NORMAN — The highlight of Oklahoma's inaugural season under Lon Kruger was the Sooners' sweep of the season series against Kansas State, his alma mater.
Could those two wins play a small role in Kansas State possibly hiring OU assistant Steve Henson?
Kansas State has a vacancy after Frank Martin was introduced as South Carolina's coach on Tuesday.
K-State fans will want athletic director John Currie to pursue Kruger, who is six wins shy of 500 career Division I victories. Kruger, though, said Tuesday he is committed to OU after signing a $16.6 million deal a year ago.
“Obviously I love Kansas State and loved the time we were there,” Kruger said. “But we're 100 percent Oklahoma and excited about that. There are no ifs ands or buts about it. We're trying to build something here.”
What about Henson, who also played for the Wildcats?
Would K-State athletic director John Currie hire someone who has never been a head coach?
Henson, 43, coached under Kruger for six years at UNLV and spent one year each on Kruger's staff at Illinois, Oklahoma and the Atlanta Hawks.
“Steve is absolutely ready. There's not any question about that,” Kruger said. “He's been close on a couple of other good situations, but it's hard to get that first head coaching job.
“He's great with the players. He has a very good feel for the X's and O's part of it. He's very good with the alumni and boosters. He's very ready in every way. And he has a tremendous passion for the Wildcats.”
Henson's strongest selling point is that over the past decade he's been an assistant under one of the most respected coaches in the country.
“K-State is a dream job for me,” Henson said. “It's home. It's my alma mater. There are so many ties and connections. It's a great place, a great town, a great university. I'd love a shot at it for so many reasons.”
Because K-State returned to prominence under Martin, Currie might opt for a big-name coach with more experience. Henson said he hasn't been contacted by K-State officials, but his ties to the program and tenure under Kruger could land him an interview.
“There's going to be the question of not having head coaching experience. But on the flip side, I've been around a lot of great coaches and played with players who have gone on to be head coaches,” Henson said. “Those playing days were very beneficial.”
The Milwaukee Bucks selected Henson in the second round of the 1990 draft, the 44th overall pick. He started only three NBA games but played in 238 in addition to playing overseas.
“I bounced around quite a bit professionally, but that was a blessing being around a lot of different coaches,” Henson said. “I tried to take bits and pieces from each one of them.”
Henson is from a coaching family. His father, Mike, coached for two decades, including coaching Steve at McPherson (Kan.) High School. Mike also coached a couple of years in Germany before finishing his career at Topeka.
Like Kruger, Henson was named to K-State's all-century team. Henson broke 21 K-State records. He was the first KSU player to play in four NCAA Tournaments. He twice finished third in the Big Eight decathlon.
One advantage Henson has over more experienced candidates is he played under Doug Collins, Don Nelson and Del Harris and attended Pat Riley's and Lenny Wilkens' training camps while in the NBA.
“I tried to listen to each one and learn something from each coach,” Henson said. “I was a free agent in unbelievable shape for Pat Riley's camp. It was still the hardest four days I've every been through. It was three hours nonstop. That made a real impression on me.”
Regardless of which direction Currie goes, Henson said he's in a win-win situation.
“I would love to have a shot at that job,” Henson said. “On the other hand I love my job here. The environment Coach creates is unlike anywhere in the country. People genuinely like coming to work, the staff, players, managers, everyone. We work hard but we enjoy it.”