For the Sooners, Tuesday’s season opener marks the official beginning of a new season, as it gives a primarily young roster its first shot at a Division I foe.
For Lon Kruger — who is entering his ninth season at the helm in Norman — Tuesday night’s contest against UTSA also gives him the opportunity to reunite with and compete against former assistant Steve Henson, who is entering his fourth season as head coach of the Road Runners.
For the majority of the last 35 years, Henson and Kruger have been side-by-side.
When Henson starred at Kansas State as a point guard and earned All-Big Eight Conference first team honors in 1989, Kruger was his coach. When Kruger accepted the head coaching position at OU in April 2011, Henson — who was on UNLV’s staff under Kruger for seven seasons — followed suit and came to Norman, and was on the staff of the 2016 Final Four team.
Kruger recruited him in high school, coached him as he became Kansas State’s all-time leader in assists and coached with him for years afterwards. Kruger said he knew early on that Henson would become a good head coach one day.
"He had been a head coach really ever since he played point guard," Kruger said. "He thought that way in college and certainly in the NBA. He thought like a point guard, thought like a head coach just carried that right on through."
But when Henson’s Road Runners and Kruger’s Sooners square off in Norman on Tuesday night, Kruger’s focus will certainly be on winning.
“It’s good to see him and it’s good to know that he’s doing such a great job at Texas-San Antonio but then, of course, you both want to win and one of you is not,” Kruger said.