If everyone else has a thought on Kruger leaving, I might as well too.
There are two factions when it comes to Lon Kruger in general - let’s evaluate each.
In one corner, you have your new generation of UNLV fans - those born in the mid to late 80’s onward, who are currently or have recently graduated from college, maybe working in the industry. Given that the Las Vegas sports scene is at a sports book rather than an actual stadium, having a successful Rebels team has re-energized fans’ love for the team. Many were able to actually read up on the tremendous success in the late 80’s and early 90’s, but weren’t really around to witness it. In that respect, Kruger did the best he could in rebuilding a program that for the last decade had been struggling.
On the other side, you have your old timers, who were around for the Tark era, who remember the parades and the packed LV Convention Center for games against Navy and UNC. These individuals had unbelievable expectations for a coach that had to essentially rebuild a program from scratch.
The problem with #1 is that it allowed Coach K to be complacent, and choose a lucrative contract and financial security over a daunting recruitment class and highly anticipating season.
The problem with #2 is that those impossible expectations of another national championship is likely what worried Coach K about this next upcoming season, and chose a lucrative contract in a major conference over having to answer for why a mid-major cannot always win a national title year in and year out.
There are certainly other factors, many of which we may never know. We do know that UNLV is facing tons of budget cuts, and we certainly couldn’t risk paying $2 million a year long term for a coach that has to reach impossible expectations that couldn’t justify $2 million compared to that of a huge Athletic Department like OU.
In the end, Kruger followed his instincts, and he’s going home.
Just as when Tark left us for a short time, we felt “shocked”, as many recruits and players currently do. Many years later, we named our homecourt after him. When this is all said and done, I’m sure both Barbara and Lon will come back to their multi-million dollar home in Southern Highlands and once again call Vegas home. Rightfully so.
Regardless of how you grade Coach Kruger, we can say that without him, UNLV basketball would not be where it is again today.
So we look to the future, and we look past money, financial securities, and we focus on who loves the game of basketball. Who loves the scarlet and gray. There are those out there who would love nothing more than to lead a group of extremely talented young men, recruit from a very talent Vegas area, and continue to establish a strong community presence. Give them a chance - they could very well be the fuel to more continued success.
Thanks for the memories, Coach. The new training facility and stadium will be here when you come back to get your assed kicked by the home team. ;)