Kevin will be the second Kruger and the 19th head coach in UNLV history. He also will be the 6th Rebel head coach in 10 years.
Kruger will be one of the youngest head coaches in the country at 37 years of age.
UNLV keeps it in the family
On Sunday Evening Kevin Kruger received a phone call, on the other end of the phone was UNLV’S athletic director Desiree Reed-Francois. During that conversation, an offer was extended to the 37-year-old to be the new head man at UNLV, a program that in 2007, Kruger guided to the team’s first NCAA tournament wins since 1991.
Taking a team coached by his father to the Sweet Sixteen. Many Rebel fans remember Kruger transferring to Las Vegas from Arizona State and teaming up with Wink Adams and Wendell White to create some NCAA tournament magic that had not been seen in the years since Jerry Tarkanian was forced out. There are mixed reviews of how this hire will fare for UNLV so it’s good to look at it from both sides.
Kruger had previously been an assistant at Northern Arizona in 2014-15 and under his father and ex UNLV head coach Lon’s staff at Oklahoma for 3 seasons from 2016-2019, including their Final Four run in 2016 before joining TJ Otzelberger’s staff as an assistant in 2019.
Kruger loves Las Vegas and calls UNLV home.
“This is home for me and my family,” Kruger said. “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.”
“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,” UNLV athletic director Desiree Reed-Francois said in a statement.
FIRST TIME FOR EVERYTHING
Yes, as many by now are aware, Kevin Kruger has never been a head coach. With that being said, it isn’t the worst thing in the world for a program that has won 1 NCAA tournament game since he left after the 2007 season. Juwan Howard has taken his Michigan team to the NCAA tournament in his first year as a head coach at his Alma Mater. It’s an example worth remembering, if Kevin is anything like his father, there could be some special things in store for Las Vegas and the Rebel program.
The exact reason why it could be magic in a bottle is the same reason why it could go sour for UNLV in a few year’s time. Look, Kevin Kruger has never been the sole person responsible for running a collegiate program. So its going to be important to hire and keep a staff that can guide him to doing the best things possible program wise.
Not to mention some mentoring from his father Lon, who just bought a retirement house in Las Vegas not to long ago. Kevin does have some first-hand knowledge on what it takes to be apart of a winning program through the ups and downs of a season while being on Lon Kruger’s staff at Oklahoma for 3 seasons including their Final Four run in Kevin’s first year in Norman in 2016.
A very important job now for the new Rebel coach will be to keep as many of the current roster players together that he can, while still being able to add those two class of 2020 recruits to the mix. There are plenty of transfers out there, so Kevin Kruger will definitely need to hit the ground running in working towards building his team for his first season as coach in less than eight months from now.
This hire happened about 80 hours after TJ Otzelberger jetted off to Ames, Iowa to be the new head coach at Iowa State. Something else to wonder would be, did Desiree Reed-Francois settle?
It was reported by multiple news outlets including the Las Vegas Review-Journal and the Las Vegas Sun that UNLV was interested in Randy Bennett, the head coach at St Marys and Jason Kidd, who is an assistant coach with the Los Angeles Lakers. However, Reed-Francois decided to extend the head coaching job to Kevin Kruger, who is brand new to the coaching realms. Was this job not as desired by those individuals as reported or did the athletic director only wanted Kevin Kruger? Only time will tell.
Jayson Williams covers UNLV basketball for the Mountain West Wire and Co-hosts “The Vegas Fever Podcast ”