Life comes full circle for KCK native who coaches professional basketball

Ed Corporal

by Mary Rupert

Walking into the Hy-Vee Arena (the former Kemper Arena) recently brought back memories for Kansas City, Kansas, product Ed Corporal.

Corporal, the head coach of the Kansas City Tornadoes professional basketball team, is preparing for the season home opening weekend on Friday, Jan. 11 and Saturday, Jan. 12, against the Raleigh Firebirds. The games will begin at 7 p.m. at Hy-Vee Arena, Kansas City, Missouri.

The Tornadoes are in The Basketball League, formerly the North America Premier Basketball League.

Corporal, who has been a coach for 31 years, describes the Tornadoes as a “very, very up-tempo team.” At the same time, it will be a smart, tough team that plays very aggressive defense, he added.

“Our team is equivalent to an NBA team in height and limb,” he said. It’s more of a development team, where players go to get ready for the NBA G league and the NBA, he added. They work on their skills at this level. Last year, the team went 15-15 and was one game away from the finals.

“If you come to watch, you’ll see a very exciting team,” he said, adding it may be similar to watching the Kansas City Kings. Previously Corporal was the Tornadoes’ assistant coach.

Otis Birdsong, a former player for the Kansas City Kings, is the president of the Tornadoes, is one of Corporal’s inspirations, and is like his brother, he said.

From Kansas City Kings ballboy to Tornadoes coach

Corporal recalled his days as a ballboy for the Kansas City Kings in the 1980s.

“Now walking in the building, through the tunnels, I started having flashbacks of when I was a ballboy getting things for the players and coaches, and here I was walking in like Cotton Fitzsimmons, the coach of a professional team,” Corporal said. “It’s come full circle.”

Corporal said he’s very humbled by the experience. Just being a coach in his hometown is very special to him, he added. It has been a long way since his younger days at Stony Point South School.

“It’s a very good feeling,” he said. “It’s really just enjoyable knowing I’m in KC, and being a KCK kid and becoming a professional coach in my hometown.”

Since those days as a ballboy, Corporal has played basketball at Schlagle High School, Kansas City Kansas Community College and Pittsburg State University. He has a bachelor’s degree in management from MidAmerica Nazarene University.

Besides being inspired by Birdsong, Corporal said he was inspired and mentored by Cotton Fitzsimmons and Walt Shublom.

While he did not play for Wyandotte High School, Corporal formerly attended Shublom’s basketball camp at KCKCC, and he was in seventh grade at Arrowhead Middle School when he first met Shublom.

“By the time I went to high school, he took me under his wing,” Corporal said. Corporal became a counselor in one of Shublom’s sports camps in Liberty, Missouri.

Another big influence on Corporal’s coaching career was Randy Springs, who coaches at Sumner Academy, Wyandotte and Topeka. Corporal worked under him for 10 years at Sumner Academy.

Corporal is a past coach for three Kansas high school championship teams at Schlagle and Sumner Academy.

Corporal also previously served as head coach of the Arkansas RiverCatz in the American Basketball Association and was associate head coach for the Arkansas RimRockers. He also has coached at Pittsburg State and at Park University.

Overcoming stroke

Few people have faced the challenges that Corporal has faced and come through them. Five years ago, Corporal had two massive strokes within 24 hours, leaving him paralyzed and unable to walk.

He was coaching volleyball at Perry-Lecompton school at the time and it happened in the middle of the season, he recalled. He spent about a year-and-a-half undergoing physical therapy, learning how to walk again.

“I had to work really, really hard to recover from that,” Corporal recalled. “I spent four months at Lawrence Memorial Hospital. I was in Tonganoxie another two months.”

When he went home after six months, he had to continue rehabilitation. He had to walk with a cane and walker for a while, then gradually he got better, and returned to coaching, he said.

During his recovery period, he helped out around the University of Kansas men’s basketball program with mentoring and other tasks. He was asked to come back to Sumner Academy to help with the team.

Mentoring young athletes

Corporal has a place in his heart for young athletes in Kansas City, Kansas. He has met with administrators in the Kansas City, Kansas, Public Schools and offered his assistance in helping to be a mentor for young athletes and also for coaches. The team plans to go to high schools and middle schools in the district and hold practices there, he said.

“Our guys go and speak to young men and women about life skills and things going on in their lives, academics, peer pressure, making life decisions,” he said. Also, each school will receive tickets to attend a Tornadoes game.

If he is asked by youth for advice, he emphasizes education.

“What I would tell any young kid, especially in the KCK school district, first and foremost is get your education,” he said. “Classroom and academics, that’s very important. Without that you can’t get to the next level to play or coach. Try to get in college and get a degree, whether you’re going to be a player or not.”

“I would tell them take your education very, very serious because it will open up a lot of doors for you,” Corporal said. “You’ve got to be prepared. One thing school teaches you is how to manage time.”

For more information on the Kansas City Tornadoes, visit

Pro basketball team plays preseason game tonight; new coach is from KCK

A professional basketball team, the Kansas City Tornadoes, will play a preseason game at 7 p.m. tonight, Jan. 2, at the HyVee Arena, 1800 Genessee, Kansas City, Missouri.

Admission is free to this preseason game tonight.

Ed Corporal, who is from Kansas City, Kansas, will be the coach for the 2019 season, which has home openers at 7 p.m. Friday, Jan. 11, and Saturday, Jan. 12, at the HyVee Arena against the Raleigh Firebirds.

Otis Birdsong is the president of the Kansas City Tornadoes.

“It’s a whole new ball game for the Kansas City Tornadoes 2019 season, with a new Coach Ed Corporal, new players, and we are looking forward to playing at the Hy-Vee Arena, formerly Kemper Arena, that was once the home of the Kansas City Kings. The Tornadoes consists of players from colleges across the country, to continue their basketball careers and move on to the next level,” said Otis Birdsong, president, The Kansas City Tornadoes.

During their first season, the Kansas City Tornadoes were in the North American Premier Basketball League, which recently became The Basketball League. The Basketball League will focus on all teams contributing to their communities. The Tornadoes will compete with eight teams that will expand to 14 teams in the 2019 season.

World War I Christmas Truce observed in tournament

Competitive League champions at the Truce Tournament on Wednesday in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo from National World War I Museum)

Soccer enthusiasts from around the region paid homage to the World War I Christmas Truce on Wednesday by participating in the sixth annual Truce Tournament held by Sporting Club, the National WWI Museum and Memorial and The Soccer Lot.

Approximately 200 participants from 30 teams in the area competed in a 3v3 soccer tournament, including MLS All-Star Kei Kamara, while hundreds of additional soccer fans attended the English Premier League Boxing Day Watch Party on large screens inside the National WWI Museum and Memorial.

MWFC Reserves claimed the Truce Tournament title in the Competitive Division. In the Recreational Division, the Miracles of the Marne won the title, with Fools on the Field taking the Beer Division crown.

The Truce Tournament is a tribute to the Christmas Truce of 1914 in which the battles of World War I on the Western and Eastern Fronts temporarily subsided. Members of both sides laid down their arms in a time of war to celebrate a day of peace by venturing out to “No Man’s Land” to exchange gifts, sing carols and play soccer.

“The Christmas Truce was a remarkable event during the world’s first truly global conflict,” said National WWI Museum and Memorial President and CEO Matthew Naylor. “There are substantial lessons to be learned from those soldiers who displayed an unbelievable amount of humanity in the midst of horrific warfare and the Truce Tournament allows us to recognize and understand how the Great War continues to effect the global community to this day.”

Recreation League champions at the Truce Tournament on Wednesday in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo from National World War I Museum)