When Lon Kruger came to Oklahoma, he helped re-ignite the Sooners. The result has been three-straight trips to the NCAA Tournament after Oklahoma had back-to-back losing seasons before Kruger took over prior to the 2011-12 season.
He’s become the first coach in NCAA history to leads five different teams to the NCAA Tournament. Four made it to the Sweet 16, another NCAA Division I record.
But he hasn’t done it alone.
Kruger brought assistant Lew Hill and Steven Henson to Oklahoma with him from UNLV. Oklahoma added former Oral Roberts assistant Chris Crutchfield. The quartet has been at the head of the Sooners’ resurgence.
Kruger is a household name for all Oklahoma fans, but Sooners Illustrated caught up with his three assistants to find out a little more about them.
In your long career as a coach, what have you found most rewarding?
Helping young men. We recruit young men from all different backgrounds. Just being able to help them and watch them get degrees and be prosperous young men when the finish college: That’s the most rewarding thing for me.
What did you know of Oklahoma before you got here?
The only thing you know is that it’s a good program. It’s a great football school, but it’s a great dual school – is what I call it. You knew that you could be successful here.
What have you liked most thus far?
The people here are genuinely very nice. In Oklahoma, everybody is just always smiling and talking and greeting you. I’d say the people.
What do you like to do away from the court?
I’m a family guy, but I’m a reader. I love to read books and just relax – whatever the family wants to do. Or bowl or just watching them grow up is good for me. I’m just a relaxed guy. Me personally, I like to go yoga and do a little meditation and stuff. Those are my types of hobbies.
What’s the last good book you read?
The Carpenter. It’s the last great one. I’ve read some other books. They weren’t great. The Carpenter was a real enlightening book. It opened you up a little bit.
If you could give a superlative to your players, who would get what and why?
Buddy would be the funniest to me. He’s always happy-go-lucky. Isaiah thinks he’s a DJ. He’s always listening to music. He thinks he’s some type of DJ or dancer or something. Jordan is laid back. Jordan thinks he’s real smooth and cool. Ryan has a little cool to him, too. It must be an Oklahoma thing. They are smooth, cool guys. They are tough on the court. . . . Trey as a walk-on just works his behind off. Jamuni is Mr. Personality – all over the place. Khadeem is kind of loud and funny.
If the players voted, what superlative would you get?
They’d probably say a little bit of everything about me. They probably think I’m cool – or that I think I’m cool. I’m fiery, too. I come at them. Honestly, I think they think I’m real.
< b>How would you define you role within the program?
Recruiting of course, that’s my role. It’s teaching these young men how to understand the game of basketball. They just go out and watch TV a lot but helping them and being honest with them in defining their roles. Telling them the truth. Just helping them grow. Helping them in growth. Recruiting, coaching, teaching: It’s a little bit of everything.
What is your role within recruiting?
We kind of know our regions, where we’re recruiting from. It depends on what the team needs and what the team wants and who can play for coach Kruger. He’s a team-oriented guy, first. We want people who want to be here. We want people who really care about team, who care about winning. We pass on kids who get in a little trouble or are kind of a one-on-one type guy and not a team guy. We want winners. We want kids who have ambitions. That’s how you look and say, ‘Oh, he can play for coach Kruger or he can’t play for him.’
What’s one thing fans might not know about you that you would like them to know?
I’m very private. People like to come up and ask you different things. They might think that I’m kinda standoffish. But I’m not. If you ask certain questions, I’m very private. I’m just a very private person and very protective of my family.