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WWJD 36: UNLV Keeps it In The Family With Kruger

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Sunday afternoon UNLV announced that they are hiring former Runnin’ Rebel and assistant Kevin Kruger as their new head coach.

 

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Photo Credit: UNLV Athletics

In a statement released by Director of Athletics Desiree Reed-Francois, UNLV made it official, tabbing Kruger as their 19th head coach in the program’s history.

Kruger will be formally introduced via a virtual press conference on Monday morning at 10 a.m.

As we methodically went through the interview process speaking to many strong candidates, Kevin impressed us with his vision, the depth and sophistication of his plan, and his enthusiasm,” Reed-Francois said. “He cares about student-athletes and helping them achieve their hopes and dreams. He has demonstrated integrity and consistent leadership, and his love for UNLV and our Las Vegas community is without question. He is a Rebel, has helped the program develop a strong foundation and has been preparing his entire life for this. I am proud that Kevin and his family will be with us for years to come.

With Kevin on the coaching staff, Oklahoma made multiple NCAA Tournament appearances. He was also an assistant coach at Northern Arizona for two seasons (2014-16) following a year as a graduate assistant at Oklahoma. Prior to making the move into coaching, Kevin played professionally from 2007-13.

I am excited that Kevin will serve as the new head coach for UNLV men’s basketball,” said UNLV President Dr. Keith E. Whitfield. “Kevin has demonstrated incredible knowledge, high integrity and preparation for this opportunity. I am enthused about the direction the athletics department is going under Desiree’s leadership and Kevin is the perfect person to lead our Runnin’ Rebel basketball team.”

During his first season on the coaching staff at UNLV in 2019-20, the Runnin’ Rebels tied for second place in the Mountain West under T.J. Otzelberger, marking the program’s best league finish in 12 years. The team also sent shockwaves through the college basketball world with its victory at fourth-ranked and previously undefeated San Diego State, posting the program’s best true road win since 1991 (a span of 29 seasons).

I couldn’t be happier and am so thankful to President Whitfield and Desiree for this incredible opportunity,” Kruger said. “I have proudly represented the UNLV men’s basketball program and to now have been chosen to lead it, I really am speechless. This is home for me and my family and I’m looking forward to continuing to work with the guys on our team. We will get after it and build on the foundation that has been set.

 

UNLV made a lot of fans and alumni happy by keeping it the family.

 

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Photo Credit: Forbes

Kevin Kruger began his collegiate playing career at Arizona State, where he earned his criminal justice degree in 2006 before transferring to UNLV. In his lone season as a Runnin’ Rebel student-athlete, UNLV won 30 games. He earned All-Mountain West Third Team honors and was named to the conference’s all-tournament team.

His father, Lon, coached the Runnin’ Rebels from 2004-2011 and made four NCAA Tournament appearances (2007, 2008, 2010, and 2011) and an NIT (2009). Some thought or suggested that Lon could possibly leave Oklahoma to come back for a few years and eventually turn the reigns over to Kevin, but Reed-Francois decided to pull the trigger now and get her man.

The reaction on social media was more positive than negative, but it did catch many people by surprise. Many thought it would take longer to find a coach considering Otzelberger just left on Wednesday for Iowa State. Fans also assumed that Reed-Francois would go outside of the UNLV family to get her next coach. Names like Jason Kidd, Mike Woodson, Porter Moser, and Rick Pitino were all mentioned by various reporters.

 

The truth is, no one knew who Reed-Francois was interested in and she didn’t leak any names to the media, per her usual routine when looking for a new head coach.

 

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Photo Credit: ESPN

Kruger shouldn’t be a surprise, though, or at least to those that read WWJD #35, where I described the type of head coach Reed-Francois customarily hires; he checks off all her boxes.

Kruger is a family man with high morals and a squeaky clean image. There hasn’t been any type of negative press or been in any type of trouble. According to sources I spoke to, this is important to her; it is actually her most important quality to look for. Kruger is also young; he will be 38 on May 1st. With the Otzelberger and with Marcus Arroyo hires, both coaches were 43 or younger. His philosophy on how to coach and get the best out of players is presumed to be in line with her way of thinking.

He is known to be a very good recruiter. This is big since UNLV has the top-rated class in the Mountain West coming in next season. According to sources I spoke with, keeping this class, Arthur Kaluma and Keshon Gilbert, was likely with Kruger staying on as head coach. The same source also told me that it is strongly considered by top point guard prospect RichardPop PopIssacs to reclassify and be a part of the 2021 class for Kruger, who would make it a priority to keep David Jenkins Jr. in scarlet and grey.

Lastly, it all comes down to money. Otzelberger was the highest-paid coach in the Mountain West last season; I don’t think that will be the case with Kruger, which helps UNLV’s athletic department’s financial issues. It is not yet known what Kruger will be making as of the writing of this article.

 

 

Kevin Kruger bleeds scarlet and grey. He wore the uniform as a player, put the blazer on as an assistant coach and now will call the shots for the Runnin Rebels. A coaches son who is now coaching at the same school his father once roamed the sidelines, folling in his father’s footsteps. Runnin’ Rebels fans will be filling the Thomas and Mack Center, hoping for the same success his father had when he was running the show.

 

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-Joe Arrigo – Franchise Sports Media

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