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Oklahoma Sports

March 21, 2013

Team building is nothing new for Sooners’ Kruger

NORMAN, Okla. — Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger’s family converged at Lloyd Noble Center on Sunday. They have been part of Selection Sundays 14 times since 1987 and at five different schools in four different parts of the country.

The first one at the new stop is always one to be relished.

“Selection Sunday has been a big part of our lives when you look down through the years. The first time at a new school is always extra special,” Kruger said. “I’m so happy for the seniors. They hadn’t played in postseason. To see them on their phones calling family and calling friends right afterward ... This is about a lot of things, but just to be able to have those memories for a lifetime.”

The Sooners experienced their first one since 2009 when the NCAA tournament bracket revealed they were the No. 10 seed in the South Region and will open second-round play at 8:10 Friday night against No. 7 seed San Diego State at Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia.

However, getting the Sooners back in the NCAA tournament was something that seemed impossible. They were in the Elite Eight in 2009. Four Final Four banners hang from Lloyd Noble Center’s rafters.

Kruger’s reputation stems from revitalizing teams over his 27 seasons as a head coach.

In that sense, no coach has been better than Kruger than taking programs that have fallen on tough times and raising their level. OU is the fifth school Kruger has guided to the NCAA tournament. No coach has taken more than four to the Big Dance.

It’s a feat Kruger doesn’t thump his chest about it. He’s not one for bluster. But one also wonders why Kruger, 60, never simply settled down in one place and stayed.

Even Kruger can’t pinpoint why his coaching career became nomadic. He’s held six head coaching jobs over the last 27 seasons. The only one of those he knew wouldn’t be his final destination was the first one at Texas Pan American in 1982.

“It’s kind of turned out that way. It wasn’t a career path we planned on taking 30 years ago. We’ve never really planned on another job, maybe short of Pan American. We got Kansas State from there,” Kruger said. “But then every place we’ve been we’ve never looked for another job or asked for another job. It’s just worked out OK with different moves for different reasons. We’ve been pretty fortunate.”

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