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Oklahoma men's basketball coach Lon Kruger retires from coaching

Oklahoma head coach Lon Kruger has led the Sooners' basketball program for the past decade. File Photo by Bill Greenblatt/UPI
Oklahoma head coach Lon Kruger has led the Sooners' basketball program for the past decade. File Photo by Bill Greenblatt/UPI | License Photo

March 25 (UPI) -- Oklahoma men's basketball coach Lon Kruger has retired after 45 years in coaching, it was announced Thursday.

The 68-year-old Kruger has been at the helm of the Sooners' basketball program for the last decade. During that span, he guided the school to seven NCAA tournaments and a Final Four appearance in 2016.

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"It's been an honor to serve the University of Oklahoma as its head men's basketball coach over the last 10 years," Kruger said in a statement. "The people here are certainly amazing and our family is so grateful for the kindness and support expressed by Sooner Nation throughout the past decade.

"The leadership of [athletic director] Joe Castiglione and President [Joseph] Harroz has established an incredible culture and standard that is better than any coach could have asked for. We have such a deep appreciation for the players, coaches and fans. There truly is 'Only One Oklahoma' and it's a great honor to be a Sooner for life."

Oklahoma finished with a 16-11 overall record and 9-8 mark in conference play this season. The Sooners advanced to the second round of the NCAA tournament before losing to Gonzaga.

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Before taking over at Oklahoma, Kruger led UNLV to four NCAA tourney appearances over seven seasons, including a Sweet 16 run in 2007.

Kruger started his coaching career in 1976 as an assistant at Pittsburg State in Kansas. He spent time as an assistant at Kansas State before becoming head coach at Texas-Pan American in 1982. He later became head coach at Kansas State, Florida and Illinois.

Kruger also spent three seasons as the head coach of the NBA's Atlanta Hawks and one year with the New York Knicks as an assistant.

He posted a 674-432 overall record as a college head coach and went to 20 NCAA tournaments.

"His track record of successfully rebuilding programs everywhere he coached is made even more impressive when considering how he did it," Castiglione said. "He won with integrity, humility, class and grace. He did it with superior leadership skills and a genuine kindness that included his constant encouragement of everyone around him."

With Kruger's retirement, both basketball positions are open at Oklahoma. Longtime Sooners women's coach Sherri Coale announced her retirement last week.

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