By Chris Williams, CycloneFanatic.comPublisherFollow Chris on Twitter @ChrisMWilliams
KANSAS CITY – Lon Kruger and Fred Hoiberg go way back.
The duo’s first encounter came way back in the first round of the 1995 NCAA Tournament. "The Mayor" played all 40 minutes in 7th-seeded Iowa State’s 64-61 victory over Kruger’s 10th-seeded Florida Gators, accounting for 15 points and seven rebounds.
Oklahoma’s new head coach recalled the competition like it was yesterday at Thursday’s Big 12 basketball media day.
“He was a terrific player," said Kruger. "He was a guy who you had to send a couple of guys at, if not three guys just to try and slow him down. He’s a guy who could score in multiple ways and compete really hard."
It didn’t end there.
Hoiberg and Kruger matched up numerous times in the NBA too. Kruger was the head coach of the Atlanta Hawks from 2000-2003, during Hoiberg’s tenure with the Chicago Bulls and the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Over this past summer summer, Hoiberg and Kruger locked up in a different form of competition. The two were paired together in a Nike sponsored golf tournament. That’s where this very friendly rivalry was reborn.
"He’s big time," Hoiberg said of Kruger’s golf game. “He just grinds it out. If he’s got a put at 15-feet or under, it’s going in. I’m the opposite. I have to be within three feet to make a put. Shooting doesn’t translate to putting.”
Hoiberg was humble about his golf game. Kruger didn’t remember it that way.
“He’s very good. He hits it a long way," Kruger said.
According to Hoiberg’s memory, he got the best of Kruger on day one of the event. Oklahoma’s new basketball coach won on day two.
“Spending time in the golf cart with him was great," said Hoiberg. "You pick up things. He’s extremely competitive and you can tell that by the way that he plays golf."
Starting this season, these two will now meet twice a year as head coaches of Big 12 programs.
Kruger, a former Kansas State player and coach, sees nothing but bright things for Hoiberg’s future in Ames.
“The fit is fantastic. The future is fantastic. He is a guy who has a great understanding of the game," Kruger said. "He’s great with people and he’ll be a great ambassador for our league.”
As for Kruger, Hoiberg sees him as one of the best coaches in the game.
“He is an unbelievable coach. He gets so much out of his teams," said Hoiberg. "They play so hard. He meshes a unit. I’ve played against his teams in the NBA. His teams were always prepared. They always played hard. He will be a guy who is fun to coach against.”