Since the news of Frank Martin leaving Kansas State became official, Steve Henson’s phone has been buzzing more than usual.
“There have been a few more calls on a typical day, that’s for sure,” Henson, an assistant coach at Oklahoma, said by phone on Wednesday. “The response has been pretty good the last couple of days. The support has been great. That’s one of the beauties of the K-State program is there are so many loyal, die-hard fans and so many people that care. I think it’s why it’s such a special place.”
Henson, a two-time honorable mention All-American with the Wildcats, wants the K-State job.
“It’s definitely my dream job,” said Henson, who played for K-State from 1986-90. “I just loved my four years there. I grew up a K-State fan. I’ve been passionate about K-State all my life. If there is an opportunity to get involved with this I would definitely jump at that opportunity.”
Henson has let the K-State administration know of his interest in the head-coaching vacancy, and Lon Kruger, the head coach of Oklahoma, actually spoke to K-State athletic director John Currie this week.
“I talked to John and basically said anything we can do to help we’re totally available,” Kruger told The Mercury on Wednesday. “We want to see a great guy in there. That’s the K-State alum speaking. I talked briefly with him about Steve, as well as some other people. But not in the way as lobbying so much but just to make sure they’re aware of Steve’s interest. And John was great. He was very receptive and very thoughtful about it.”
Henson, a McPherson native who played professional basketball from 1990-99, has been with Kruger for much of his coaching career. The former point guard played for Kruger for all four years of his K-State career, then joined the former K-State head coach in 1999 as an assistant at Illinois. Henson, who is in his first year at Oklahoma, has also been an assistant for Kruger in the NBA with the Atlanta Hawks before joining Kruger as an assistant at UNLV for seven seasons.
Kruger said there’s no question Henson is ready to be a head coach.
“He’s totally ready,” he said. “He’s got all the qualities. He’s terrific with the players, the fans, the boosters. Super organized, terrific basketball mind, and obviously just unbridled passion for Kansas State. His presence commands respect and attention from players. He was a terrific player, he played in the NBA. He knows the game inside and out and he works extremely hard.
“When you put all those qualities together and the fact that he’d be inheriting a good team, a school with great enthusiasm — what Frank has done there the last five years is restore the pride. I appreciate all that Frank did for that and I think Steve would be outstanding.”
Kruger said he would love for his assistant to get the job.
“I would totally, totally love that,” he said. “I can’t imagine anything better. Knowing the program would be in the hands of someone who has great passion and knows about K-Staters — the history of it. Steve is just like he was as a player, he’s a relentless worker.”
With a state-of-the-art basketball training facility on the way and a fan base that’s been re-energized under Martin, Henson believes the K-State job is an opportunity many coaches would love to have a shot at.
“I think the real positive, whether it’s me or whoever gets in there next, the program is in great shape right now,” Henson said. “There’s excitement, there’s buzz, they’ve got a lot of great players coming back. I think people around the country respect the way those guys play. They have had a real identity with their toughness and their defense. So I think all across the country for high-school aged kids, K-State is kind of a popular place right now.”
A popular place that Henson would love to coach at.
“I grew up a K-State fan,” he said. “I got that opportunity to compete in two sports there. I have such fond memories of it, I think it’s an unbelievable school, a great college town, just tons and tons of factors to add into it. Ultimately, I think it’s the people. K-State fans are the best fans in the world. They’re supportive, they’re loyal, they love their Cats. It’s just a special, special place.”