As the Lon Kruger talk in Raleigh escalated yesterday, we opened an entry on Kruger to encourage people to share information and research that they may have on the gentleman. We didn’t get quite as much as we had hoped from the community, so we decided to go one step further and run some searches on our own.
We think that Pack Pride and other “biographies” on the internet do a super job of marketing Kruger (and all coaches) while highlighting records and accomplishments. But, these promotional propaganda can usually make Bill Gibson look great. We wanted to learn more about Kruger’s recruiting abilities, preferred style of play, and other ‘intangibles’ that help define a coach’s fit and help us all envision the coach’s leadership of the NC State ship.
So, the following are some excerpts from a ton of article searches that we ran from the last eight years with keywords like ‘recruiting’ and ‘personality’ and ‘style of play’. The search didn’t return as many exciting hits as we had hoped; but, there is nothing that we can do about it now. (By the way, we refuse to be criticized for what journalists in Chicago, Atlanta, and The Sporting News write about UNLV’s Head Coach.)
Please feel free to share any other items that you run across that may add to the value of this entry. (For random commentary, you can use our open thread) Thanks:
Last week, Mike DeCourcy of the The Sporting News recommended that NC State pick up the phone and call Frank Haith. As we were doing some digging on Lon Kruger, we thought that this quote from DeCourcy (March 8, 2004) was interesting:
UNLV spoke last week with Lon Kruger about its coaching vacancy, still more evidence the athletic program has disconnected from its fan base. With the “Runnin’” long gone from the Rebels’ nickname, home attendance is averaging 62 percent of capacity. Kruger’s personality and playing style would light up Las Vegas like no entertainer this side of Steven Wright.
(1) 7/6/03: Atlanta Journal Constitution
The criticisms coming Kruger’s way are not new to him…And, more specific to his personality, that Kruger was simply too buttoned-down, too mild-mannered to draw any kind of enthusiasm from a struggling bunch. It seemed a particularly bad match, a team with no identity and a coach with no personality.
“I didn’t throw any chairs. In the locker room, where it needs to be, we had our conversations,” Kruger said. “I’m not into degrading guys publicly. I look back and say, ‘Well, if I had done that, would that mean we would have won more games?’ Of course not.
“I think when things aren’t working, people take a little comfort in being entertained by your frustration. And when you don’t, they say, ‘How can he accept that?’ That doesn’t mean you’re accepting it. It means you’re not playing to their wishes.”
His style didn’t change with his dismissal. That he handled with the same outward stoicism as the 112-97 loss to Indiana in his final game as Hawks coach. There seems no anger, no regret, just a determination to move on and try to make the next game better than the last.
The ninth Atlanta Hawks coach has come and gone, having left few fingerprints on the franchise. About all that will be remembered is one guarantee gone horribly wrong, more a footnote than a legacy.
At least before Kruger moves down the bench to an assistant’s assigned spot, he might be granted the last word:
“We lined up every day, we worked hard at it, we were prepared, we were organized. People can make what they want of that. The ones who respect the way you did it are going to think that. And the ones who want to think otherwise are going to. And neither bothers me. I felt good about what we did, short of getting the result we wanted.
(2) 2/24/01: Dallas Morning News (article mainly about Bill Self):
Self continues to use sets designed by Kruger because the players like them, and because the result is the same. He’s had to adapt to his personnel.
Personality. In many respects Kruger and Self are polar opposites. And though Kruger’s style seemed to work with most players, Self seems capable of lighting a fire under anyone.
“Coach Kruger was nonconfrontational, and Self will openly criticize you in practice,” Johnson said. “That change could make or break a team. If guys are getting chewed out in practice, and they don’t handle it well you’re going to have a problem. But the guys have handled it well.”
In many respects it’s what Self calls emotion. “Lon was always in control,” he said. “He had a great temperament. He was always in a teaching mode, where sometimes I put more emphasis on emotion, on effort, on diving for loose balls.”
(3) 2/21/01: Chicago Sun-Times
GIVING CREDIT WHERE IT’S DUE; BILL SELF IS PRAISED FOR LEADING THE ILLINI TO THE NO. 4 RANKING, BUT LON KRUGER PLAYED A KEY ROLE IN DEVELOPING THE TEAM
Toward the end of his four years at Illinois, the criticisms of Lon Kruger were many.
He couldn’t recruit. He wouldn’t schedule DePaul. He couldn’t win the big game. His coaching style was too confining.
For a guy who took so much heat, though, Kruger left behind a program that Bill Self could mold into a monstrous success.
“Lon is not getting the credit he deserves for putting the program in the position that Bill received it,” Illinois athletic director Ron Guenther said Monday. “The program was in real good shape when Bill got here. With that said, Bill — with a different style, a different personality — gave the program new energy.”
“I’ve got plenty of things to worry about here. I don’t have time for second thoughts about that,” said Kruger, who takes satisfaction in seeing his maligned recruits become a force in college basketball. He often was reminded about his failure to sign any Chicago prospects.
“As we said all along, we recruited people that fit in well at Illinois. I don’t think it was fair to the recruits we had. Just because they didn’t come from this area or that area is kind of irrelevant. Your objective is to recruit people that fit and are going to do well — and obviously, these guys are doing well.”
Illinois assistant coach Rob Judson, the lone holdover from Kruger’s staff, said he “gets a big kick out of” the complaints that Kruger wasn’t a good recruiter.
“We didn’t get everybody we wanted, but we worked real hard at it,” said Judson, who figures to become the second Kruger assistant to get a head coaching job this spring. ”
“I’m the beneficiary of a guy moving on to a different situation because the players here were good,” Self said. “That doesn’t happen very often. The ingredients were here before I got here. You had size, depth, skill. The thing this program was missing more than anything was a few intangibles, and maturity has had a lot to do with that.”
It certainly hasn’t hurt, though, that Self has installed a more free-wheeling offense and has instilled tremendous spirit.
“Would Illinois be where it is this year if Kruger had stayed? I feel very good about both coaches,” Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said. “I really liked Lon. I thought he did a great job. That team last year was maybe a year too early, or maybe not.
“Bill brings a little bit different approach. I’m not saying it’s necessarily right or wrong. He’s done a good job of bringing Frankie (Williams) along, and that’s really changed that team. I also think the maturity of the players has been important. We did a pretty good job on (Marcus) Griffin and Williams, and other guys killed us.”
“The players have definitely taken to Bill’s system and personality. But coach Kruger’s coaching ability is unquestioned. Illinois would be having a terrific year either way.”
That should help Illini fans shake off any lingering disappointment over the Kruger era.
(6) 6/10/200: The State Journal-Register (Springfield, IL)
Self’s a crowd-pleaser on hiring day
Bill Self stepped to the microphone to a round of applause.
“I hope you cheer like that when we play Michigan State in our house next year,” Self said.
Just like that, Self began making friends as the University of Illinois men’s basketball coach.
Instead of the cattleman’s drawl one would expect from a guy who’s lived all but one year in Oklahoma, Self has a quick wit and a duffle bag full of one liners that can keep everyone entertained. His charisma and personality are something new at Illinois.
Named as the Illini coach Friday, the 37-year-old married father of two began pushing the right buttons even before he was formally introduced to the media and a cheering section at Assembly Hall.
For all that former Illini Lon Kruger did to elevate the program at Illinois, he didn’t have a personality that excited some of his constituents. Kruger led the Illini to a Big Ten Conference title in 1998, guided the program out of the malaise of mid-pack finishes in the league and routinely whipped The General. But his recruiting ability was roughly critiqued, and the Chicago media teed off on his desire to avoid controversy and inability to produce the sound bytes and quick wit that help make a story interesting.
A conservative old school guy, Kruger preferred to let the final score and the stats do the talking.
With his latest hire, athletic director Ron Guenther found an up-and-comer who already has 19 years in the college game as a player, coach and assistant coach. And Guenther added a spoonful of personality needed to keep Generation X recruits, fans and the big-city media happy.
While Kruger struggled with the recruiting process and didn’t like the way it was headed, his critics felt he was good enough to finish as the second choice and the guy who had trouble sealing the deal. Of course, that’s beyond the contingent of central Illinois players and former Memphis standout Cory Bradford that carried the team the past season.
After one day and one public appearance by Self in Illini country, the feeling is that the new man has the personality to give Illini recruiting a boost. He spoke of recruiting Chicago, an address where the Illini haven’t scored since the days of Lou Henson and Jimmy Collins.
Self also spoke about his intent to implement a high-speed style that involves a running game and pressure defense. It’s the game of the new millenium that’s been promised for the last decade but not really delivered since the Flyin’ Illini flew out of town.
” We want to play as fast as we can offensively and put pressure on defense,” he said. “I believe in pressure. When I say pressure, it’s attacking offensively and defensively.”
(7) 5/26/00: Chicago Tribune
ILLINOIS SORRY NOW, BUT KRUGER WILL BE LATER
BYLINE: Bernie Lincicome.
Lon Kruger is not the kind of coach a professional basketball player will choke. He is the kind of coach a professional basketball player will ignore. I give him two years in Atlanta, though it will seem like five. Don’t lose the Pan American phone number, Lon.
Illinois deserves to be stiffed by Kruger, of course. Kruger treated the school just as the school treated Lou Henson, just as the school treated Jimmy Collins, good men and better basketball coaches than Kruger. As long as Athletic Director Ron Guenther does not consider loyalty an irreplaceable element in a coach, he will constantly need to be overselling his assorted coaching jobs to candidates who will be looking over Guenther’s shoulder at the next place.
Guenther immediately announced a national search for a replacement for Kruger, which means Illinois will be trying to steal another coach from another school, as it stole Kruger from Florida.
Kruger deserves what will happen to him in Atlanta, which is to be hooted out of town as Kruger’s essential unfitness to deal with folks as selfish as himself becomes obvious.
What was it Hawks GM Pete Babcock said? “The right person with the right personality.” Kruger has managed to reach this point in life without surprising himself with a hint of personality. Find a wall and Kruger will flower it.
What Babcock didn’t say is that Kruger came for $1 million less a year than Michigan State coach Tom Izzo declined. Understandably, Izzo is a desirable property, pre-sold. About Izzo, Hawks star Dikembe Mutombo would not have raised an eyebrow and asked, “Who?”
You think Tim Floyd replacing Phil Jackson was trading down, Kruger following Wilkens is like washing down caviar with Snapple.
Kruger is as ready to coach in the NBA as he is to make a simple, declarative sentence not joined in self-contradiction with “but” or “however.”
This is a guy incapable of a straight answer or a binding opinion. Strike that Michael Jordan reference. I’m surprised that Jerry Krause didn’t hire him.
Well, whatever happens to Kruger from here is of no concern to the good folks of Illinois, of course, other than the reconfirmation that the school is not a destination but a park bench.
Illinois is not one of those schools at the top of any ambitious coach’s wish list.
This is John Mackovic all over again, like Kruger a transient user who took the first job he thought was better.
Mackovic thought football in Texas was the same as football everywhere, just as Kruger sees basketball as the same game with players who mope because they have to study as players who mope because they don’t get enough minutes on the floor.
(8) 5/25/2000: Atlanta Journal Constitution
THE MAN: Low key demeanor, teacher of game
HAWKS HIRE LON KRUGER
Let’s go Krugering, as the Hawks apparently have. Above all, Lon Kruger’s a coach, in the purest sense.
He’s a basketball teacher, not a charismatic quote machine. A behind-closed- doors disciplinarian, not a recruiting magnet. A shrewd X-and-O guy, not a nightly X-rated tirade. His lone fashion extravagance? The mock turtlenecks he favors on gamedays. And while living in Gainesville, Fla., his old house included a full-sized indoor basketball court.
Yes, Lon Kruger’s a basketball coach, one who’s succeeded on every campus he’s been. At Texas-Pan American, Kansas State (his alma mater), most famously at Florida and, most recently, Illinois. In 18 seasons as a collegiate head coach, his record is 318-233 (a .577 winning percentage). Yet he’s never coached, or played, in the NBA. Which leaves some Hawks fans wondering: Kruger?
Rebuffed by Tom Izzo, who chose to stay at Michigan State after winning the NCAA title last month, the Hawks have opted for another Big Ten coach. A feisty guard and two-time Big Eight player of the year whom the Hawks drafted in the ninth round in 1974 but never signed, Kruger opted to play in Israel for a season. Today, he’s expected to be announced as the new Hawks coach.
Altman said Kruger “has really got a personality that will work well with the pros. He’s very low-key. He’s not a yeller and a screamer. He’s got a great basketball mind.”
To Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski, “Without a doubt, Lon is one of the best tacticians in the game. I love Lon. He does everything above board.”
But after signing a contract extension through 2001 in the summer of ’95, Kruger suddenly left Florida for Illinois after a 12-16 season. He’d reportedly grown tired of second-class status to Gator football, the facilities and an inability to recruit the state’s best players — specifically, a kid from Daytona Beach named Vince Carter, who chose North Carolina over Florida.
Although Kruger painted Illinois as a chance to return to the Midwest for his family — his wife, Barbara, and their chidren, Angie (a junior at Florida) and Kevin, 16 — he said last March, “If we had landed Vince, it might have changed everything. . . . If we had gotten him, it might have changed our feeling about being there.”
At Illinois, Kruger went 81-48, tying for the Big Ten title in ’98. Last season, the Illini were 22-10 and reached the NCAAs for the third time in four years. This season, they’re loaded — despite the fact that Kruger never established any recruiting inroads in Chicago’s public schools.
And as for Kruger’s calm demeanor? Shortly after Florida won the ’94 NCAA East Regional, Kruger suddenly lost his composure during an interview and wept at the memory of his hard-working, businesslike team exuberantly cutting down the net.
“I’m probably a lot more emotional than people understand,” Kruger said then. “I can watch puppies on a TV commercial and tears come to my eyes. I can watch a dance team perform at halftime and get emotional, just thinking about all the hard work that was put into a routine and then seeing it performed so well. I can appreciate what’s gone into that. It’s pretty easy for me to tear up and have emotions about a lot of things.”