NORMAN — With Oklahoma’s NCAA tournament berth, Lon Kruger became the first coach in history to take five Division I programs to the NCAA tournament. Prior to this season, Kruger guided Kansas State, Florida, Illinois, UNLV and now Oklahoma.
Kruger said Sunday that he hadn’t given much thought to the distinction other than reflecting on the people he and and his wife, Barbara, have met during his six career head coaching stops.
“Obviously we’ve had a lot of good stops. We’ve been very fortunate. Barb and I have met a lot of people along the way. This wasn’t a plan going on. It worked out very well. We have good friendships around the country, and we’ve had really good players everywhere.”
The current coaches who have taken four programs to the Big Dance are mentors John Beilein, Rick Pitino and Tubby Smith, and former head men Lefty Driesell, Jim Harrick, Tom Penders and Eddie Sutton.
Friday’s second-round meeting with San Diego State at Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia will mark Kruger’s 14th appearance as a head coach. He’s a 14-13 record and is 8-5 in first-round games (his teams have won five of their last seven tournament openers). Kruger is one three coaches to ever direct four programs to at least one NCAA Tournament win. The others are Harrick and Sutton.
Kruger has coached three programs to the Sweet 16 or beyond. Only Pitino, Smith, John Calipari and Bill Self have also done it.