Inside Kruger's Quick Start Rebuilding Hoops

NORMAN, Okla. — Most everyone believed head coach Lon Kruger would turn things around with the men's basketball program, but not many probably envisioned he'd be off to such a great start in doing so.

So, why has Kruger been able to succeed so quickly and produce OU's second best start in the last eight years at 7-1?

It comes down to a number of things.

1. He's built a family atmosphere--Establishing togetherness within the program benefits teams big time. And that's just what Kruger has brought. It's clear the way the players play that they genuinely like and respect each other. A year or two ago, that couldn't be said. Not only that, but Kruger has created a family environment for fans to get involved as well. That instills more confidence in the team if they have a crowd in front of them.

2. He's given them confidence--Speaking of instilling confidence, Kruger has done some of that himself. Guard Steven Pledger emphasized it the other day when he said the following:

"He's definitely boosted our confidence, ever since he arrived in April. We all had individual meetings with him and he let us know what he wants from us. I appreciated that from him because it gave us confidence and we're doing our thing right now."

See, Kruger sat down with every single player and broke down why he was a member of the team and what role he should play. Just telling a player he can get the job can make all the difference, and an experienced coach like Kruger knows that.

3. He's established an identity--For the longest time under former head coach Jeff Capel, the Sooners didn't appear to have a sense of who they were, or an identity. Kruger, on the other hand, has succeeded in that regard. He's made it very clear the Sooners are going to run up and down the court, use their transition game and hustle, especially on the boards. All of those things form their identity, and that's contributed to their good start.

4. He's played to their strengths--Along those lines of an identity, Kruger has formed it based on his players' capabilities. The Sooners aren't the most athletic team in the league, but they have enough athletes to run up and down the court. They have some athleticism in guys like guard Cameron Clark and a sharpshooter in a player such as Pledger. Kruger has used those strengths so far, and it's paid off.

5. He's stressed effort and intensity--These two words define how good a lot of basketball teams are. A couple years ago, OU had all the talent in the world but didn't really quite use it because it lacked effort and intensity. Not so this time around. It's probably most apparent on the boards, where OU is largely outsized by a lot of teams but still manages to rank among the tops in the nation in rebounding. That's not a mistake. It comes down to fundamental box outs, along with effort and intensity. The Sooners have all three.

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