Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun
Wednesday, March 30, 2011 | 4:15 p.m.
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Las Vegas Sun reporters Ray Brewer, Ryan Greene and Case Keefer dissect the UNLV basketball team's season-ending loss to Illinois in the NCAA Tournament, and look ahead to next season. Also, the guys take an in-depth look at what needs to change and improve over the off-season and examine the all-important 2012 recruiting class.
In the first spins of the annual college hoops coaching carousel, a popular name was Lon Kruger, who just wrapped up his seventh season at UNLV.
According to sources within the UNLV athletic department, there will be an eighth.
Reports in Oklahoma City on Wednesday linked Kruger as the top candidate for the vacant Oklahoma job. However, the Sun has learned that after OU reached out to Kruger, he declined the opportunity to interview and will be at UNLV in the 2011-12 season.
It is the latest rejection by Kruger in a week that also included him saying no thanks to Utah and North Carolina State, who both put out feelers. Kruger and his staff are in Houston for both the Final Four and the annual coaches' convention.
Kruger has two years remaining on his contract at UNLV, and is entering the most crucial offseason he's had in a while. Not only are there developmental projects to be worked on with the current roster, but the staff has major work to do on the recruiting trail — especially locally — with at least four scholarships opening up after the 2011-12 season.
UNLV went 24-9 this season and advanced to the NCAA tournament for the fourth time in five years. They were bounced in ugly fashion in their opener by Illinois in Tulsa, Okla., falling in 73-62 fashion.
However, with another deep and talented group next season, there will be high regular season and postseason expectations for the Rebels.
In his seven seasons in Las Vegas, Kruger has stabilized a program that was on shaky ground for a long time before his arrival. He's 161-71 in that time and 479-304 in 25 overall seasons at five different stops.
This is the longest that Kruger has stayed in one place in his coaching career, with the previous mark being six years at Florida from 1990-96. The lack of appeal for taking over a once-powerful program such as Oklahoma is understandable, as Kruger, who will turn 59 in August, has a good thing going at UNLV, is the highest paid coach in the fledgling Mountain West Conference and has the full support of the school's athletic administration.