Kruger Adds Jim Molinari to Coaching Staff

Ben Coldagelli
By Ben Coldagelli
Director of Communications

NORMAN – University of Oklahoma head men’s basketball coach Lon Kruger announced on Thursday the addition of Jim Molinari as assistant coach.

Molinari brings over three decades of college coaching experience to the Sooner bench, including 20 seasons as a head coach at the Division I level. He comes to Norman after most recently serving as an assistant coach at Nebraska for the past five seasons.

"We're thrilled to have Jim join our program as an assistant coach," said Kruger. "He brings terrific experience, a passion for the game and genuine interest for the young people he works with on a daily basis. He does an excellent job of teaching the fundamentals, especially on defense."

As a head coach at Northern Illinois (1989-91), Bradley (1991-02), Minnesota (2006-07) and Western Illinois (2008-14), Molinari compiled over 300 victories, three conference titles and nine postseason appearances. As an assistant, Molinari has reached the NCAA Tournament on 10 occasions.

“It is a blessing and privilege to join Coach Kruger,” said Molinari. “I have known him for years as a mentor and group leader on and off the court. I also have high respect and admiration for Chris Crutchfield, Carlin Hartman and Mike Shepherd. I look forward to helping this special group of young men at this outstanding institution achieve their goals as people, students and athletes.”

In his most recent head coaching role, Molinari led Western Illinois to its first postseason appearance as a Division I program by reaching the CBI in 2011-12. The following season, he guided the Leathernecks to the Summit League's regular season title with a 22-9 record, the program's most wins at the Division I level. He was named the 2013 Summit League Coach of the Year and NABC District 12 Coach of the Year.

Molinari spent three seasons at Minnesota (2004-07), including the 2006-07 season as the interim head coach. He followed his time with the Gophers by spending one season as an assistant at Ball State before accepting the head coach position at Western Illinois.

From 1991-2002, Molinari served 11 seasons as the head coach at Bradley. He led the Braves to five NIT appearances along with a run to the 1996 NCAA Tournament. Bradley captured three 20-win seasons under Molinari and amassed a total record of 174-152 (.534). He was named the Missouri Valley Coach of the Year in 1996.

Prior to Bradley, Molinari was the head coach for two seasons (1989-91) at Northern Illinois. The Huskies went 42-17 (.712) under his direction and won the 1991 Mid-Continent Conference crown with a 25-6 record.

Molinari began his work in coaching as a 10-year assistant at DePaul (1979-89), including the first five seasons working under Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame inductee Ray Meyer. While on staff, DePaul reached the NCAA Tournament on nine occasions, including three trips to the Sweet 16.

Outside of the collegiate ranks, Molinari led the 1997 USA Basketball men’s team to a gold medal at the World University Games played in Trapani, Italy.

As a player, Molinari spent one season sharing the court with Kruger at Kansas State (1973-74) before transferring to Illinois Wesleyan, where he earned his bachelor's degree in English in 1977. He then earned a Juris Doctor from DePaul in 1980.

Molinari rounds out the Sooner coaching staff and will join associate head coach Chris Crutchfield (eight seasons at OU) and assistant Carlin Hartman (three seasons).

Oklahoma returns three starters from the 2018-19 squad. Kristian Doolittle and Brady Manek both ranked in OU's top three for points, rebounds and blocks this season, while Jamal Bieniemy led the Sooners in both assists and steals. The Sooners' incoming recruiting class is listed in the top 20 nationally.