Lon Kruger on watch list for National Coach of the Year

Oklahoma head coach Lon Kruger has been named to the late-season watch list for National Coach of the Year.

The OU head coach is one of 15 candidates for the Werner Ladder Naismith Men’s Coach of the Year Award.

In his 10th season as the Sooners’ head coach, Kruger has led Oklahoma to a 13-5 overall record and an 8-4 in the highly competitive Big 12, which boasts six teams ranked in the Associated Press Top 25 through games of Wednesday, Feb. 17.

Kruger has been the chief architect of an Oklahoma basketball success story that has been building since the beginning of the new year. In the month of January alone, the Sooners faced six teams ranked in the top 10 and won four of those games.

Oklahoma is only the third team, and the first since 1974, to defeat four top-10 teams in one calendar month. The Sooners five wins over top-15 teams this is tied with Ohio State for the most in college basketball this season.

The Sooners, who were picked to finish sixth this season in the Big 12, have won seven of their last eight games.

Oklahoma did not receive a single vote in the Associated Press preseason college basketball poll and did not make its first appearance in the poll until Jan. 25 after the second of four wins over top-10 opponents. The Sooners broke in at No. 24, and the next week, with two more top-10 wins to add to the mix, made an incredible jump of 13 spots to No. 9 in the AP poll. the largest one-week poll advancement in program history.

Kruger has a record of 192-122 (.611) in 10 Oklahoma seasons, including taking the Sooners to six of the last seven NCAA Tournaments. He is the only college head coach to have taken five different schools to the NCAA Tournament and won at least one tournament game with each school.

The Sooner head coach played his collegiate basketball at Kansas State, where he was a two-time Big Eight Player of the Year. He also served a head coach at his alma mater for four seasons from 1986-90.

Kruger has been named Coach of the Year in three different conferences, including the Big  12 (2014), but in 35 season as a college head coach he has never been honored as National Coach of the Year. He has been at OU longer than any of his six previous schools.

Of note, Kruger is 4-1 this season against other coaches on the watch list for the 2021 Naismith Coach of the Year.