Former Illinois Fighting Illini Coach Lon Kruger is Retiring


lon kruger oklahoma

According to multiple outlets, Oklahoma Sooners coach Lon Kruger is set to retire, with an official announcement forthcoming. Kruger coached six teams over the course of college career, including the Illinois Fighting Illini. He cut his teeth at Texas-Pan American (now Texas-Rio Grande Valley) in 1982. After four seasons there, he returned to his alma mater, Kansas State, where he succeeded his college coach, Jack Hartman.

After four years at KSU, he left for a bigger job, at Florida, where he reached the first of his two Final Fours.

In 1996, he moved to the Illinis where they made the NCAA Tournament in three of his four seasons, but unfortunately, go bounced in the round of 32 each time. (Which is the unfortunate calling card of the Illini basketball program- lots and lots of second round outs.

He did however, lead the Illini to a share of the Big Ten regular season title in 1998, and during his time in Champaign Kruger went 81-48, with a 38-28 league mark. He left the Illini to take the Atlanta Hawks head coaching job, but he fizzled out in two and a quarter seasons, posting a .361 winning percentage and never reaching the playoffs.

He then took a gig as an assistant with the New York Knicks, and then became head coach at UNLV, before settling in with OU, where he made his other Final Four appearance in 2016.

While a coaching at UNLV, he fell to the Illini in a 2011 opening round NCAA Tournament game. That game remains one of only two in which the Illini have beaten a higher seed, and it was a #9 over #8. (The other was a #5 over a #4 Cincinnati in 2004).

Kruger, 68, retires with a career collegiate coaching record of 674-432, four sweet sixteen appearances, two SEC coach of the year awards, and also a coach of the year award in the Big 12 and MWC. Lon Kruger saw his Sooners eliminated by Gonzaga, the current consensus favorite, and the team which held the #1 ranking most of the season.

Be sure to click on BetQL for the odds, moneylines, point spreads, over/unders and more for every sweet sixteen game and the rest of the tournament.

Paul M. Banks runs The Sports Bank, partnered with News NowBanks, the author of “No, I Can’t Get You Free Tickets: Lessons Learned From a Life in the Sports Media Industry,” has regularly appeared in WGNSports IllustratedChicago Tribune and SB Nation. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram.

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