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Kruger promoted from assistant to new head coach of Runnin’ Rebels

The coaching search lasted roughly 80 hours and 45 minutes as UNLV has hired it’s next head coach for it’s men’s basketball team.

Former player and assistant coach, Kevin Kruger, will be the head coach for the Runnin’ Rebels starting next season.

“I couldn’t be happier and am so thankful to President [Dr. Kevin] Whitfield and [Athletic Director] Desiree [Reed-Francois] for this incredible opportunity,” he said. “I have proudly represented the UNLV men’s basketball program and to now have been chosen to lead it, I really am speechless.”

Athletic Director Desiree Reed-Francois moved quickly on the decision citing the school’s search for a coach with “character.”

“As we methodically went through the interview process speaking to many strong candidates, Kevin impressed us with his vision,” she said. “He cares about student-athletes and helping them achieve their hopes and dreams. He has demonstrated the integrity and consistent leadership and his love for UNLV and our Las Vegas community is without question.

“He is a Rebel, [he] 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.”

Kruger becomes the fourth head coach in the last seven years and the 14th in the last 29 years, since Jerry Tarkanian coached his last game at UNLV.

Taking the job means taking over for the recently departed TJ Otzelberger, who left for Iowa State last week.

Over the last two seasons, Kruger served as an assistant to Otzelberger.

During the press conference, he cited a need to get closer to the community and has expressed the intention to host open practices for the team in the future.

Plenty of questions surround this program heading into next season, many of which having to do with potential roster turnover yet again.

Forward Cheikh Mbacke Diong is the team’s lone senior and has not yet indicated whether he will return as a fifth-year senior.

Team leading scorer Bryce Hamilton was asked about his plans for the future following the team’s loss to Utah State in the quarterfinals of the Mountain West Tournament.

As expected, he said he would need time to reflect before making a decision.

In addition, more questions loom about guards David Jenkins Jr. and Caleb Grill, who both have an extensive history with former head coach Otzelberger.

“This is home for me and my family and I am looking forward to continuing to work with the guys on our team,” Kruger said. “We will get after it and build on the foundation that has been set.”

Kevin is the son of Oklahoma head coach Lon, who coached the Runnin’ Rebels from 2004-11.

“Growing up the son of a coach, by looking at my parents I knew by the example they had set that being a college basketball coach was something that I always dreamed of doing,” he said. “Moving over to the coaching world was I think a natural progression.”

Kevin played for his dad during the 2006-07 season after three years at Arizona State.

That 2007 UNLV team made the NCAA Tournament and got to the Sweet Sixteen before being eliminated by the Oregon Ducks.

As a pro, Kevin played overseas in Bulgaria, Italy, China, Mexico, Belgium and Germany along with two stops in the NBA’s renamed G-League.

Before coming to UNLV as an assistant he previously had stops in Oklahoma with his dad and Northern Arizona prior to that.

It’s the first head coaching job for the 37-year-old Kruger.

Kevin signed a 5-year, $3.85 million contract, a far cry from Otzelberger’s 5-year, $6.5 million deal in 2019.

However, Kruger’s new deal is $100,000 more than that of former head coach Marvin Menzies, who previously held two head coaching positions before coming to UNLV.


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