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Lon Kruger has put the ‘welcome' mat on the porch

by Jenni Carlson Modified: April 4, 2011 at 11:52 pm •  Published: April 4, 2011

NORMAN — On a day that was all about talk, three words told you all you need to know about the new era of Oklahoma men's basketball.

“Practices are open.”

I can't be sure if several hundred folks inside McCasland Field House gasped when new Sooner coach Lon Kruger said that Monday afternoon, or if that was just me.

Open practices? Not just during the offseason? Not only for the first couple weeks of the season?

All the time?

“Any time, you can come out and watch,” Kruger told the crimson-clad masses during his formal introduction. “I know you're going to have suggestions later on. You might want to come out now and give us those suggestions up front, then you can have the credit or the blame or however it works out.”

He chuckled.

Had Bob Stoops not been in the front row where I could see him, I would've guessed the Sooner football coach would've stroked out at the thought.

This degree of openness isn't the norm for most big-time college coaches at high-profile programs. Most of them would rather give you a spare key and a map to their house than open their practices.

Few of them allow media inside, even on a limited basis.

Even fewer coaches allow fans. They think spies are everywhere, cell phone cameras are recording every play, and state secrets are sure to be splashed across the Internet if they let the Average Joe and Jenni into practice.

But now, any time you want to head out to the Lloyd Noble Center and see what Lon and fellas are doing, you're more than welcome.

“We've always done it,” Kruger said of having open practices. “We have no secrets.”

This is not normal stuff, people. A college coach professing that he has no secrets is like a pyromaniac saying he has no matches.

But Kruger seems to be more than open to openness. He wants to bring back former players. He wants to engage past coaches. He even plans to have Billy Tubbs at practice on a regular basis.

Still, it's one thing to embrace the program's history. It's quite another to have an open-door policy when the Sooners are trying to work on a plan to hang with the Longhorns or beat the Jayhawks.

Kruger has his motives for opening practice, of course, but they're all good ones.

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by Jenni Carlson
Jenni Carlson, a sports columnist at The Oklahoman since 1999, came by her love of sports honestly. She grew up in a sports-loving family in Kansas. Her dad coached baseball and did color commentary on the radio for the high school football...
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