Friday, March 19, 2004 | 9:22 a.m.
By a vote of 10-1, with two abstentions, the Nevada Board of Regents approved new UNLV basketball coach Lon Kruger's five-year contract early Thursday night.
The $3.8-million pact came up for discussion late in the session, as Item No. 45. After 50 minutes of discussion, and questions for Rebels athletic director Mike Hamrick and Kruger, by the board, a vote was called for and swiftly passed.
Only Regent Linda Howard voted against the contract, and she grilled Hamrick with a series of vague questions about his hiring procedure. Howard even asked Hamrick for an apology.
"You don't have to apologize right now," Howard said, before Hamrick could answer. Then she said the apology should come from Dr. Carol Harter, UNLV's president, but said that it could come at a later date.
She drilled Kruger with a series of questions, too, sometimes repeating herself, about the graduation track record of his players, recruiting background, style of play and willingness to raise funds.
Kruger handled each inquiry deftly. Howard's line of questioning was ultimately dismissed as inappropriate by chairman Stavros Anthony.
It had been speculated by at least one Regent that Kruger's approval might be delayed, but the Rebels' new coach was mostly met with widespread congratulations and pats on the back.
"You got a steal," one Regent told Hamrick, "an absolute steal."
Kruger, 51, has one year left on a guaranteed five-year, $10-million contract he signed with the Atlanta Hawks. Fifteen months ago, the Hawks fired him, and he confirmed that the Hawks will only be responsible for almost $1.3 million in 2004-05.
Atlanta is responsible for that $2-million payment, minus what another team or school will pay him. Kruger will earn $709,500, as reported in Thursday's Sun, in his first season as UNLV's coach, which escalates to $827,000 in his fifth and final season.
After Thursday's meeting at the Nevada Research Institute, immediately north of the UNLV campus, Kruger thanked Harter and Hamrick for pursuing him and for their professionalism. He also said the culmination of the process Thursday was fine.
"People will always have their opinions," Kruger said. "That will always be the case, and there's nothing at all wrong with that."
He said he couldn't wait to get going.
"Very much so," Kruger said. "We'll hit the recruiting trail tonight, and beyond that, for three or four days. We have to be off the road Monday, so we need to get out there and start making contacts."
Kruger said Monday that he will work off the list of prospects that recruiting coordinator Deane Martin, who has spent most of the week evaluating four UNLV prospects at a junior college tournament in Kansas, has compiled for months.
The Rebels have two scholarships available to cap its next recruiting class, and one Regent said Thursday that Kruger will be wise to use them for a 6-foot-11 player and a 7-footer.