Even though his team had lost an NBA playoff game on Sunday night and he had just flown back to Los Angeles from New Orleans, Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak found time Monday to talk about his old high school coach.
"He was the most influential coach in my life," Kupchak told Newsday in a phone interview about his former Brentwood High School coach Stan Kellner, who died Sunday in Fort Pierce, Fla., of complications following a stroke.
Kellner, 77, coached varsity basketball at Brentwood in the late 1960s and '70s, was the head men's basketball coach at C.W. Post from 1978 to 1981 and became an ambassador for the sport through his multiple roles as basketball analyst for two decades on Cablevision's Long Island Sports Network and founder of the successful "Yes I Can" basketball camps that remain in operation in the United States and abroad.
Kupchak played for Hall of Fame coach Dean Smith at North Carolina, won an Olympic gold medal for the United States in 1976 and played for more than a decade in the NBA. Yet he cited Kellner as his favorite coach because, "He was unique, energetic, a disciplinarian but with a very positive approach. He impacted a lot of people's lives."
Kellner attended Hicksville High School and played football and basketball at Adelphi University. He began coaching basketball as an assistant at Hicksville in 1961. In 1966, he took over the varsity basketball program at Brentwood and eventually led the school to nine straight seasons of winning at least a league championship, including Suffolk County titles in 1971 and '72.
After retiring from coaching, Kellner, an avid reader, saw an article about cybernetics and devised a system of teaching basketball -- and later volleyball -- through positive motivation. Thus was born the idea for his "Yes I Can" camps.
"He was the owner, I was the director. We had some wonderful times at the camps," said Marty Riger, Kellner's longtime friend and fellow basketball coach in the Brentwood district.
Kellner, who resided in East Setauket and was inducted in the Suffolk County Sports Hall of Fame, also worked with Barry Landers and Carl Reuter on LISN telecasts, where he not only displayed keen understanding of basketball, but a sharp sense of humor. "He had that way of finding something funny in every situation," Landers said.
Kellner is survived by his wife of 49 years, Martha, three children -- Jeff, Ken and Carolyn -- three grandchildren and a sister, Jeanette, 80.
Funeral services will be held Sunday at 10 a.m. at I.J. Morris Funeral Home in Dix Hills.