NORMAN — When Lon Kruger got his first career win as a men's head basketball coach, in 1982 over Air Force, Oklahoma's current senior forward Romero Osby was eight years from being born.
Osby started laughing with junior Tyler Neal when the two realized just how long their coach really has been at the helm of college basketball programs.
That first win is so long ago that Kruger, now at Oklahoma, said he doesn't remember a thing about it.
“I wish I could,” Kruger said. “That was a long time ago.”
Kruger does remember his first loss, though. That came at the hands of The Mailman, when Kruger's Texas-Pan American team lost to future NBA great Karl Malone and Louisiana Tech. In his opening season, Kruger's first team went 7-21. His teams have hit double-digits in the win column ever since.
On Friday, Kruger and his Sooners have a chance for win No. 500, when Oklahoma plays Northwestern State (La.) at the Lloyd Noble Center.
There aren't many of those 499 victories that Kruger can talk about individually.
The second-year OU coach did say if he sat down and thought about it, he could probably make a top 5 list of his best victories.
“Obviously when you think about it, the wins to go to the Final Four are going to be nice,” Kruger said. “A lot of the NCAA Tournament wins are always nice to go to the Elite Eight or that second weekend, but I couldn't tell you exactly what they are.”
Kruger has compiled his 499 wins all across America, from his start in Texas to his return to his alma mater, Kansas State, then southeast to Florida followed by a move to the Midwest and Illinois, then out west to Nevada-Las Vegas and now Oklahoma. The 2012-2013 season is his 27th season at the helm of a collegiate basketball program. He also spent three as a head NBA coach with the Atlanta Hawks and one year as an assistant with the New York Knicks. His 499 wins are from his collegiate coaching career.
“You remember them because your players feel so much satisfaction and the fans get so much joy from it,” Kruger said.
One of those players is Osby. Out of the 36 wins Osby has with Kruger, all of them are special to the senior.
“I take this very seriously because when I was at Mississippi State, I didn't feel like I had an opportunity to be a part of the team,” Osby said. “So being on a team where I have a significant roll and a coach that really believes in me makes them all really special to me.”
Once Kruger gets his 500th victory, the next milestone could be No. 1,000.
“Nope,” Kruger said laughing. “Can't imagine that. Halfway there.”
Well then, how about we settle for 600?
“Don't know if I'll make that,” Kruger said still laughing. “We'll just hopefully enjoy one at a time.”