A Sooner Surprise

NORMAN, Okla. -- It might not have come as a complete shock when word got out that former UNLV head coach Lon Kruger was set to be Jeff Capel's successor at OU, but one part of his introductory press conference Monday afternoon certainly had to have caught Sooner Nation off guard.

Kruger, who exhibits transparency as one of his most prized attributes, announced something special about his basketball practices.

"Practices are open," Kruger said. "So, any time you can come out and watch [is encouraged]. I know you're going to have suggestions later on, so you might as well come out there now and give us those suggestions up front, you know, and then you can have some credit or blame or however it works out."

Not a few practices, not some, but all.

And to everyone.

That includes family, friends, fans, spirit teams, media and everyone else.

Why has he elected to go this route?

Aside from the norm these days where most coaches fear people giving their plays away from open practices, Kruger is insistent on the fact that it fully simulates a live game playing experience.

"I think it's good for our players to have a little buzz in the stands every day," Kruger said. "And, you know, definitely we'll have anywhere in between--I mean, they'll be groups and organizations come in and we'll have, you know, normal 10 to 12 to 15 that are there every day to [200] or 300, you know, at a practice. And it's good for our guys because, you know, you've got to focus between the lines.

"You can't be distracted. If you're going to be distracted by that, you're certainly going to be distracted in Austin or Manhattan or Lawrence or wherever it is that we're lining up, so I think it's good for everyone."

Also, he wants to get everyone involved.

Lack of fan support has been a recent problem inside the Lloyd Noble Center, and what better way to change that than by allowing fans to not only see games, but every time they lace up their sneakers?

"It is a partnership," Kruger said. "We need everyone involved. Everyone is welcomed. It's going to be very much of a shared ownership venture."

Kruger used that term "shared ownership" several times in his address, and this concept of getting all of Sooner Nation involved brings up another justification of his method.

"Of course, with Coach Stoops and Coach Golloway and others in the department have already done [even though their practices aren't open], we need to follow their lead and have a great, great home court advantage," Kruger said. "In this conference, you need all the advantages you can possibly get because there's very, very good teams in the conference, and we're going to be right there and hopefully set the bar for everyone else in the league. And that challenge is big because those other teams are very, very good."

So, while the majority of coaches aren't conducting their practices in this manner, Kruger is sticking to his guns and doing so.

"Yeah, we've always done it," Kruger said. "We've always done it. We have no secrets. You know, partly, quite frankly, it's [because] our guys are going to work really hard. I mean, when you guys watch them work, then you'll like what they're doing. And you know they're getting after it and if we screw up a time or two, maybe, you know, you'll say well they're going to get there, and they're genuine about it. No, we open practice and have a good time with it."

Perhaps Sooner fans will as well, and maybe, just maybe, that will be a contributing factor in reigniting this program.

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