Steve Fisher and Lon Kruger have an on-court relationship that dates back to the late 1990s.
Kruger, now the coach at Oklahoma, said this week that his first game against Fisher, who coaches San Diego State, was when Kruger was at Illinois and Fisher coached Michigan.
Regardless, the two coaches — one a rebuilder, the other a national champion — are close. Fisher and Kruger texted several times this season — including congratulatory texts after San Diego State defeated UCLA in early December and Oklahoma defeated Kansas in early February.
Fisher has said before that they are “true friends,” and Kruger mentioned that his wife, Barbara, and Fisher's wife, Angie, are also close. The two coaches both agreed this week, via text message, that they'll be glad to see each other in Philadelphia, but not so much to play each other, according to Kruger. The Sooners and Aztecs meet in an NCAA Tournament first-round game on Friday night.
Fisher has won the last five head-to-head meetings between the two.
Kruger called their relationship “great” and said he is impressed with what Fisher has done with the Aztecs.
“He does such a good job at San Diego State,” Kruger said. “People kind of forget that when he went there, there was no interest. The job that he's done in the 11 or 12 years since he's been there is phenomenal. They went from having no crowds to being sold out every ballgame and a great homecourt advantage. That's all due to him and his staff and they job that they've done. He's done a fantastic job.”
SAN DIEGO STATE'S BIG DANCE RESULTS
The Aztecs enter their eighth consecutive postseason (5 NCAA tournaments, 3 NITs) when they matchup against Oklahoma on Friday.
It's the sixth time Fisher has taken the Aztecs to the Big Dance, and his 13th overall. He coached the 1989 Michigan team that won the national title and owns a 22-11 record in the NCAA Tournament.
And the Aztecs have NCAA depth on their roster. Senior guard Chase Tapley has been to the NCAA Tournament all four seasons, making him the first such player in program history. In the tournament, Tapley has compiled 52 points, 16 rebounds and 10 assists.
*Oklahoma played 11 games against teams that made the 2013 NCAA Tournament. The Sooners went 4-7, with the victories coming against Northwestern State, Oklahoma State, Kansas and Iowa State.
*Kruger has taken four programs to NCAA Tournament wins. He is one of three coaches to do so and the only active coach.
*San Diego State is making its fourth straight NCAA Tournament appearance. That's a school record. The Aztecs are 2-8 in college basketball's main postseason tournament.
Kruger on what it takes to get a victory in the NCAA Tournament: “Sometimes you get to the tournament and you think, ‘OK, now we've got to play different.' That's not the truth. You have to do what you did and what you're most comfortable doing.”