OU basketball: Lon Kruger to receive Wooden Legends of Coaching award
Lon Kruger will receive the John R. Wooden Legends of Coaching award Friday night at the college basketball awards show in Los Angeles.
The Legends of Coaching honor was first awarded in 1999. Recipients are selected based on character, on-court success, graduation rates and coaching philosophy.
Kruger just completed his 33rd season as a college head coach, and his eighth season at Oklahoma.
Kruger is the first coach to take five programs to the NCAA Tournament. His 639 career victories rank him 30th all time among Division-I coaches and 10th among active coaches.
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Off the court, Kruger has served as council chair of Coaches vs. Cancer. He's been a member of the council since 2007.
Past Legends of Coaching honorees include Geno Auriemma, Jim Boeheim, Jim Calhoun, Billy Donovan, Tom Izzo, Mike Krzyzewski, Lute Olson, Bill Self, Dean Smith, Pat Summit and Roy Williams.
“It's an incredible honor to be listed with the coaches who have previously earned this award,” Kruger said in a release. “John Wooden set the standard for coaching and leading with integrity and it's humbling to be recognized for an honor rooted in the values that he cherished.”
The College Basketball Awards Show will air at 7 p.m. Friday on ESPN2.
What they're saying about Kruger (via an OU release)
Dana Altman, Oregon coach
“Coach is a great competitor. Don't take that quiet, reserved look as not being competitive. Everything he does, he wants to be the best. He wants his teams to perform at their best...Coach has a great feel for the game. He's got a great mind, great instincts...He's got a great feel offensively and a great feel for connecting with players and getting them to play their hardest, to overcome their weaknesses. He's a great teacher of the game.”
R.C. Buford, San Antonio Spurs general manager
“Taking five different programs to the NCAA Tournament as well as being an NBA head coach shows a real consistency of message, a real consistency of purpose. He has an ability to recruit people that fit the program he's been building and the style he wants to play. He really knows who he is and how he wants to run a program and he knows how to recruit people and build a team in a way that fits the values and the vision that he has for those programs.”
Joe Castiglione, OU athletic director
“With Coach Kruger it starts with culture first. He knows what he wants from the kind of program he's developing. He's very careful to try and get people who are directly aligned with the core values of the program, the way that they're going to play on the court and, most importantly, the way that they're going to teach the players. It's always very positive, always very upbeat, always encouraging. I think that's why he's been able to go from one program to another and take them from years of struggling to becoming not only an NCAA Tournament participant, but to go all the way to the Final Four...We saw that manifest itself in front of our very eyes by helping get Oklahoma back to a Final Four.”
Steve Henson, UTSA coach
“He's certainly terrific with the X and O’s part, but what really sets him apart is his communication with the players. It's an open dialogue, genuine care and concern about the players. There's terrific chemistry on his teams every year because there's never any doubt about where a player stands. He has an open dialogue with them every single day and an open-door policy. He has great communication and express his concern for them.”
Buddy Hield, 2016 National Player of the Year
“My relationship with Coach Kruger has been great. He's a mentor, a guy who's always been positive for me and uplifting me. A guy who gave me a chance when nobody believed in me. In college I could always go to and talk basketball and he helped me become the person that I am on and off the basketball court. He grew me as a man and as a mentor. He taught me the right characteristics and goals for my college life and how those could translate on and off the basketball court. It means a lot. He's a big part of my success.”
Christian James, OU senior guard
“He teaches the game the right way. He's always going to put you in a situation to succeed, that's what his plays are based off of. He wants to show everybody what he's about and he plays the game the right way. The biggest thing for him is wanting to see us grow throughout the season. That's why he has open practices - he wants people to see our development over the course of four years.”
Roy Williams, North Carolina coach
“Lon Kruger has the whole package. He can coach, he's very organized, very bright and knows how to deal with people. He works hard at the game and he works hard at helping people. To me, those are the things that are really, really important. The other thing I think about is the greatest complement of all. If my son were a college player and he had a chance to play for Lon Kruger, that would be the neatest thing.”