OU’s Kruger announces retirement

NORMAN, Okla. — Sources confirmed to FOX23 that Oklahoma head basketball coach Lon Kruger would announce his retirement Thursday.

Kruger, 68, spent 35 seasons as a head coach in college basketball, including the last ten with the Sooners. Under Kruger, Oklahoma went 195-128 (a .604 winning percentage) including a Final Four appearance in 2016.

He confirmed FOX23′s report of his retirement late Thursday afternoon.

“It’s been an honor to serve the University of Oklahoma as its head men’s basketball coach over the last 10 years,” Kruger said in a statement through the university. “The people here are certainly amazing and our family is so grateful for the kindness and support expressed by Sooner Nation throughout the past decade. The leadership of Joe Castiglione and President Harroz has established an incredible culture and standard that is better than any coach could have asked for. We have such a deep appreciation for the players, coaches and fans. There truly is ‘Only One Oklahoma’ and it’s a great honor to be a Sooner for life.”

OU finished the 2020-21 campaign with a 16-11 record and a loss to 1-seed Gonzaga in the Round of 32.

The Silver Lake, KS native played point guard for Kansas State, where he was a two-time Big 8 Player of the Year in the 1970s.

His past coaching stops included UNLV, Illinois, Florida, Kansas State, and UT-Rio Grande Valley (then-known as University of Texas-Pan American). He spent three seasons as the coach of the NBA’s Atlanta Hawks.

Kruger finishes his career with a 674-432 record.

“It’s anything but easy to sum up the career achievements and impact of Lon Kruger the basketball coach and person in just a handful of sentences,” Athletic Director Joe Castiglione said,. “The tremendous success he enjoyed on the court over the last four decades, the meaningful mentorship role he served with players and staff, his dedication to trying to improve the lives of others -- it’s a career he should certainly be proud of and that people should really take the time to study and appreciate.

“His track record of successfully rebuilding programs everywhere he coached is made even more impressive when considering how he did it,” Castiglione continued in the university’s 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.

“And that was certainly his method here the last 10 years at OU. We thank him for a great run and for strengthening our men’s basketball program. Part of his success here stemmed from how intentional he was in connecting with the community, even to the point of opening all practices to the public; and how he focused on former players, coaches and staff and making OU men’s basketball a true family affair where everyone was welcome. He and Barb will always be part of and connected to the University of Oklahoma. We sincerely thank them and wish them the best.”

“Lon’s legacy at the University of Oklahoma will be of unbridled excitement and deep kindness,” OU president Joe Harroz said. “His impact these last ten years on our student-athletes and the larger Sooner Nation is truly remarkable. He is permanently a part of our of OU family and we are incredibly grateful for the gift of his leadership within OU Athletics, and for his deep love for our university. After decades of shepherding elite programs, Lon has earned a well-deserved retirement. We wish him well and will proudly take a front row seat to see where his journey leads.”