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Sooners coach, former Gator Lon Kruger retires

The man who led Florida to its first NCAA Final Four, in 1994, ends a 35-year coaching career in Division I.
Coach Lon Kruger gets a piece of the net after Florida wins the 1994 NCAA East Region final in Miami, sending the Gators to their first Final Four.
Coach Lon Kruger gets a piece of the net after Florida wins the 1994 NCAA East Region final in Miami, sending the Gators to their first Final Four. [ HANS DERYK | ASSOCIATED PRESS ]
Published Mar. 26
Updated Mar. 26

Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger announced his retirement Thursday, ending a 35-year Division I coaching career that included taking five schools to the NCAA Tournament — two of them, including Florida, reaching the Final Four — and more than 650 career wins.

Kruger, 68, led the Gators (1990-96) to their first national semifinals in 1994 and Oklahoma to the same spot in 2016. He’s the only coach to guide five different programs to NCAA wins — Oklahoma, Kansas State, Florida, Illinois and UNLV.

His 674-432 record ranks 10th among active coaches in wins and 27th all time.

“I have enjoyed competing against him at his different stops, but primarily at the University of Oklahoma where his teams were always classy and difficult to prepare for,” Kansas coach Bill Self said. “I know personally the respect he commands in our industry, and I’m sure his former players, assistant coaches and everyone affiliated in his programs over time would attest to the way he went about his business.”

Kruger led the Sooners to a 195-128 record in 10 years and reached seven of the past eight NCAA tournaments. In his final season at Oklahoma, the Sooners went 16-11 and ended with a loss to top-seeded Gonzaga in the second round on Monday.

Along the way, he built a reputation for fixing struggling programs.

“His track record of successfully rebuilding programs everywhere he coached is made even more impressive when considering how he did it,” Oklahoma athletic director Joe Castiglione said. “He won with integrity, humility, class and grace.”

Among his many accomplishments, he was voted the Associated Press Big 12 Coach of the Year in 2014. He led his alma mater, Kansas State, to the Elite Eight in 1988. He also coached at Texas Pan American. He was the 2019 recipient of the John R. Wooden Legends of Coaching Award.

Kruger was hired at Florida prior to the 1990-91 season. In the 1993-94 season, he guided a club led by All-SEC guard Dan Cross and big men Andrew DeClercq of Clearwater and Dametri Hill of St. Petersburg to UF’s first Final Four, losing a close national semifinal to Duke.

Kruger also spent four years coaching in the NBA — three as coach of the Hawks.

Just last week, Kruger’s son Kevin, 37, who played for his dad at UNLV, was hired by the Runnin’ Rebels as their new coach.

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