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Darryl Sutter has winning way about him, quirky personality and all

Los Angeles Kings' coach Darryl Sutter takes questions

Los Angeles Kings' coach Darryl Sutter takes questions from the media at a news conference in El Segundo, Calif., Thursday, June 5, 2014. Credit: AP / Neil Davidson

LOS ANGELES - Journalists trying to describe Darryl Sutter's dealings with journalists often struggle to put into words a guy who has a unique way of putting things into words.

He is Bill Belichick crossed with Casey Stengel crossed with, umm . . . well, there is a certain Phil Jackson-esque Zen to some of his utterances.

See, it's not easy! Let's just say it's Darryl being Darryl.

The Kings' coach is a championship-winning mini-celebrity in the pop culture capital of the universe. Yet at age 55, he remains an Alberta farm boy at heart, one not inclined to change for the bright lights.

Is he this quiet and inscrutable around his players?

"I don't think his personality is different than what you see," captain Dustin Brown said Friday after an off-day Stanley Cup Final practice. "It's just who he is. I think he's a little bit more talkative with us. Then again, we're not asking him questions."

Yeah, good luck with that. He often answers as he sees fit, regardless of whether he addresses the actual question. There are awkward silences, mumbled, sarcastic answers and pointed challenges to aspersions cast against his players.

At times things get just plain loopy. After Game 1, a reporter asked Sutter what allowed the team to dominate a third period in which it had 20 shots on goal.

"I'm not so sure we did," he said. "I think [goaltender] Jonathan Quick was our best player tonight."

When the reporter noted that the Rangers had only three shots on goal, Sutter smiled and said, "Is that a question? I know they only had three shots on goal. I agree with you."

So did he agree with her that they had only three shots, or did he agree that perhaps his original assertion was logic-challenged?

No matter. Sutter doesn't seem to sweat any of this, often smirking during answers, accentuating his distinctive, scrunched-together facial features. The New York Times once compared the effect to a "dyspeptic Popeye."

Sutter's players mostly find all this amusing and have been known to watch his postgame news conferences in the locker room just for laughs.

They also appreciate his dogged loyalty. Even when players themselves critique their work -- as Anze Kopitar did after Game 1 -- Sutter will not agree publicly.

"I think Kopy busts his [butt] every night, for lack of a better word," Sutter said. "He never has a bad game."

Naturally, Kings fans care only that Sutter keeps winning, and so he has. He secured a Cup in his first season in L.A., advanced to the Western Conference finals in his second and is back in the Cup Final in his third.

Many hockey fans of a certain age still might remember him best for his eight seasons as a steady player in Chicago and for a back story that includes five brothers who grew up with him in Viking, Alberta, and also played in the NHL.

But Sutter has fashioned a long second career as a coach and executive, dating to 1992. He has coached the Blackhawks, Sharks, Flames and Kings in 1,039 regular-season games -- winning 507 -- and another 162 in the playoffs after Saturday night.

So clearly he knows how to do his job, which is win, not entertain us. The Los Angeles Times asked him Tuesday about his media approach and he cited another coach who won an important Game 1 this past week.

"Who do you think the best coach in the NBA is?" Sutter said. "It's that guy in San Antonio, Gregg Popovich. And how does he act? It's not about sitting there selling yourself. You don't have to do that."

New York Sports