Lon Kruger just finished his first season at the helm of the Atlanta Hawks. It was the first step in Kruger's molding of the Hawks into a perennial playoff team. With great young talent like guard Jason Terry
and forward DerMarr Johnson
to build around, and veterans like All-Star Theo Ratliff
and Toni Kukoc
to provide leadership, Kruger plans on having the Hawks back to their winning ways soon.
Before coming to the Hawks, Kruger coached at the University of Illinois, including a 22-10 overall record in 1999-2000, an 11-5 Big Ten Conference mark, and the third NCAA Tournament appearance during his tenure. Before that Kruger coached at the University of Florida, where he spent six seasons transforming the Gators from a team that was not a factor in the Southeastern Conference (SEC) race into a team that posted a school record 29 wins and went to postseason play four times. His finest hour came in 1994 when he directed the Gators to a school-record 29-8 mark and a NCAA Final Four appearance. Kruger earned SEC Coach of the Year honors on two occasions -- 1992 and 1994.
Kruger first coaching job came at Pan America where he stayed for four years before moving on to his alma mater Kansas State University. In four years at KSU (1986-90), Kruger led the Wildcats to a school-record, four-consecutive NCAA tournament berths and an 81-46 record. A talented athlete at KSU, Kruger helped the Wildcats to back-to-back Big Eight Conference titles in 1972 and 1973. In addition to his standout basketball days at KSU, Kruger also played baseball for the Wildcats, eventually get drafted by the Houston Astros. An all-around athlete, Kruger also received some interest from the NFL when the
Dallas Cowboys extended him an invitation to attend their 1972 rookie camp as a quarterback.
Although this is Lon Kruger's first NBA head coaching job, he is no stranger to the Hawks organization. Before becoming the eighth full-time head coach in Atlanta Hawks history, Kruger was actually selected by the Hawks in the ninth round of the 1974 NBA Draft. Kruger chatted live on May 16.
from sanfrancisco-07rh16rt-ca.dial-access.att.net at 11:00am ET
Who will the Atlanta Hawks pick in the draft and what will you do in the offseason?
at 11:01am ET
The draft lottery is Sunday so we'll learn our exact position at that time and then have a better idea of knowing who possibly will be available. It's a very young draft and the opinions on the order vary a great deal and I think it will be an interesting draft.
We'd still like to make a couple trades this summer and that, combined with our draft selection will make our team better for the next season.
from nsw.bigpond.net.au at 11:01am ET
Hi Lon, what do think about Seton Hall's Eddie Griffin? How do you see him fitting in with the Hawks? A frontline of Kukoc, Griffin and Ratliff would be scary.
at 11:02am ET
Eddie's a terrific talent. We'd have liked to have seen him stay in school because everyone should do that. But I think he'll be a terrific pro player, like many players he'll need time and strength. But he has outstanding skills.
from [184.108.40.206] at 11:02am ET
Do you think underclassmen and high-schoolers declaring early eligibility is a problem? What would you do to rectify situation?
at 11:03am ET
I think it's unfortunate for the young people involved because they are forgoing not only an opportunity to experience the college life, but also the opportunity to develop and mature and be more ready to compete at the highest level of basketball. Legally it's difficult to restrict the choice of high school players but I think everyone would like to see something done to encourage young people to wait on the draft.
from [220.127.116.11] at 11:04am ET
What do you think the future holds for DerMarr Johnson? Do you see him as more of a two or a three?
at 11:04am ET
DerMarr has the versatility to play either. But with his size and ranginess, he's got great tools to develop into an outstanding player.
from ne.mediaone.net at 11:04am ET
Who do you think you want most in the Draft this year, and why do you think he can help your team?
at 11:05am ET
Again, we learn of our draft position on Sunday. At that time we'll be able to narrow it down a little bit more specifically. We're just looking for quality people, quality players, people who fit well with what we're trying to do. Whether that comes from the draft or comes from a trade, we're pretty flexible in that way.
from [18.104.22.168], at 11:06am ET
Mr.Kruger, What do you think your team will have to do to be a playoff contender next season,and what things does your team need to work on most?
at 11:06am ET
We've got to improve in virtually every area. We were a young team this past year and played like a young team. We've got to execute better; we've got to be more physical on both ends of the floor; we've got to rebound better. Just across the board, we've got to improve in every area.
from proxy.aol.com at 11:07am ET
Mr Kruger I am a long time Bulls and Fighting Illini fan I just want to now who would you pick in this draft? Would it be any of your old Illini players like Sergio McLaine or Marcus Griffin?
at 11:07am ET
Well of course I'm a big fan of Sergio and Marcus. They both had terrific senior years. I hope that each would get drafted. I think it remains to be seen as to what the teams need and how they play in a couple tryouts between now and June 27.
Matteo Faggiani (Italy)
from [22.214.171.124] at 11:08am ET
Mohammed played very well this year. What will be Nazr's role in the 2001-02 Hawks?
at 11:08am ET
Nazr was terrific. He is a free agent and we certainly want to re-sign Nazr. And hopefully he'll play a similar role to what he did the last two months of the season. He rebounded the ball, he scored, he blocked shots. He just did well in every way.
from kolumbus.net at 11:09am ET
Lon, I from Finland and I would like to know, what do you think your Finnish player Hanno MÃ¶ttÃ¶lÃ¤?
at 11:09am ET
Hanno was outstanding. Great attitude; great work ethic; very good feel and instinct for the game; very good skills. I think Hanno is going to have a long career and a very good career in the NBA.
from ms.k12.il.us at 11:10am ET
First, I must say that I was sorry to see you leave Illinois (being from Champaign) But congrats of your new job. Here is my question:
How has the jump from college to NBA coaching affected your style?
at 11:10am ET
You always adjust to your personnel. So I think in that regard it hasn't changed anything. You try to identify what players do well and then help get them to a position on the floor where they have a chance to be effective. So really that hasn't changed at all.
from [126.96.36.199] at 11:11am ET
Who do you think is going to come out on top in the Raptors-Sixers series?
at 11:11am ET
It's a great series. It's a two of three now. And either Iverson or Carter, whoever has the hotter hand, will prevail. I guess I'd have to go with Philly, given that they have the home court advantage. But what a great series.
Marijn from Holland
from tnt33.rtm1.nl.uu.net at 11:12am ET
Does having such an undersized backcourt limit your options as a coach, and how do you adapt (defensively and offensively) to match up with other teams?
at 11:12am ET
With two small guards we don't match up with other teams very well. I think that's an area that we really need to look at and try to take advantage of our quickness on the offensive end and try to compensate on the defensive end. Still, not a good starting point with regard to matchups.
from [188.8.131.52] at 11:13am ET
Do you anticipate Theo Ratliff being ready when the pre-season starts?
at 11:13am ET
Theo's rehab has been going very well. In fact, if we had to start camp today, he'd be able to go at full speed. So yes, he'll be ready and he'll be an outstanding player for us.
from [184.108.40.206] at 11:13am ET
Have you seen any of the high school players ?
at 11:14am ET
I've seen three or four of them. All terrific talents. Again, all obviously very young and not ready for the NBA, but nonetheless they'll be selected high and will develop and learn hopefully over the next few years.
Antonio from Croatia
from net.hinet.hr at 11:14am ET
What do you think about your new players that have come from Philadelphia, especially Kukoc and Ratliff?
at 11:15am ET
We love the trade. When you lose a quality person/player like Dikembe, the trade is only good if you get back quality people and players. And in Theo, Toni and Nazr, we got three great players. We also hope the trade will continue to be good for Philadelphia throughout the remainder of the playoffs.
Marijn from Holland
from tnt36.rtm1.nl.uu.net at 11:16am ET
Who would be your top 3 of the players in this years draft? Would you rather acquire veteran talent in exchange for the Hawks' high draft pick?
at 11:16am ET
We'll look at possibly a trade of the draft pick for a veteran player. But we'll also look at the possibility of a player through the draft coming in and helping right away. Again, we'll learn of our draft status on Sunday and we're not allowed to talk specifically about players. There's a group of quality players, but again, it's a very young draft.
from [220.127.116.11] at 11:17am ET
Are there any thoughts about trying to get Gary Payton? We are obviously in need of a solid PG and we could package a deal giving Seattle our 1st and 2nd draft picks for the next couple years along with Henderson and Knight. This would give us an amazing point guard, keep the salaries the same, and give some age and wisdom and a definite go-to guy. Any thoughts?
at 11:17am ET
We'll take a look at any potential trade that we feel would help our club. And yet there hasn't been conversation specifically about Gary Payton. Although he's obviously a terrific player.
from [18.104.22.168], at 11:18am ET
Is DerMarr Johnson going to have a oppurtunity to start in the backcourt with JT, as the shooting guard or possibly the point? Because I hear he's working on his ball handling this summer.
at 11:19am ET
The summer is very important to DerMarr. And really, his opportunity next year will correllate with how much time he invests this summer. He knows it's a critical summer and we expect him to work hard.
at 11:19am ET
We appreciate your interest and continued support of our guys. I know they'll work hard this summer and everyone's anxious to get to camp in the fall and then compete for a playoff spot next season.