Oklahoma men’s basketball coach Lon Kruger is retiring after 45 years in coaching, it was announced on Thursday.
Kruger, 68, has been in charge of the Sooners for the last decade, leading them to seven NCAA tournaments and a Final Four appearance in 2016. They finished 16-11 overall this season, going 9-8 in the Big 12 and advancing to the second round of the NCAA tournament before losing to Gonzaga.
Prior to taking over at Oklahoma, Kruger led UNLV to four NCAA tournament appearances in seven seasons, including a Sweet 16 run in 2007.
Considered one of the more underrated coaches of his generation, Kruger started his coaching career in 1976 as an assistant at Pittsburg State. He spent time as an assistant at Kansas State before becoming head coach at Texas-Pan American. Kruger was also the head coach at Kansas State, Florida and Illinois — and also spent three seasons as the head coach of the Atlanta Hawks and a year with the New York Knicks as an assistant.
Overall, Kruger was 674-432 as a college head coach, went to 20 NCAA tournaments and made two Final Four appearances. He’s one of just three coaches to lead five different programs to the NCAA tournament, along with Rick Pitino and Tubby Smith.
“His track record of successfully rebuilding programs everywhere he coached is made even more impressive when considering how he did it,” Oklahoma athletics director Joe Castiglione said in a statement. “He won with integrity, humility, class and grace. He did it with superior leadership skills and a genuine kindness that included his constant encouragement of everyone around him.”
Kruger’s son, Kevin, was recently named the head coach at UNLV. Sources told ESPN that had an impact on Kruger’s decision to retire.
With Kruger’s departure, both basketball jobs are now open at Oklahoma, with longtime women’s coach Sherri Coale having announced her retirement last week.