Oklahoma basketball: Steve Fisher has fared well against good friend Lon Kruger

San Diego State coach Steve Fisher has OU coach Lon Kruger's number, a dominance that's been established over many years and several schools.
by Jenni Carlson Published: March 21, 2013

PHILADELPHIA — Lon Kruger considers Steve Fisher a friend in the coaching ranks.

Thing is, Fisher hasn't exactly been kind to Kruger — not in the win-loss column anyway.

Over the years, Kruger's teams have played Fisher's teams 20 times. Kruger has won only six of those games.

“They've beaten us a lot more than we've beat them,” the Oklahoma coach acknowledged on the eve of his team's NCAA Tournament opener against Fisher and San Diego State. “I have no idea what the numbers are, but we're way on the short end of that.

“As far as (Friday) night, I don't think that'll play into that.”

The Sooners better hope not.

Fisher has Kruger's number, a dominance that's been established over many years and several schools. So, in a win-or-go-home game when both teams will be looking for any advantage possible, you've got to give the coaching nod to Fisher.

The two coaches first met when Kruger was the head coach at Florida and Fisher was the head coach at Michigan. Their relationship grew as they played each other in the Big Ten when Kruger moved to Illinois, and they overlapped for one season as head coaches, but the relationship between the similarly unassuming coaches really took off in the Mountain West Conference.

Fisher had already been at San Diego State a few years when Kruger took over at UNLV. They started to see each other at league meetings, on the recruiting trail, during the season, even on Nike-sponsored trips, and they bonded.

So did their wives.

“When we go to an event, we find ways to have dinner or go for lunch and talk about non-basketball stuff — ‘How are your kids doing?' and that sort of thing,” Fisher said.

Kruger said, “Just a good guy. Just a good family.”

As close as the two coaches are personally, Fisher has lapped Kruger in the win-loss column when their teams play.

The first five seasons that their teams played each other — 1996-97 in the Big Ten and 2004-08 in the Mountain West — the coaches' series was fairly even. Fisher held only a 6-5 advantage over Kruger. But the last nine times their teams played before Kruger left UNLV, Kruger's teams only won once.

That stretch of domination culminated with the 2010-11 season, the best in San Diego State history. In a season Fisher and the Aztecs went to the Sweet 16, they beat Kruger and UNLV three times.

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by Jenni Carlson
Columnist
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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