MANHATTAN, Kan. — In the north rafters of Bramlage Coliseum, Lon Kruger's No. 12 hangs alongside Bob Boozer's, Ernie Barrett's and other Kansas State legends.
Decades after his playing days ended, Kruger, now at Oklahoma, coached against his alma mater for the first time in Manhattan on Saturday night.
Carl Gerlach, who works for a printing company and is the Mayor of Overland Park, Kan., was Kruger's teammate in the early 1970s. Gerlach planned to cheer for Kruger when his name was announced but neither coach was introduced during pregame ceremonies, a Big 12 policy.
“It certainly was a strange dichotomy,” Gerlach said. “We all like Lon as our friend but we're K-State fans. I'll always support Lon Kruger, one of the most competitive, nicest people you'll ever meet. I'm even thinking about going to Lawrence Wednesday night (when OU plays the Jayhawks).”
Coincidentally, Saturday's game was Legends weekend, the one game each year Kansas State schedules an alumni gathering.
Keith Amerson, from California, played for Kruger in the late 1980s. Amerson now lives in New York City. He works for a foundation for children with autism.
“Seeing his jersey in the rafters and seeing him on the visitor's bench after leaving such a legacy here, to now coach against them was really strange,” Amerson said. “His message was to always take moments and make them special but to honor the past, players who played before you.
“I know how much he loves K-State. But I also know how competitive he is. What's ironic is the current visitor's bench used to be the home bench until they flip flopped a few years ago. He actually sat on the same end he always did when he was here.”