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Oklahoma players relieved to have a new coach in place

Kruger met with team on Sunday night, first practice is Tuesday afternoon.
BY MIKE BALDWIN, Staff Writer, mbaldwin@opubco.com Modified: April 5, 2011 at 9:37 am •  Published: April 4, 2011

photo - OU / INTRODUCE / INTRODUCTION: University of Oklahoma athletic director Joe Castiglione, left, looks on as new men's college basketball coach Lon Kruger is introduced as the new University of Oklahoma men's basketball coach on Monday, April 4, 2011, in Norman, Okla. Photo by Chris Landsberger, The Oklahoman ORG XMIT: KOD
OU / INTRODUCE / INTRODUCTION: University of Oklahoma athletic director Joe Castiglione, left, looks on as new men's college basketball coach Lon Kruger is introduced as the new University of Oklahoma men's basketball coach on Monday, April 4, 2011, in Norman, Okla. Photo by Chris Landsberger, The Oklahoman ORG XMIT: KOD

NORMAN — It's been a tumultuous three weeks for the Oklahoma men's basketball team.

The first day of spring break, with players spread across the country, OU athletic director Joe Castiglione organized a conference call to inform the team that Jeff Capel had been fired as head coach.

"I was in shock," said guard Steven Pledger. "I know we had two bad years, but I didn't think they'd get rid of him like that."

Three weeks later, Lon Kruger was introduced as OU's new coach at McCasland Field House, where Kruger played in the early 1970s wearing Kansas State purple.

"It's been kind of weird," said forward Tyler Neal. "I thought they'd give Coach Capel one more year. You have to take it and run with it. I didn't know much about Coach Kruger but have found out he's been to the (NCAA) Tournament a lot of times."

That was the common response among players Monday at the press conference officially introducing Kruger as Sooners coach.

Concerns were eased some when Kruger met with the team Sunday night. This afternoon, the Sooners will have their first practice.

Still, it was an unexpected change. Capel recruited everyone on the roster.

Romero Osby, a junior forward who sat out last season, transferred from Mississippi State because of Capel.

"I was pretty shocked with what happened," Osby said. "But I understand it's a business. It's not about me. It's about my teammates and the university and taking the basketball program to another level."

Kruger, 58, will be point guard Carl Blair's third coach in three seasons. Blair transferred to OU last year after New Orleans dropped to Division III.

"It's going to be different for all of us," Blair said. "We've talked about it among each other. We've been sitting around waiting two or three weeks to get a new coach. Now we know who's in charge. We're excited to get started."

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