28th in the Series
Well, not exactly! However, two letters Kruger wrote to an elementary school student in Kansas while coaching at K-State in 1988 have returned to campus in the sense that they were donated recently to the Morse Department of Special Collections! While in grade school in the Perry school district, Theresa Young wrote two letters of support to K-State basketball coach Lon Kruger and the team; 23 years later she donated Kruger's replies (one typed and one hand written) to the University Archives. In the correspondence, Kruger encouraged Theresa to do well in the classroom so that, hopefully, she could "attend Kansas State and be one of our tremendous student supporters."
Today, Theresa is doing well at K-State as a graduate student in history while working at the Help Desk in Hale Library! Her appreciation for history influenced her decision to approach the University Archives about donating the letters to preserve a piece of Wildcat history and the kindness that Coach Kruger demonstrated to a young admirer of the Cats!
For those uninitiated in K-State basketball lore, Kruger, a native of Silver Lake, Kansas, was the Big 8 Player of the Year in 1972 and 1973 when he led the Wildcats to back to back conference titles under coach Jack Hartman. Kruger returned to K-State and coached the Cats to four straight NCAA tournament appearances, 1986-1990, making the Elite 8 in 1988. After leaving K-State, Kruger was head coach at Florida and Illinois before coaching in the professional ranks with the Atlanta Hawks (head coach) and New York Nicks (assistant).
Next basketball season, Kruger will again return to K-State, only this time as the leader of the Oklahoma Sooners! After spending the last seven years as the highly successful head coach of the University of Nevada Las Vegas, he accepted the head coaching position at the University of Oklahoma on April 1! Kruger's long time assistant, Steve Henson, will join him at OU. Henson, from McPherson ("I grew up loving K-State"), played under Kruger the four years the Cats went to the NCAA tournament. An All Big 8 selection and holder of numerous K-State records, Henson played six years in the National Basketball Association.
This Keepsake adds a new twist to the motto, "Every Man a Wildcat!"
Tony Crawford, Morse Department of Special Collections
Sources: Theresa Young, Jack Hartman Papers, University Archives Photograph Collection, Kansas State Basketball media guides