizzlies. Tonight, however, there is only the thud-thump of bag after bag after bag thrown from the truck. That’s when the matchday begins for Adam Klauke, Jazz Equipment Manager.
The team’s mid-November road trip will take place in five cities over nine days, from Memphis to Dallas, Philadelphia to Boston, and finally end in Indianapolis.
“You have to be organized,” Klauke says. “You have to be able to think ahead, to be two steps ahead of things. There is a lot of planning, a lot of what-if scenarios. “
It all starts days before the team’s plane left Utah, with Klauke standing over a mountain of gear outside his office on the Zions Bank basketball campus and throwing one last glance at the color-coded calendar stuck to his wall. The next five games are all marked in blue and yellow, so Klauke double-checks that he has set aside the bags marked Icon and Statement.
“It’s my biggest fear,” he says. “There are times when I see the visiting team warming up in blue tights and I know we are wearing navy and I think I brought the wrong jersey. Then I check the book and – phew – it’s okay. “
Klauke stacks the blue Icon jerseys and the gold Statement jerseys in two large, labeled suitcases. Then he stuffed another with the matching socks, compression pants, and armbands. There is an order for it all: white leggings to match the classic purple Jazz uniforms and the white Association edition uniform; the red rock inspired City Edition would need black, a special order as black is not an official team color. But for the navy or gold uniforms the team will be wearing on this trip, Klauke loads a suitcase full of compression pants and navy armbands.
Then he checks the calendar again.
Next to the team’s uniform schedule on the wall is another sheet of paper, with the words resourceful, collaborative, professional, organized, humble, proactive, positive, passionate, and communicative lined up as such to spell another word. : resilient. You can combine long days and high stress in this currency to more accurately reflect the life of the Equipment Manager. But for Klauke, it became a dream opportunity.
“I never thought it was going to happen,” he said. “But it was really rewarding and fun.”
The first arena in Jazz’s five-game road trip is Memphis’s Grindhouse, the FedEx Forum. One night before the Jazz beat the Grizzlies 96-88, while the players and other team staff are at the team’s dinner or hotel, Klauke gets off to a good start. He loads three large carts and rolls them, one by one, from the loading dock to the visitation locker room.
Then he unzips one of the dozen bags and takes out 15 signs. Klauke places one of the laminate tapes, the one with Rudy Gobert’s name on it, in a corner, next to a locker he intends to leave empty.
“It all depends on the locker room,” Klauke says. “Rudy wants an empty locker next to him. I try to leave a blank space for vets, or guys who have media around them after a game.
“Then I’ll change it in the next town.” I try to spread the love.
When he’s done, he takes a step back and looks around. Then he makes some adjustments.
“It’s never just the first time,” he says. “I always have to do it again.”
Now Klauke can get down to business. It hangs navy compression gear in each locker. He places white shower sandals under each chair. He unzips the Icon bag, distributes the Navy uniforms around the room, then hangs them neatly. He exposes the team’s warm-ups. Navy at home, green on the road. Unless the team wears the purple jersey. Rules need exceptions.
He moves the massage table and the medical bags to a side room. He unwraps a bag of training equipment, foam rollers and a plastic hand on a stick to help assistant coaches during exercises. A few years ago, when the Jazz traded in for Boris Diaw, Klauke added an espresso machine to his equipment list. Klauke doesn’t like coffee, but he will drink. He needs something to keep him going. A while ago, he gave up his Fitbit because he couldn’t believe that not counting.
The final touch
With the warm-ups and uniforms in place, Klauke unzips the next bag. It is rectangular, sectioned on the inside with an 8 by 2 grid. For some, it is the most important bag.
After the last practice before the road trip, Klauke goes player by player to ask what shoes they wanted for the road trip ahead. Each man has at least two pairs, carefully packed in a suitcase. Some have three or four for this trip.
Klauke has a pair of bright orange Adidas for Donovan Mitchell, Kyries yellow for Royce O’Neale, Nike Air Maxes for Thabo Sefolosha. This season, the NBA lifted its rules limiting shoe colors, as Klauke well knows.
“They’ve been everywhere since the league changed the rules,” he said. “You see Donovan in that orange neon. Then he wears red one day, then blue and yellow, then he wears the painted Kickstradomis shoes.
“But in a way it’s easier because you don’t have to be the bad guy and tell them they can’t wear shoes because it’s not league approved.”
Shoes, however, aren’t the only individual items Klauke needs to keep track of. Almost all players and coaches have a request to fill out. There are energy drinks for some coaches and a box of assorted candy for assistant coach Alex Jensen. Gobert wants a paraben-free deodorant. Jae Crowder asks for baby oil. Mitchell’s locker, meanwhile, still gets a handful of Vicks VapoRub and Dubble Bubble gum.
“I don’t really know why,” Klauke said. “But you have to make sure they have what they want.”
A moment of reflection
On match day, Klauke’s schedule will be filled with the team’s filming, trips to the store to stock up on supplies, and the chaos of repackaging and loading everything onto the team’s plane.
But in a visitor’s locker room, in the calm of an empty arena, he can step back and think.
Klauke was just a kid when he started selling programs at Salt Lake Buzz Games. Soon he had been promoted to batboy and, at age 16, he joined Jazz as a ball boy. It was while visiting the locker rooms, hanging out with equipment managers and trainers, that he began to see the possibilities.
“Once I started to familiarize myself with the practices, to see the day-to-day, I knew that was what I wanted to do,” he says. “I am a huge sports fan. I have been going to games for 20 years, traveling full time for four years. See these different arenas, new, old. The history of some of these places is incredible. I never thought I would experience it all. You need to step back and pinch yourself every now and then. “
Then it’s just back to work.