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A Dawn of a New Era in Los Angeles

Manny Nunez
Friday April 1, 2016

Throughout the years the LA KISS were doing all that they can to become a championship caliber team. Just like any franchise, however, the one major piece they were missing week after week when they entered the league in their inaugural season was chemistry. It became an illustrious disaster week after week watching a team with new faces each week at the Honda Center, only to be blown right out the turnstiles before the seats were warm.

Things began to change for the better the second half of the 2015 season. Most can take a .500 finish to the final games of the year as a downfall if a team doesn’t make the playoffs, but CEO of the LA KISS Joe Windham had a much different vision, looking at the glass at an overflow. 

“This year, our team is hitting on all cylinders,” Windham said. “Once the season had ended, our main focus was to make sure the fans get what they want, and they want a team that will compete. We felt that last year was the start of it, and with so many changes we made, we are looking forward to what 2016 will bring.”

The minute the 2015 season ended dawned a much new beginning, and everything that they have done has paved the way to make sure that 2016 starts and finishes strong. One of the tougher fields the KISS went through in the off season was seeing former head coach Bob McMillen go. The minute he announced his resigning meant the phones had begun to flood in the front office. With so many candidates, the torch was passed on to Omarr Smith.

“Smith is a kind of players coach that has the right kind of style,” Windham said. “He brings the right kind of expectations to not only show what he wants, but also earns the kind of respect he and everyone deserves. If anyone is too much of a players coach, you begin to lose that kind of trust and credibility. Smith knows how to separate himself from being a mentor and a coach, and all the players are feeding off of that.”

Smith brings to the KISS a hard-nosed, but very fair relationship to everyone. It is what has gotten him a pile of rings as a player and coach. His success as an assistant with Arizona and San Jose, not to mention a very bonding relationship with Windham, the idea of bringing a guy with an extremely strong personality to a team that is reaching closer to building a strong unity.

“Here in LA I want to bring a family that will love to play for each other,” Smith said. “Having worked with Joe for a few years really helped make the decision to come to LA. The talent and players that are on this team is great, and each practice that we have had has been nothing short of everyone giving their best effort to start winning games. Everyone is anxious for this season to start.”

LA already had something going as they closed out last season. Their defense was getting stronger. It’s offense slowly faded away from being that usual three-and-out team. Eventually they became contenders, but mixing in some of the old with a lot of new talent is what the KISS are hoping to see to bring success. Adding receivers DJ Stephens, Brandon Collins, and Amarii Jackson while signing former San Jose Sabercat Nathan Stanley at quarterback is a great start, but keeping defensive end Rashaun Keiser could be the biggest of all. He finished last season with five interceptions after joining the team late last season. He will be joined by Clevan Thomas on the other end, which could prove to be a very important one-two duo.

“Bringing in such great talent means that every week will be a challenge in itself,” Windham said. “Every week we will have guys that want to play the game and become contenders, and with so much talent, we can easily find guys that can rotate, making the ones we put down that much hungry to come back out there.”

The KISS know that in Los Angeles, winning is a must. Playing in the arena league though will help build a strong bond between the team and its fans, and that has been one of the major focal points as they open the doors this Saturday. All season ticket holders will be treated to a private KISS concert hosted by owners Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley. For them, it is much more than about giving back, and having Windham be their right hand man will help bring such an important balance between much needed entertainment and trying to bring a winning etiquette.

“Working with Gene and Paul and envisioning our expectations for the KISS has been great,” Windham said. “Having owners that have been dedicated to the brand name and wanting to be involved in a lot of this means the fans will get what they deserve. They want to come out to become a part of the action, although last season was so difficult because of the conflict of schedules. This year will be much different, and the fans will get to see a lot of high end changes that everyone will like.”

With everyone guaranteed a playoff spot, the KISS have a much different approach. With the second season starting in mid-August, everyone is looking to be one of the final two standing. At this point, the KISS have begun to run out of excuses and are tired of playing the inaugural card. There has been too much done this season to make this season a complete dud. All eyes for this franchise are to be the last team to survive, and they hope to show the Arena world that a team “we are one” can help spark a consistent franchise. 

Manny Nunez is a freelance writer who resides in Los Angeles. He has been an arena football fan since 1996 while living in Phoenix, dedicated to the Arizona Rattlers. Although he lives in Southern California, he still reps his Arizona teams. He is also a beat writer for the Phoenix Coyotes for
The opinions expressed in the article above are only those of the writer, and do not necessarily reflect the thoughts, opinions, or official stance of ArenaFan Online or its staff, or the Arena Football League, or any AFL or af2 teams.
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