Lon Kruger, who coached the Florida men’s basketball program from 1990-96, was inducted into the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame Class of 2022 on Sunday. He was one of nine members of the 2022 class to be inducted Sunday evening during a ceremony in Kansas City as part of the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame Weekend.
Kruger coached the Gators to the program’s first Final Four appearance in 1994, and a pair of former Gators from the ’94 team, Dan Cross and Craig Brown, were in attendance Sunday to represent the program at the event, as it was current Florida associate head Coach Carlin Hartman, who coached with Kruger at Oklahoma for five seasons, and UF Letterman and longtime broadcaster Bill Koss.
Kruger led the Gators to a 104-80 record, a tenure that was highlighted by the team’s 1994 Final Four run. Twice, Kruger earned Southeastern Conference Coach of the Year honors at Florida (1992, ’94) and he oversaw two All-Americans in Stacey Poole (1993 AP Honorable mention) and Cross (1994, ’95 AP Honorable mention).
Under Kruger’s tutelage, Cross, Poole, Brown, Dwayne Davis, Andrew DeClercq, and Dametri Hill each earned All-SEC honors during their tenures in Gainesville.
Kruger totaled 674 wins over the course of his head coaching career with stops at Kansas State, Illinois, UNLV, Oklahoma and UTRGV. Kruger, 70, holds the distinction of leading five different programs to the NCAA Tournament and added a second Final Four to his resume in 2016 at Oklahoma. After 10 seasons with the Sooners, Kruger announced his retirement on March 25, 2021.
Joining Kruger in the 2022 class are former coaches John Beilein, Jim Calhoun, Jerry Krause and Roy Williams, along with former players Richard ‘Rip’ Hamilton (Connecticut), Larry Miller (North Carolina), Frank Selvy (Furman), and the late Jimmy Walker (Providence).
As the Gators opened the preseason camp, their first under new head Coach Todd Golden and his coaching staff, Hartman praised Kruger’s coaching methods, in addition to that of his son, Kevin Kruger, the current head Coach at UNLV.
“Coach (Lon) Kruger was great for me in the six years that I worked with him, so was Kevin (Kruger) at UNLV,” Hartman said. “They allowed me to be myself on the floor and step in whenever I saw something and say something to the entire group or pull guys aside, work out guys and so forth.”
A common thread between Golden and Kruger, according to Hartman, is their tendency to incorporate assistant coaches during the practice set-up rather than sideline the coaching staff. It’s a trait Hartman has sought out in head coaches when making a decision to join a coaching staff, and Golden’s proclivity for relying on experienced assistants was a considerable factor in the 50-year-old Hartman’s decision to depart UNLV for Florida.
“I think that as a Coach who is always trying to get to that next level, in terms of myself, I’ve been in it for 23 years and I’ve been able to work with great coaches who have gone on to different places – Kyle Smith, who’s now at Washington State; Mack Rhoades who is now at VCU, Kevin Kruger and now Todd Golden, really young and up and coming guys,” Hartman said. “The best thing about people like that is they do allow you to be yourself and not restrict you based on them trying to just micromanage.”