UNLV Athletics announced Sunday evening that Runnin’ Rebels assistant coach Kevin Kruger was being promoted to head coach. He was formally introduced Monday morning.
“We sought a coach of character, who had demonstrated true caring for student-athletes. We sought a coach who understood basketball at the highest levels and who could lead our team to conference titles and deep runs in the NCAA tournament,” Desiree Reed-Fracois said. “We found that coach.”
“Having watched Kevin Kruger up close for the last few years, I am confident that he embodies what we need right now for running basketball.”
Former head coach T.J. Otzelberger left last week to take the head coaching job at Iowa State, leaving the Runnin’ Rebels with an opening for Kruger to confidently step into.
This will be Kruger’s first job as a head coach, but he has plenty of experience under his belt. He spent the past two seasons as an assistant coach under Otzelberger at UNLV, and before that he was an assistant under his father, Lon Kruger, at Oklahoma for three seasons. His first assistant coaching job was at Northern Arizona, following a six-year professional playing career in the United States and overseas.
“This is something I’ve always wanted to do. Growing up the son of a coach, I knew that by the example they set that being a college basketball coach was something I always dreamed of doing,” Kruger said. “Playing first, and for as long as I could was the goal and I feel like if I accomplished that and did that moving over to the coaching world was a natural progression to stay with the game.”
In his college playing days, Kruger spent four seasons at Arizona State, before becoming the first player in history to use the transfer portal to play one season for his father’s team at UNLV. He averaged 13.5 points and 5.1 assists in his Rebel season, helping lead the team to the Sweet 16 in the 2007 NCAA Tournament.
“I don’t know if there’s one specific moment you wake up and think ‘okay I can do this’,” Kruger said, “but I’m extremely confident that my experiences as a coach and a player for six years after college- combined with the five years in college have prepared me for this.”
Kruger hopes to pick up where his father left off, and carry UNLV to another NCAA tournament, which hasn’t been done since Lon Kruger left in 2011. He plans to sit down with current players individually, as they decide whether they will return next season. Kruger says he looks forward to getting on the court with the Runnin’ Rebels, as they prepare for the Fall.
“This is not a stepping stone for me,” Kruger said at Monday’s press conference. “I don’t see, five or ten years in the future, being anywhere else. Not only UNLV, but the city of Las Vegas, has a special place in my heart.”