The Wolfpack and the Ted Lasso Way
Meet NC State Alumnus Kip Kroeger '04, supervising producer on Ted Lasso.
Jim Valvano once said there are three things we should do every day — laugh, think and be moved to tears. If you’re one of the millions of people who have tuned into the now seven-time Emmy Award-winning show Ted Lasso, chances are you’ve done all three of these things in the course of any given episode.
Airing on Apple TV+, Ted Lasso is a comedy about an American football coach who is hired by an English
soccer football team. The show is full of laughs, quotes and messages of kindness and includes one of the Wolfpack’s own as a supervising producer — NC State alumnus Kip Kroeger.
Thanks to Kroeger, Wolf-eyed NC State fans may have noticed a Jimmy V poster being unrolled and pinned to the wall of Ted Lasso’s office in the pilot episode. (If you missed it, or haven’t watched yet, keep your eyes peeled at the 22:33 mark and yell out a big “Go Pack!” when you see it.)
If you know the show, you know that the title character has several things in common with the late Valvano — he’s glowingly positive, he gives brilliant speeches and he believes in his team and his people no matter what. So when production wrapped and they needed an additional sports figure to shine on Lasso’s office wall, Kroeger suggested Jimmy V and the iconic image of the 1983 NC State men’s basketball team.
“I found the poster, and they go, ‘this is perfect.’ Jason [Sudeikis] loved it. [Showrunner] Bill [Lawrence] loved it. They thought it was the perfect fit for Ted,” he says.
Kroeger ran with the concept and set up a shoot in a post-production house where they unrolled the poster against a grey wall to look as if it was a part of Lasso’s office. “We found a wall and sure enough, they shot, and that’s me unrolling the poster.”
Kip’s Road to Hollywood
Before he was dropping Wolfpack Easter eggs into Emmy-winning shows, Kroeger worked on other programs like Scrubs, Undateable, Life Sentence and Whiskey Cavalier. But what inspired him to take this path?
“I got into computer science because I love technology, but after a couple of years of working in it, I found I wasn’t great when it came to coding and programming,” he says.
Not long after realizing that his major wasn’t the right fit, Kroeger connected with a friend from high school about the opportunity to pursue a career in the entertainment industry.
“I hit my friend up and we used our summers to do [film] stuff together.”
Kroeger and his friend made music videos and worked on other projects to build a resume that could stack up in the industry. His passion continued into the following fall semester when he learned how to edit video, and ultimately decided that this was a path he wanted to pursue. His parents told him to pick a different major in case he needed something to fall back on if his plans for Hollywood didn’t work out after college.
“I grew up around medicine, my dad was a doctor, and I was always fascinated by science, so I switched my major to biology and decided that I would go all-out in my free time working on my entertainment projects, and I would have to get good grades [in the meantime] to possibly pursue medicine if I needed to,” he says.
Kroeger used his time at NC State to focus on school during the academic year and his entertainment projects in the summers. He earned a few internships in Los Angeles during this time and flew to South Africa to shoot and co-produce a documentary about a school for at-risk children.
“I had a pretty good inkling while we were [producing the documentary] that I had to go all-out on this,” he says.
His mom noticed his heart for entertainment, too. “She was like, ‘I’ve never seen you focused on something so intently before,’ which was telling. I thought, ‘I am having a lot of fun doing this.’”
Kroeger graduated from NC State with a degree in biology in December 2004, drove out to L.A. in early 2005 and has been living and working in Hollywood ever since.
A Wolf on the Red Carpet
Kroeger has experienced multiple successes on his journey in Hollywood so far, but maybe none as big on the professional level as being a part of the seven Emmys that Ted Lasso won during 2021’s biggest night for television.
“It’s such an honor to be recognized in these different arenas. This was my first time attending the Emmys. I’ve been out here all these years, and I would sit and watch the Emmys and go, ‘One day, I’d love to go. I want to be there and work on a show that can be recognized there.’
“And to suddenly have that happen with Ted Lasso, and to get to go in such a strange year was amazing. It felt like a dream, and was so neat to be there together and see everyone be celebrated and recognized.”
He talked about the ones he helped celebrate — Jason Sudeikis, Hannah Waddingham, Brett Goldstein and Bill Lawrence, among others, and mentioned that, because of COVID-19 restrictions, everyone with tickets to the show shared their plus-one seats with other members of the crew so that more of their team could be there to experience the night.
Sharing plus-ones during a difficult time so that more people can be there to celebrate? It’s what you do when you’re part of a Pack.
The Wolfpack and the Lasso Way
One of the biggest things that stands out to Kroeger about his time at NC State is the community that comes with being a part of the institution.
“Being a part of the Wolfpack is such a big idea, but as long as I’ve been a part of it, it’s been about connection,” he says. “Connection to everybody else. It’s that idea, much like with Ted Lasso, that the sum of the whole is greater than the sum of the parts type of idea.”
There’s a scene in season one of the show where the title character plays darts against an antagonist and he goes into a monologue about a Walt Whitman quote that he saw at his kid’s school. The quote, “Be curious, not judgmental,” is one that Kroeger believes aligns with what it means to be a part of something like the Wolfpack.
“Ted Lasso talks about the importance of seeing people. It was such a poignant thought, about being curious, not judgmental, and I think that that creates a natural curiosity to want to know the people around you, which I think is how the Wolfpack becomes the family that it is,” he says.
As for an NC State sports moment he remembers that he wishes Ted Lasso could have been a part of?
“The 2002 football season was magical. Being a student and getting to be a part of that and watching Philip Rivers take that team and just run with it. To be there in Carter-Finley in that student section with the whole place shaking was amazing,” he says.
Something else that NC State and Ted Lasso have in common is the fact that the university and the characters in the show are surrounded by loyal, passionate and sometimes pained fan bases. The fictional A.F.C. Richmond Greyhounds have been relegated to the second tier of the English football league system, and the Wolfpack hasn’t won a national championship since Valvano led the squad to the trophy in 1983.
So, what would Ted Lasso say to Wolfpack fans?
“I don’t know what Ted Lasso would necessarily say to Wolfpack fans, but he would not lose hope,” Kroeger says.
Kroeger thought a little more after the question and reached for a sign taped under his computer monitor. It’s bright yellow and has one word, written in blue, identical to a poster that Ted Lasso taped to the door above his office, reading, “BELIEVE.”
“If that doesn’t fit with AFC Richmond and Ted Lasso as well as it does with the Wolfpack, then I don’t really know what does.”
And “BELIEVE,” we will.