REBELS BASKETBALL:

Kruger says no thanks to Oklahoma interview request, staying at UNLV

Rebels coach has also rejected feelers put out by Utah, N.C. State; Plans on being back for eighth season in Las Vegas

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Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun

UNLV head coach Lon Kruger talks to his players during a time out in their game against Illinois in the second round of the NCAA basketball championships Friday, March 18, 2011, at the BOK Center in Tulsa. Illinois won the game 73-62.

The Rebel Room

The Postseason Edition

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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.

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With the 2010-11 season now officially in the books, what grade would you give the Rebels for the season?

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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.

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Previous Discussion: 31 comments so far…

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  1. Glad you're staying with us, coach!

  2. I look forward to another 20 win season and not winning our conference. Getting another 8 seed and being bounced on the first day. Seeing players playing our of position. Another year of the 3 headed monster at center. The slowest, anemic offense imaginable. A gimmick defense that is easily broken once you study for it or have actual athletes to break it with. Seeing homegrown talent go to other schools. Enjoy life at Duke or NC Shabazz.

  3. Interesting. Football with all of it's highly paid coaches and managers should be cut FIRST from UNLV before any instructional education programs. This tells me the cuts will be in the wrong places and put sports above a real education.

  4. Need a 6'10 shot blocker....now......questionable criminal background ok........willing to get a suspension for fighting type( Moses scurry/David Butler/Joel Anthony/George ackles/........come on guys..........a shot blocker for next year would cinch the season.......we had edeffe and the kid from Africa...Beas or something...and got rid of both....what gives!

  5. I think Kruger has taken the program as far as he can go, problem is no one is out there that is really better than him, thats available anyways.

  6. wrigleyn8 - you should probably go find a new team then

    RealityReb - they sucked AND had attitudes

  7. Next year should be a very telling year. Can Coach Kruger adjust and get a more high powered and successful offense, and can he bring better overall talent to UNLV to take the program beyond where it has been the last 4 years? I appreciate everything he has done but now we want more. Can Coach deliver? No more Walking Rebels!

  8. Here is your Hamga Paul. 0.5 points a game as a junior. www.sports.espn.go.com/ncb/player/profil...

  9. Glad to hear Kruger staying, and UNLV and the community should be proud to have him. I listened to the ESPn radio show today that you tweeted out Ryan, and the guys were just as supportive and know Kruger is great, and people have to be realistic in that not many other coaches can come to UNLV. Kruger knows his stuff, has done great things at UNLV, does tons of community support, and has a clean program.

  10. I have followed the comments all year long. I am a devout Rebel fan. One thing I have not heard all year long is the loss of our 2 three point shooters. When you lose Shaw and Wallace that is a hugh difference. I do not know what those 2 accounted for in points during the last 2 seasons, but I am sure it was a few. Enough to at least open other people up for shots and spread an opposing teams defense to open up our offense. Let Coach K have at least a couple more years. At least he has put a lot of respect back in the program.

  11. I can understand not wanting to go to Utah, as it seems to be a lesser move. Not wanting to talk to Oklahoma or even NC State, is he looking at UNLV as a job that he wants to retire at? I am curious about his end game by turning these jobs down for interviewing.

    If he is wanting to take the program to the next level, he is standing in a position to own the conference with graduations at SDSU, BYU leaving and Utah not in the mix. He really could use a shake up on his staff at the very least. High School high profile recruits are not being landed. He has not been able to get a major big man and seems to be the home for every kid that wants to transfer out. Taking kids from UCLA, Marquette, Memphis and Kansas - if these kids were key players they would not have left their programs. UNLV needs leadership on the court with too many individuals. Without his Son, we have not seen a leader from these transfers.

    If he wants to retire at UNLV - fine, we just want more from this program. If he wants to only go to a big time program, he will have a great winning percentage with little hardware to show. Just as important, he wont have NBA draft choices to boast about from his UNLV days.

    Wonder if by going public about turning down these interview offers, he is telling Jim Livengood to keep his nose out of their program. Jim does need to press about making changes, Lon seems to be setting early stage in a very subtle power trip.

  12. Kruger is doing great things here. 3 straight NCAA appearances is a step in the right direction after the moribund Bayno/Spoonhour eras. Combine that with the new Mendenhall Practice facility being built and I think the future looks bright.

    I would like to see Kruger land more high school talent as well but blue chip talent needs to see some success first and UNLV is slowly building a culture of success back that the NCAA ripped away from the program.

  13. That's exactly what it is KIRKLAND. Kruger sees this job as a country club resort that he wants to retire at. He thinks here that there won't be the pressure to recruit and make deep tournament runs, as there would be at BCS Conference schools. Kruger is here to collect a check and just be happy to get to the tournament. That's the goal every year and until the majority of the Rebel fans wake up and smell the coffee that's what it's always going to be with Kruger.

  14. Kruger is the best thing for unlv since sliced bread. And Tark is the sliced bread. It took 18 years for Tark to build a championship team so I'm given Kruger at least ten years to show us he's on track. Krugers the best.

  15. i think Coach Kruger has done a great job? What's with all the hate? He is also a highly respected coach, his players graduate, and they have winning records. AND they have been going to the NCAA tournament on a consistent basis. Those are not signs of bad coaching. People need to get out of living in the past or "tark" days. Those days are long over and highly unlikely that they will return.

  16. Judy- Did you get your articles mixed up?? I didn't read anything about budget cuts or the football coaches pay. Don't get it-please stick to the topic.

    I'm looking forward to many more seasons with Lon. Lon has done a lot for UNLV and for the state. Thanks Kruger!

  17. Go Rebels! This is great news.

  18. I concur: Great news! Thanks, Coach.

  19. Canes-
    How'd your Hoyas end up doing in the tourney this year?

  20. This could turn out be a sound decision for UNLV. I applaud Coach K for wanting to stay on board, and possibly turning down a more lucrative financial offer to a school that not necessarily a bigger program (come on UNLV, has much better round ball heritage).

  21. Great news! Lon Kruger is a great coach all around-not just on the court but in the community. He's mentioned before that this city is also great for his family. Like many of us, he enjoys the fact that Las Vegas serves as an attraction for extended family members to come visit his immediate family more often. I think that in a time when Las Vegas is at the top of every "bad list" survey, Lon Kruger is a breath of fresh air. We are lucky to have him. I'm glad he's taken such a strong liking to our city. I also don't think that any of the teams courting him are a step up from UNLV, so why should he leave?

    If Lon Kruger does decide to leave, I think it would be pretty difficult to find a replacement. Unfortunately, not too many people think highly of this town, and I can't imagine UNLV could offer much money to a top name. I think we need to do whatever we can to make sure Lon Kruger stays here. I understand that there are haters out there. You have every right to your own opinion. That's fine. But are there any realistic replacements for him?

  22. People can be satisfied that his teams have gone to the tourney. The comment that he turned down jobs due to UNLV having a better round ball heritage. With that heritage, it should come with equal expectations. Winning a game in the tourney should be one of them. With the facilities, getting kids who the NBA wants to draft goes along with it. NC State has won the same amount of national titles as UNLV and could say that they have a program that has been about going deep into the NCAA Tourney. Billy Tubbs had teams reaching the Final 4 as well and Blake Griffin took the Sooners deep into the tourney as well only a couple of years ago for Oklahoma.

    It is great to have a Coach that other programs would want. With these facilities and with the support of boosters, a top ranked prep school only minutes away and a conference that should be yours for the taking - Kruger has assets.

    However when national commentators are talking about the "walking Rebels", announcing a Vegas kids name playing for a SDSU or Kansas something is not firing on all cylinders. This is a really nice media market. Livengood has this program as his bread winner funding the majority of his other programs. How can he walk in to Lon to ask about changes when Lon says that other schools want him no questions asked? Puts Jim in his place a bit.

    The heritage is about playing up tempo basketball which is fun for fans and allows players to reach the NBA. UNLV is not Wisconsin hoops.

    Take a look at what is happening with UNLV baseball in year one. Votes in the AP Top 25 for a program in it's first year with Chambers? Attitude change has done a world of good and that is really exciting. Lon has secured the program, so what is the next step all want him to succeed. If he plans on retiring in this job, he just needs to reach the heritage's expectation - NBA players, exciting basketball and winning games in the tourney. Fans are waiting for that next level and to pass on programs that have also been able to produce results makes you wonder what is his perfect job?

  23. It is truly amazing reading some of these comments how the fan base has changed over the years. We use to have a fan base that was as passionate, intelligent (and regarding this particular topic) as results driven as ANY in the country.

    Call it apathy, call it whatever, but over the years the mentality of the fan base has eroded to the point where any morsel of success is celebrated like it was 77, 87, 90 or 91. Hard for me to believe the level of expectations surrounding UNLV men's basketball has sunk to this level.

    How much more time should this guy receive? The program's motto should be, "the program of next season", because that is all most fans of the program ever talk about. Then next season comes with people touting high expectations only to finish 3rd or 4th in conference, receive a 7-10 seed and almost never get out of the first weekend of the NCAA tournament (and this year serve as the tourney punch line).

    Even worse the same problems with coaching strategy and pedestrian recruiting occur year after year. But I'm sure a contract extension will "rejuvenate" Lon (insert eye roll). Have to revert back to the old saying "those who don't learn from history are doomed to repeat it" as unfortunately our AD and some of our fans can't seem to learn from Lon's experiences at Kansas State, Illinois and Florida.

    Years ago a coach of this program with the results of Lon's; no regular season conference title, no post season title in a couple of years now, no NBA draft picks and probably most importantly declining NCAA results, would have led to his departure...after the 09-10 season. Now there is talk of a contract extension.

    All I can say is we need to find those "Buckle up..." t-shirts the players wore for the safe driving campaign back in 91 because I have a bad feeling this is going to be a rather long arduous ride over the next few years. Hopefully Lon and his "well earned" extension will prove me wrong.

  24. When your own website takes a dump because it's nothing but a place for clueless know-it-alls to complain about everything in prep sports, I guess it's time to get on the Sun and continue to claim to be an expert.

    Anyone who thinks that Lon Kruger is not good for UNLV and hasn't done a great job here is nothing but a sour person who isn't happy unless they have something to complain about.

    To state that Tim Chambers is someone that Lon Kruger should aspire to is backwards. Coach Chambers is a good guy and was a good hire for UNLV. He's lucky to have someone like Kruger around to learn from.

    How's that 1-5 Mountain West record looking in baseball. Let's not annoint Coach Chambers King just yet.

  25. There is only one guy I would take as a replacement for Lon Kruger, and his name is Reggie Theus. Former player, very good recruiter, head coaching success (albeit at New Mexico State), teams play an uptempo style, and NBA experience.

    Not only that but you'd have to think he has some interest in coaching at his alma mater.

  26. Lou Lalli is right on in my opinion. You can call me a Kruger apologist if you like, but it is unquestionable that Shaw, Wallace and a healthy Willis would have made an enormous difference and the MWC may have had three top ten teams this year. Kruger had the pieces in place for a landmark team but it crapped out on him before the season even began. He can recruit and get the pieces together. When you factor all he had going against him, this this may have been Kruger's finest year at UNLV. Is he the greatest coach in the universe? Maybe not but he has been great for the program and I'm glad he's staying.

  27. I'd like for everyone to keep in mind that 1990 was over 20 years ago, and that the high schoolers looking at UNLV were not even born yet. The lean years were too long after Tark to sufficiently build up recruiting efforts, and we are finally seeing progression with Kruger. It takes time people. Even the naysayers coming out finally shows that they are interested in the program. Please, keep posting and coming to games. The game is also not what it was in the 90's. Players are different, bigger, faster. I invite all of you to watch 90's basketball vs. today's basketball. It has evolved into something foreign but with the same rules of the game.

  28. Ryan, ever do a survey regarding for or against Kruger? I have to admit that I don't pay a lot of attention to the internet polls. I just think that usually "haters" post more than the "non-haters," so I'd like to know how many people out there actually unhappy with Lon Kruger and want to see him leave.

  29. I have set and watched all the negative Coach Kruger remarks since Illinois did a number on us. I kept wondering where did all these squirrels come from? Were all the haters living in a cave from the 1980's to when Kruger arrived? Do any of the squirrels remember Lloyd Daniels and his drug bust? Ritchie and the Hot Tub? The idiot who threw his drink back through the fast food drive-in window? Tark put some great teams on the floor but he also brought some real animals to the school. Coach Kruger has been a fantastic addition to UNLV. What he and his family and coaches have done for the program and community is tremendous! Oh, and btw, I figure you haters had to come from SoCal where you did your previous work at UCLA. The earthquakes have stopped. You can move back now!

  30. I think its good to have high expectations but to deny the fact that Kruger has elevated the program...given its inherited handicaps (ie two NCAA sanctions in a 12yr period courtesy of Tark & Bayno, increased scrutiny, and a TERRIBLE no exposure TV deal) is to deny reality. Plus he is the man most responsible for the reuniting of the Tark teams with the school after the powers that be sent them adrift & cut those ties. We had "tradition" in memory only until Kruger did that. Now its real and viable...hence the high expectations. And Tark fully supports Kruger so thats good enough for me.

    Four trips to the Tourney in the last 5 yrs is good but we do HAVE TO win games there too so I understand the frustration. But we've also been pretty consistent in terms of being a fixture at the top of the league (and the MWC has improved dramatically) under Kruger whereas Utah recently and BYU/SDSU next yr will be gutted by graduation. That hasnt happened to us & there has been an overall above avg quality & stability recently. I agree that there is another level of talent we havent been able to tap into to get us to the elite level....but imo, thats more 2nd rate facilities & a heinous TV deal than it is Kruger or his staff. The new practice facility will be HUGE & if we can get out of the MTN Network deal and get some some national exposure...I think the foundation is now in place for a long term presence at the elite level. Thus, I'm not inclined to support removing the man who set this all in motion & put us in position to have expectations again. I'm glad he's staying but I will also admit....the clock is ticking.