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."
Kruger is well known in these parts by fans who have followed the conference dating back to its Big Eight roots. But for players ages 18 to 21, they surfed the Internet over the weekend when word spread Kruger was their new coach.
A two-time Big Eight Player of the Year at Kansas State, Kruger has led teams to 13 NCAA Tournaments. He took Florida to the Final Four and Kansas State to the Elite Eight.
"He's got a great resume," said forward Andrew Fitzgerald, who will be OU's leading returning scorer next season. "He knows what he's doing. He's won everywhere he's been."
Kruger coached the Atlanta Hawks for 21/2 seasons.
"That means a lot to me," Osby said. "For him to have a dab of (NBA) experience, I need to really listen to this man because he's been to the level I want to be at."
Kruger has been informed he's inheriting a team with a good work ethic but understands players have gone through an emotional three weeks.
"They really liked Coach Capel. I totally understand that. I like coach Capel," Kruger said. "It's tough on players. Last night, I really liked their approach, their eagerness to get started."
Three weeks after being told Capel was no longer leading the program, the Sooners finally have a new coach.
"It was a little tedious," Pledger said. "I'm glad it's over. And I think we got a great coach. "