Monty Thompson, a 21-year-old senior from Mound City, Mo., partially blames a lengthy K-State basketball drought on Kruger's departure.
“Loyal K-State fans cheer him because he played and coached here but he left K-State in a very bad situation,” Thompson said. “After he left we had 20 years of dark ages of basketball. We lost all the recruits. We struggled to get a really good coach.
“K-State slipped from being one of the best programs in the nation to being irrelevant.”
Kruger and assistant coach Steve Henson, who played for Kruger and also wore the No. 12 jersey at K-State, stopped briefly at the alumni gathering about an hour before tipoff.
“It's definitely a little different but it was good to see a lot of people, some we haven't seen in years,” Henson said. “But it is strange to be playing in this building and be playing against the Wildcats.”
Barrett, known as Mr. K-State, said it's good to have Kruger back in the Midwest. Barrett was K-State's athletic director when Jack Hartman had one scholarship left in 1970.
“Jack was scratching his head. He didn't know what to do,” Barrett said. “At the very last minute he told me, ‘I think I'm going to give it to that kid from Silver Lake (Kan.) the last scholarship.' What a blessing that turned out to be.”