When Frank Martin was coaching high school basketball years ago in Miami, Fla., long before he was head coach at Kansas State, he worked a Lon Kruger summer camp.
“By the end of the week he knew every kid by name,” Martin said. “That left quite an impression on me. Here's the head coach at the University of Florida, and he takes the time to be at the camp all day, every day.
“He created a personal relationship with those kids and 98 percent of them will probably never play for Florida, yet that was important to him. That left a lifelong mark with me.”
During Thursday's Big 12 basketball summer teleconference, nearly every coach had a story about Kruger, hired in April to replace Jeff Capel at Oklahoma.
Kansas coach Bill Self coached at Oral Roberts, Tulsa, Illinois and Kansas. He followed Kruger at Illinois.
“Of all the coaches I've followed Lon was without question the easiest one to follow,” Self said. “I'm not saying the other ones weren't great. But Lon is about as egoless as a coach can be in our business. He was helping me to help the kids he coached at Illinois get better.”
Texas Tech coach Billy Gillispie said Kruger has proven at Kansas State, Florida, Illinois and UNLV he can revive programs and should do the same at OU.
“He's a Hall of Fame guy, a true professional who goes about things the right way,” Gillispie said. “While you really admire him you really hate to play against him. You know his teams are going to be really sound. It will be a challenge. But it's great to have him in the league.”
Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg knew Kruger when they were in the NBA, Kruger as a coach with the Atlanta Hawks, Hoiberg a 10-year NBA veteran. Hoiberg also got to know Kruger last week at Kruger's Coaches versus Cancer golf tournament in Las Vegas.
“First and foremost he's a wonderful person,” Hoiberg said. “And he's very competitive. I saw that last week (golfing)... He's a great coach, a guy I'll be able to bounce questions off. He's great for our league. He brings that experience.”