Klay Knueppel is in his 16th season as head coach of the Wisconsin Lutheran College women's basketball program. Knueppel, who is 28th among active coaches in Division III with a .712 winning percentage, spent 12 seasons as an assistant with the Warriors before being named head coach in 2004. Knueppel has been named the NACC Coach of the Year four times in his career at the helm of the Warriors.
WLC posted a program-best 27 wins in the 2018-2019 campaign, and made its 10th NCAA Tournament appearance, winning its third game in program history after defeating No. 17 Illinois Wesleyan, 48-40. The Warriors went 19-1 in NACC play, winning the NACC regular season title for the ninth time under Knueppel's guidance. WLC went on to win the NACC Tournament for the ninth time in Knueppel's tenure, and the eighth time in the last nine seasons. Senior Jen Dowden became the program's all-timme leading-scorer and was named the WBCA Private Schools Player of the Year after averaging 15.5 points per game while shooting 44.7 percent from the field. Additionally, Dowden was named the NACC Player of the Year for the second straight season and a D3hoops.com First Team All-Central Region selection for the second straight year. Senior Maddy Elrod was named a First Team All-NACC performer while senior Lexi Reinke was named a Second Team All-NACC performer. Maddie Cruz was tabbed as the NACC Defensive Player of the Year to round out the awards for the Warrior's historic season.
In 2017-2018, the Warriors returned to the NCAA Tournament for the seventh time in the last eight years a season ago, posting an 18-2 NACC record and clinching their ninth 20-win season in program history. Junior Jen Dowden, who became the seventh player in program history to earn Conference Player of the Year honors, also took home Second Team All-American honors from D3hoops.com. Wisconsin Lutheran was among the best defensive team's in Division III last season, allowing only 48.7 points per game for eighth overall. Knueppel was honored with his third NACC Coach of the Year award after leading the Warriors to their first top 25 ranking in program history.
The 2014-2015 Warriors upset 10th-ranked Wheaton (Ill.) 70-67 in overtime in the first round for their second NCAA Tournament win in program history. Knueppel, who won his 200th game January 10 when the Warriors defeated Aurora, 62-38, mentored Kristen Schulz to D3hoops.com First Team All-American honors, the college's first-ever First Team All-American.
WLC reeled off a school-record 23 straight victories in 2013-2014 and in 2012-2013, became the first team in conference history to finish with a perfect conference record (17-0). Knueppel coached Wisconsin Lutheran to its best season in school history in 2010-2011 as it won a school-record 26 games, including the school's first-ever NCAA Tournament win, a 73-59 victory over UW-La Crosse.
In the last eight seasons, Knueppel has guided the Warriors to a 136-17 conference record. He has coached 35 players to various all-conference honors, including four NACC Players of the Year; Jen Dowden (2017-2018), Kristen Schulz (2014-2015), Shavon Dillon (2012-2013), and Erika Laete (2010-2011).
Wisconsin Lutheran has enjoyed a successful run with Knueppel on the bench, including his time as an assistant. In 2003, the Warriors finished 18-7 overall and posted an 11-1 record in the Lake Michigan Conference en route to the program's first outright regular-season title. The Warriors swept through the conference tournament, defeating Lakeland, 59-41, in the championship game before losing in the first round of the NCAA Tournament to UW-Eau Claire, the top-ranked team in the country.
From 1998 to 2003, the Warriors advanced to the title game of the LMC Tournament five times (1998, 2000, 2001, 2002, and 2003) and earned the automatic berth to the NCAA Tournament twice (2000, 2003).
While he still exhibits the same hard work and intensity he did as an assistant coach for 12 years under Wayne Smith (who started the program in 1983), Knueppel employs some of the same coaching techniques as his father, Paul Knueppel, the college's retired vice president of student affairs and former men's basketball head coach and athletic director.
Knueppel studied psychology while a student at Wisconsin Lutheran. He was the first of three Knueppel brothers to play basketball for the Green and White. During his three seasons (1989-1992), Knueppel established himself as the most prolific free throw shooter (.917) in school history. As a senior, he led the NAIA in free throw percentage with a school-record mark of .950. More importantly, Knueppel helped the 1992 Warriors to their first 20-win season with a 21-9 overall record. He still ranks 12th in career scoring (1,188 points) and assists (205).
He and his brothers Kon, Kole, and Klint, known as "The Flying Knueppel Brothers," were named to the Gus Macker Hall of Fame in Belding, Michigan after they won the top men's flight in a national 3-on-3 basketball tournament held in Hilton Head, South Carolina in the summer of 2003.
Knueppel lives in Milwaukee with his wife, Lisa. They have four children; Kaila, Caitlin, Jakob, and Joshua.