Kruger plays down talk of impending 500th win
BY GUERIN EMIG World Sports Writer
Friday, November 30, 2012
11/30/12 at 5:21 AM
NORMAN - Lon Kruger doesn't remember anything specific about the first game he won as a college coach. Something does strike him about the first game he lost.
"Louisiana Tech beat us in the opener," he said. "We didn't get our first against 'The Mailman.' He made sure of that."
Kruger brushed off the debris from Karl Malone's first college game, sent his Texas Pan-American Broncs back into battle one week later, and beat Air Force 78-44. It was Dec. 4, 1982.
Thirty years, five college stops and another 498 victories later, the OU head coach is on the verge of history.
His Sooners take the Lloyd Noble Center court at 7 p.m. Friday. He is simply concerned with beating Northwestern State, the Louisiana visitor from the Southand Conference, and improving to 6-1 on the season
His players have something a little bigger on their minds.
"It would mean a lot, to be part of a great career, a historic career," forward Romero Osby said. "To get a chance to give Coach Kruger his 500th win, it's a blessing to be a part of that."
"I'm looking forward to it," said point guard Sam Grooms. "I'd rather him do it here so everyone can celebrate with him. When you're away from home, you've got the bus ride back. You don't get to enjoy it as much. Here, you can sit down and enjoy it afterwards."
The fans inside Lloyd Noble should enjoy it, too, provided OU wins. There will be some sort of recognition, whether it be an announcement or game-ball presentation or something along those lines.
Just don't expect Kruger to make a big fuss about it. Reporters tried to draw that out of him after practice Thursday, to no avail.
"It's nice, I guess, because we've been doing it a while with a lot of good players and a lot of good coaches," he said. "But other than that ..."
Someone asked about favorite wins. Kruger said something general about second- or third-week NCAA tournament victories. He said what he mostly remembers is, "Your players feel so much satisfaction, your fans feel so much joy from it. But as far anything specific about it ..."
Right. He'd rather coach wins than talk about them. That's been his way from Pan American to Kansas State to Florida. From Illinois to UNLV to his current shop at OU.
Which is why he shook everyone's hands after fielding their questions Thursday, then went over and started tossing Osby tennis balls, smiling and encouraging as he rotated from left to right hand during the hand-eye coordination exercise.
Five hundred wins? It is a very big deal, and it will be treated as such if OU wins tonight.
It's just you'll see more of a reaction from the players who contributed than the coach who reached the milestone.
"He hasn't said anything about it. He doesn't talk about stuff like that. That's not his personality or demeanor," Grooms said. "But that a man can coach that long and have the ability to win that many games? Five hundred games? That's crazy right there."
Original Print Headline: Kruger plays down 500
Guerin Emig 918-581-8355
Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger goes for his 500th career victory Friday against Northwestern State. Tulsa World file