NORMAN — Oklahoma’s Lon Kruger was named Big 12 Basketball Coach of the Year on Monday by The Associated Press.
Kruger coached the Sooners to a second-place finish in the conference after being picked in the preseason for a fifth-place tie.
For Kruger, it’s his third conference Coach of the Year honor.
He was named Mountain West Coach of the Year in 2008 and the SEC Coach of the Year in 1992 and 1994.
Kruger is the only one in NCAA history to coach five teams to the NCAA Tournament.
Monday, a few of his players talked about what makes Kruger the coach that he is and what he means to them.
“Coach Kruger’s a great guy. He’s a great crafter. He’s always positive and he keeps me positive, even when I’m doing dumb stuff. If it wasn’t for him, I probably wouldn’t be at this level now. He teaches me what I need to do to get better. Every day he’s at it. He won’t stop working to get good schemes. Coach (Steve) Henson calls it magic plays. I just feel blessed to be around a coach like that who’s always working and trying to make this team better.”
— Buddy Hield, sophomore guard
“Any award he gets is very warranted, and if I were a voter, I would definitely choose him for what he’s done for this program over the past couple years. It’s not really just this year. Developing a winning program is not a one-year thing or an overnight thing. It’s been fun to be a part of that and it’s even more fun that we’re not done yet.
“Just the way he goes about his work and how he can get the most out of each and every player — how he can reach each player’s potential and really teach us and coach us, not just on the floor but off the floor as well. We’ve all learned a lot from him, and I know some of these freshman guys that are now sophomores have really matured over one year with him. That just gets better and better each year. There’s (other) coaches like that, but it’s not very often that there’s someone that can really make as much of an impact on your life overall as well as he can, so we’re very thankful.”
— Tyler Neal, senior forward
“He’s everything. The way I play the game, I think, reflects him and the way he worked on me last year. I’ve always rebounded, but he’s made me a better rebounder. He’s made me work hard like I have all year in every part of my game.”
— Ryan Spangler, sophomore forward