Originally Published: Apr 3, 2011 9:1 PM CDT
Hiring Lonnie Kruger was a home run for Joe Castiglione.Not that Kruger is God's gift to college coaching, but because hiscredentials fit what the Sooners need, he's a proven coach and becausethe pool of remaining candidates is pathetic.
Even though myunscientific poll of how OU students feel about the hire"too old"Isee his age as a bonus. A mature man needs to step into the disarraywith the program.
Fifty-eight years of age is a positive to me.A positive if the 58-year-old thinks young, can relate to teenagerecruits, his players and students who have basically wrapped OUbasketball and tossed it into the attic. . A source very close to thesituation told me four days ago when I became apparent OU was not goingto be able to lure Buzz Williams from Marquette, that OU was not going to hire "young" again. Wise. The last young coach hererecruited two or three knuckleheads who helped put OU in the pokey.Give me a clean Kruger over the weak pedigreed young bucks any day. Andface it: Staying out of the NCAA slammer had to be agenda item No. 1.
OU'srecruiting class with Capel was not going to set records. It was no FabFive. Maybe Kruger will bring a couple of kids with him from the dullbright lights of the Vegas strip to the hopping flat plains of Norman.I know bringing a solid staff is a huge positive and I guarantee hisstaff is better than the staffs of the other candidates.
Kruger will be successful. It will probably not be an overnight thing. Itwould help if students would actually go to the trouble to get in theircars on a winter night, drive two miles to Lloyd Noble, park, walk,clap and drive back home (the challenge of doing all of this is whatone upstanding law student told me was the primary problem with studentapathy). But if Lightnin' Lonnie can't recruit the students, I give hima better chance than the rest of the gang looking for a good gig tosign good players. Being a head coach for three years in the NBA is nobad topic to break the ice.
There will not be pressure from Joe Castiglione and David Borenfor Kruger to do magic tricks overnight. Still, pressure is inheritwhen you make the $2 million or so I expect they forked over. Kruger isall about pressure.
The pressure of becoming a high schoollegend in Kansas and three sports all-stater; the pressure in becomingthe best player in the conference for a couple of seasons; the pressurecoaching his alma mater; pressure when of leading Florida to thePromised Land and a hair away from an NCAA title; the pressure as anNBA coach; the pressure to restore UNLV to its proper place in collegebasketball.
Locally, it sounds like the hire will be receivedas ho-hum by most. Not so nationally. The national sports world wouldhave looked at hiring a North Texas coach, even Wichita State coach asanother sign that Oklahoma was far away from being what it was since Billy Tubbs rolled into town. Ho-hum nationally, just like the local scene.
Butthe experienced basketball people on the national stage will look atthis as another top notch hire by Castiglione. He brought in Bob Stoops who was at KSU when Kruger coachedand it was not a big deal.Turned out to be. The Kruger hire will make more sense than the Stoopshire.
Not saying Lonnie is going to be Bobby. But he's notgoing to be any of those other bottom-feeding duds out there that Joe Cwas about to have to bring in.
Kudos Castiglione. This hire is the best Castiglione could have ever found. Including old Buzz.