Dean: Kruger Welcomed with Open Arms and Open Practice

Thursday, May 26th 2011, 12:19 pm
By: News On 6

Originally Published: Apr 5, 2011 10:51 AM CDT

Dean Blevins
Oklahoma Sports Sports Director-OKC
Day one of the Lon and don't call me Lonnie regime is over and the new Sooner coach is 1-0.

There are lots of media who are hoping Kruger is successful, if for no other reason than he will continue his policy of open practices to all—media and the public. HOWEVER, I just got an email that says no public will be allowed in on the first day of practice under the new regime: “It’s 3:30 but closed to fans/public."

I was informed by compliance this morning that NCAA rules prohibit practice from being open because it’s out of season.

So don’t show up and sneak in. You might be responsible for your school going on the dreaded death penalty. Plenty of NCAA violations being evaluated already.

Kruger is a throwback. The kinda guy who was almost too perfect as a collegian—multi-sport star, player-of-year and academic All-American. He made the rest of us feel like heathens because of his way of doing everything right—by the book. Tight haircut in an era where I wore it shaggy with more than ample sideburns. Kind of guy who would date his high school gal and had her home by 9:30pm. Handshakes and hugs only. No honor code violations for Lonnie. He is the kind of guy who showed up early and perky while the rest of us showed up at the wire and haggard.

Kruger even had to bite his tongue about Prez Boren holding up Monday’s introductory press conference by arriving seventeen minutes late. Prez wore the horn blowers and pom jumpers out. Obviously irked the new Norman resident but he laughed it off knowing his place in the pecking order.

Speaking of Lonnie?which is what I’ve always called him. Going back to when he was my host on my recruiting trip to Kansas State when we hooked up with the OU basketball team, which ironically had just gotten routed by the Wildcats. Lonnie drank 7-Up. I swallowed anything but. Trip too calm for an 18 year-old rowdy who chose to join the team that was routed that night but which sipped suds with more vim, vigor and vitality than they showed on the KSU tartan court.

One wisecrack media guy asked about whether it’s “Lon” or “Lonnie,” citing the “elders” who refer to him as Lonnie, his given name. I received an evening e-mail that sought to straighten things out: “His Lon thing is like Bob (Stoops) who used to be Bobby. He wants to be called Lon.”

Full-court press by AD Joe C. Had already had lunch with Stoops, gotten calls from KSampson, Bill Tubbs and even his “good friend,” Jeff Capel. Said all told him it was a “great job.” He indicated Tubbs would be around quite a bit. Not exactly peas in a pod, Billy’s sage advice might be good to Kruger, whose conservative nature and style of play could stand a little rambunctiousness and go-go-go philosophy from the former Sooner coach who just so happens to look smarter and smarter every year.

Kruger was a hit when he met with his new team Sunday: "He seems very laid back," said OU point guard Carl Blair. "He told us he'd never scream at us but he'll definitely get his point across and make sure things get done. He seemed like a very cool coach. I'm just ready to go."

Kruger was refreshingly candid when quizzed about his time in the NBA and how it has impacted his return to the college game. Said he simply lost too much, and was fired and humbled as a fifty year old. He said it was probably good for him in the long run. For a guy who had not failed much at anything to feel like the guy getting cold water tossed on him by the obnoxious friend who thought he was born to be an alarm clock.

Finally, the first day was picture perfect. Big crowd, band played in tune, media behaved and players gushed with praise. Kruger will be disappointed at a shameful abundance of apathy. But that will not shy him away.

I’m betting my yellow socks and German Shepherd that Kruger succeeds in the long run. Lonnie has done things right too long to not succeed.

Just like Castiglione said after two “no’s” from Kruger, “I’m not taking no for an answer,”for Lonnie, failure is not an option.

How can you bet against a guy who’s 58, looks 48, and has the energy of a 38?

If you want to see for yourself load up the kids and head to practice.

Winning is in Kruger’s blood, his DNA—which thankfully doesn’t stand for Do Not Attend.

Follow Dean on Twitter: @DeanBlevins