UNLV Basketball:

Kruger hoping his team will play with grit

If the Rebels show more hustle, they’ll be spared their coach baring his teeth


  • 2004-05 — 17-14
  • 2005-06 — 17-13
  • 2006-07 — 30-7
  • 2007-08 — 27-8
  • 2008-09 — 21-11
  • Overall — 112-53


  • What: UNLV vs. Pittsburg State
  • When: 7 p.m. Saturday
  • 2006-07 — 30-7
  • Where: Thomas & Mack Center
  • Tickets: $8-$28; unlvtickets.com

UNLV basketball coach Lon Kruger knew Super Bowl Sunday was the pivotal point of last season.

His players bolted from the Thomas & Mack Center to watch the big game. The previous night, they won at Air Force by 21 points to boost their record to 17-4.

Fool’s gold, Kruger thought. They weren’t fully vested in the defensive side of the ball. They weren’t committed. There wasn’t conviction. Kruger knew they would pay.

He gritted his teeth at a writer inside the near-empty arena. We have to fight, he implored … the way he did when he played at Kansas State.

It was a rare flash of emotion from a coach who prides himself on stability, on never being too high or too low, because he sets the example.

And it was pinpoint accurate, because the Rebels went 4-7 the rest of the way to finish a season full of expectations — UNLV had played in five NCAA tournament games in the previous two years — with a resounding thud.

Between bites of a pepperoni and sausage pizza recently, with his usual water at his side, Kruger reflected on the bitter taste of last season and his Super Bowl grit.

“We just never quite had that edge,” he said. “I don’t take pride in that. It’s my job to help them overcome that and we didn’t do that. We expected it to happen and that’s not the way it works.

“We learned that lesson the hard way.”

A defeat at Kentucky in the opening round of the National Invitation Tournament capped the season of ignominious losses.

Early on, the Rebels lost to California and Cincinnati in the Global Sports Classic. It was the first time since January 1981 that UNLV had lost at home on consecutive days.

Toward the end of the regular season, the Rebels didn’t even register 50 points in back-to-back games (a win and a loss) for the first time since the first season of the program, in 1958-59.

And just two days after Kruger bared his teeth at the arena, the Rebels lost at home to San Diego State, then at New Mexico, in overtime; the first time UNLV had dropped consecutive OT games.

The preseason plan was to run a more traditional system with an emphasis on interior play, but newcomers Brice Massamba and Darris Santee faded. Again, Joe Darger was left to defend the post.

With some new faces and a new focus, Kruger, 57, is hopeful about his sixth season at UNLV, which starts Saturday night against Pittsburg State at the Thomas & Mack.

“I think this group truly excites him,” said a close associate of Kruger’s.

If Tuesday’s exhibition victory over Washburn is any indication, transfers Derrick Jasper (Kentucky) and Chace Stanback (UCLA) will be the rudders.

With a host of returnees, led by Tre'Von Willis and Oscar Bellfield, and newcomers Anthony Marshall and Justin Hawkins, Kruger envisions a deep team that, he said, will get after it.

“The most important thing is the readiness, the focus … totally throwing yourself into every possession and being totally oblivious to anything else but getting that result,” Kruger said. “When a player does that, it stands out.”

A low-post game would help, and Massamba, Santee and Matt Shaw, off a redshirt season after knee surgery, will have to produce, at least by committee, in the paint.

“We haven’t rebounded the ball well the last couple of seasons,” Kruger said. “That’s an area of concern. Will this group take that on as a challenge, go overboard and do a really good job? You don’t know how they’ll react.”

As bad as some of last season’s pockmarks were, fans still supported the Rebels. Their average Mack attendance of 13,446 was the second-highest in 17 seasons and it was their first figure above 13,000 since 1998-99. It’s probably no coincidence that Kruger took over part of the marketing of his team last season.

The crowd of 18,523 that packed the Mack for the 75-74 victory over BYU was impressive, but none of those people will ever see The Grit.

Former UNLV swingman Curtis Terry knows all about Kruger gritting his teeth.

That means something isn’t right.

“I’ve seen that face,” said Terry, in a serious tone, before he left for Africa to play for a team in Angola.

Kevin Kruger might have seen it more than anyone else on the planet. Lon’s only son left Arizona State, under an obscure rule that only lasted a year, to lead UNLV to the Sweet 16 in 2007.

“That’s when you know he’s mad,” Kevin Kruger said before he left for Europe and a team in Naples, Italy. “He grits his teeth when he’s mad.” Rebels assistant coach Steve Henson hasn’t played for Kruger in 19 years, at Kansas State, but he is quickly transported to those days when he sees The Grit.

“When I see that look now, it gets me fired up in some cases and angry in other cases,” Henson said. “Some coaches yell, holler and throw a fit. He just has a look that gets your attention.”

If this season’s Rebels don’t see that expression, they’re doing just fine.

Join the Discussion:

Check this out for a full explanation of our conversion to the LiveFyre commenting system and instructions on how to sign up for an account.

Full comments policy

Previous Discussion: 81 comments so far…

Comments are moderated by Las Vegas Sun editors. Our goal is not to limit the discussion, but rather to elevate it. Comments should be relevant and contain no abusive language. Comments that are off-topic, vulgar, profane or include personal attacks will be removed. Full comments policy.

  1. Coach Kruger needs to start showing that same sort of fight and grit on the RECRUTING TRAIL! Maybe if he recruits some studs with NBA potential Kruger won't have such a bitter taste in his mouth and fans won't be subjected to watching mediocre CBI/NIT type basketball at only 50 points a game.

    Show some fire when you go out and recruit Kruger. Don't just rely on the neighborhood Findlay facility throwing you a leftover or two. Go out and get some SUPERSTARS that UNLV deserves! Work for once in your life and put the golf clubs away until we win a National Championship.

    Lazy players come from lazy recruiting.

  2. Sufferin does have a bit of a point here. I dont think Kruger is a lazy recruiter but he has never been a guy that goes out and gets top flight talent. Mitch Richmond and Andrew Declerq are the only players that I know of that Kruger has recruited that have had lengthy NBA careers(hopefully we can add Joel Anthony to this list someday). Louis Amundson was a Spoonhour recruit and other players like Frank Williams and Corey Bradford were in and out of the NBA quickly. I am not sure that Coach wants to try for the elite recruits. He may be one that likes program guys that will fit in and stay for four years(I dont believe anyone has declared hardship yet at UNLV under Kruger). After the 30-7 sweet sixteen season I must admit I too have been less than impressed with some of his choices (Adeife, Roberson, Lawrence, Rutledge, Hamga, Cage, Santee, Mitchell etc). I thought he could have done a better job capitalizing on that notoriety. Hopefully this years batch is an upgrade in this department but time will tell. I do yearn for the days when 80-90 point games are again the norm. Not sure this will happen but I can still hope. Runnin' Rebels!

  3. gumby,

    you are dead wrong here.... lawrence was a 4 star local recruit... and if you saw him play at gorman then you know he was a stud in HS. he just didnt pan out. hamga was a 5 star recruit and the 4th best center in the nation, you cant tell me you didnt like him signing here when it happened. rutledge averaged 30+ points a game as a soph at JC and shot the lights out... like 45% or something. mitchell is an awsome PLAYER... he just doesnt have his head on straight.

  4. How am I dead wrong? Show me all players that Kruger has recruited that are in the NBA. He has been coaching for almost 30 years at big time programs like K-State, Illinois, Florida and UNLV and he has 3 NBA players????? Rutledge may have scored 30 a game in juco how many did he average here? Why was such a stud's only other offers from Bradley and LBSU? Hamga may have been a five star recruit but how did he not even beat out Santee and Massamba? BTW try to find his name on a college roster now. Lawrence may have been star recruit but why is he in the WAC? If he was such a star why did he not transfer to a big time program after leaving UNLV? If Mitchell was such an awesome player why was he burried on the bench on a 21-11 NIT team and why is he at Rider???? You are proving my point for me. I think Coach Kruger is a terrific guy but let's face it his recruiting has been less than successful. I sincerely hope that Marshall, Hawkins, Lopez and the transfers make for a great recruiting class and all have long pro careers. I will be the first to admit I was wrong. But let's see what happens.

  5. Sometimes Sufferin' speaks the ugly, unfortunate truth...

  6. gumby everything you are saying is post recruit. anyone can turn out to be a flop.

    you guys are stating that he doesnt go after "elite RECRUITS". that is not true.
    when he was RECRUITING these guys they were top recruits. mitchell was not on the bench because of his skills. ask rob, he talks to kruger and im sure that question was brought up about mitchell..... so Rob, why didnt mitchell start??

    i know it was because of his attitude and effort in practice. not think... not guessing.. i KNOW that was the reason.

  7. Prior the to 2006-07 season, if you would have told us the next three seasons would have included five games in the NCAA tournament and 78 wins, Rebels fans would have taken it and ran away laughing. After 15 years of slipping into mediocrity, Kruger has helped to build this program into one that matters again. Amazing how quickly we get spoiled.

    The next stage is coming. Getting talent like Bellfield, Marshall, Hawkins and Lopez came from the success in the tournament. Too many of us Rebel fans live way in the past. Recruits don't view us as big, bad UNLV. That was gone by 2000 already. High school kids now were not even born in 1990. UNLV just came on their radar again in 2007. And that new level of talent, and hopefully the reality of a practice facility some have mentioned, will lead to even better recruits.

    One of the best things Kruger has done is reached out to the past. It seems as though he is trying to recreate that sense that this was once a premier program and that it can be again. (Sure this is for recruiting.) A lot of us long time fans appreciate what he has done in that area. It is long overdue and it was great to see the guys earlier this week. The gala on Monday night was a special evening for many of us longtime fans and we felt proud that our program was back together.

    As I have said on here before, it is fun to be a Runnin' Rebel basketball fan again.

  8. Mitchell was not an elite recruit if that is your argument. Most services did not even rank him because they had not seen him play. He was supposedly an "under the radar" guy. A steal. He had elite atleticism but very little skill. He was lucky to draw iron from 15 feet. Kruger did not play him because he could not play. That is why he transfered to Rider. I never saw UConn or any other Big East School knocking down his door when he decided to check out.

  9. Here's a question, how many players did Tark send to the pros from 1980 to 1986? This was a starting over period for UNLV after we went on probation. Very similiar situation for Kruger starting from scratch, and in time of years.

  10. he was a steal, and not many had seen him play. even at that his espn scout grade was an 89...but he did not have "very little skill" you people amuse me. im not saying he was a top 10 recruit.... but he had skill. most schools did not have scholarships when he Xfered.... he was on the bench because of his attitude. that is the reason... bottom line.

  11. Tark players to the pros:
    1983 - Sidney Green #5 Overall LOTTERY PICK
    1986 - Anthony Jones #21 Overall 1st Round

    Would you like to talk about National Rankings during this time period?

    UNLV was ranked #1 in the country in 1982/83.

  12. In 6 years Tark only produced on player to stick in the NBA. Sidney Green.

    1980 NIT
    1981 Didn't even make NIT
    1982 NIT
    1983 NCAA 1st Round
    1984 Sweet 16
    1985 NCAA 2nd round
    1986 Sweet 16

    No doubt Tark is a better recruiter, but it takes many years to build and become Elite team.

    Tark is one of the greatest coaches of all time.
    We were lucky to have him. There are thousands of coaches out there and only a very few become elite like Pitino and Calipari.

    Calipari built Umass into a final 4 team in a few years. Can you imagine that. Consider the conference they were in. They had no tradition. Now that is what I consider an elite coach. The only problem is there arn't too many Calipari's around to hire.

  13. risk/reward with "big time" recruits... they are very expensive. kruger doesnt want to buy recruits and i support that... bayno bought your elite nba type players and look where that got us. never even sniffed the second round of the tourney, probation and guys leaving after 1 or 2 years. nesby, keon, marion, etc.. sufferin' you are STILL boring and ruin the coverage of the rebels. go away. i'm sure kruger and his staff are just as initially disappointed in his bigs as we are, but this is a fun time of year, dont mess it up for the rest of us.

  14. Final AP Poll Rankings:

    1982/83: UNLV #6
    1983/84: UNLV #13
    1984/85: UNLV #9
    1985/86: UNLV #11
    1986/87: UNLV #1
    1987/88: UNLV #12
    1988/89: UNLV #15
    1989/90: UNLV #2
    1990/91: UNLV #1
    1991/92: UNLV #7

    Don't even try and say that those years were not good for UNLV Basketball. We were a consistent Top 15 program from 1982 to 1992! We finished in the Top 15 of the AP Poll every single YEAR!

    I would take years 1982-1986 right now! Look at those final AP Rankings. Don't even try to compare Lon Kruger bums to those UNLV teams.

  15. Talk about living in the way past. I remember those days and they were great, but we paid a heavy toll for 15 years afterwards. Current team is on the right path, but starting to think it's another case of "maybe next year" when we will have Thomas and possibly Lopez 30 lbs heavier. Not like we will lose any seniors that will have an impact. Hope I am wrong about this year, but hard to watch that game Tuesday. Will see if that was the needed wakeup call or if this will be a lost ("rebuilding") year.

  16. Lon Kruger Final AP Poll Rankings:

    2004/05: NOT RANKED
    2005/06: NOT RANKED
    2006/07: UNLV #19
    2007/08: NOT RANKED
    2008/09: NOT RANKED
    2009/10: NOT RANKED
    2010/11: NOT RANKED


  17. National rankings are for show. The truth is how good you do in the tournament.

    The 86-87 year was a culmination of rebuilding the program for 6 years, which resulted in a final four appearance

    It's easy to have a good national ranking when you can go undefeated in your conference almost every year, which was the case between 1980-1986. Just ask Gonzaga. Further more, the Big West was way below average as a conference. The truth only lies in how well you do in the tournament.

    The year we went to the sweet 16 with Kevin Kruger and Wendell White we weren't ranked all.

  18. To me it is not a huge deal if you do not get 5 star recruits but you must get players that can play at a top 25 level. I think Coach Kruger is an excellent x and o guy and I think he runs the program with integrity but his recruiting to me is a little troubling. You can spin it any way you want but his classes since the sweet sixteen appearance have not produced good results. When you do get into the spotlight you must capitalize and build on that. I do think that players like Jasper, Stanback, Marshall, Hawkins, and Lopez are an upgrade but their impact remains to be seen. Players like Adeife, Cage, Roberson, Rutledge, Mitchell, Santee etc have proven that they could not play at this level. After all Coach started two walk ons in 2007-08 and one in 08-09. Even he obviously was disappointed in the recruits he brought in. I am as hopeful as the next fan that we can return to a more high powered offense and a top 25 type team. To do this Coach needs to evaluate talent better or develop them better regardless of their "rating".

  19. Our smaller players are fine. But Kruger needs to upgrade the bigs. The quality of bigs have really dropped off since Lou and Joel, both Spoon's recruits.

  20. The difference under Tarkanian to what we see under Kruger is the momentum. During that time in the early 80's when the Thomas & Mack was under construction and we moved into the new Facility and had the #1 Ranked team in the country you could feel the excitement. It was like the whole community bought into the program, the up tempo speed that Tarkanian brought to Vegas was a perfect fit for a small town Vegas who hungered to be on the National scene.

    While you call 1980-1986 a downtime for UNLV and a rebuilding period I totally disagree with you! Maybe we didn't have huge NCAA Tournament success during that time but we WERE a National Program during that period and we played National games that were important and exciting. You could feel the program building in a direction that we all knew would deliver us a National Championship, it was only a matter of time. You could feel that UNLV Basketball was about to explode in a major way.

    Under Kruger, it doesn't feel that way. At least not to me. I don't feel that Kruger is about to turn UNLV Basketball into a National Power. I don't feel that we have any National appeal and the style of basketball is NOT exciting. Kruger is not building the program towards something big, in fact I think his best days at UNLV are already behind him and they weren't that great!

    You can talk about playing the Big West or whatever other bull$hit excuses you want to come up with. The fact of the matter is that UNLV was on a fast track to greatness in the early 1980's with our New 18,500 seat Basketball Arena getting built/open and having our first #1 National Ranking in 1982. Maybe that is rebuilding in your mind? I was there and I saw it. We packed the Mack with exciting players and exciting basketball. On any given night we had the talent to match up and beat anyone in the country. We were never intimidated and never boring.

    UNLV Basketball mattered.

    Now we are just a mid-level boring program that NOBODY cares about. Our players are dull and boring and play with NO HEART. The coach can't recruit and the community is not buying into the product that is being sold. I know that some of you think things are great with UNLV Basketball right now, THEY AREN'T. I have seen greatness and this is not it, it isn't even close.

  21. I give Coach Kruger somewhat of a pass in the recruiting area. When he took over the basketball program, it was in shambles. What he's been able to accomplish in five seasons is pretty respectable. Sure, all of us want UNLV to return to the days of pre-season Top 25 rankings. But, John Calipari should hardly be considered the template for modern coaching. His scorched earth, recruit blue-chippers at any cost mentality, has left his former programs in disarray.

    I'd rather see Lon recruit kids who are hard working, dedicated to the program, and leave everything they've got on the court night in and night out. Let's not forget that the NCAA would love nothing more than for this program to slip up. The simple fact that we hail from Las Vegas has put a bull's-eye on UNLV's back from day one.

    The hallmark of a great coach is the ability to take what talent he has available and mold them into winners. Tark was notorious for that well before the Larry Johnson's and Stacy Augmon's of the college basketball world showed up on our doorstep.

    It's easy to look at the past with rose-colored glasses. But, let's not forget how many excruciating double and triple over time wins the Rebels pulled out over lowly Utah State before they started reeling in the kinds of star athletes that enabled us to win games by 30 points.

    All you have to do is compare what Lon has done in five seasons, as opposed to his football counterpart Mike Sanford. Coach Kruger has put a once proud basketball program back on the map. Sanford, on the other hand, has sunk the football team to greater depths, if such a thing were even possible.

    In my opinion, "The Grit" is the Sh*t.

  22. The truth is Tark was a legendary, innovating, and hall of fame coach.

    If we would have signed Pitino, we would have been back to the final four by now. He is a proven elite recruiter.

    The only problem is proven elite recruiters, as of now, don't want to come to UNLV. Those coaches go to Kentucky, Kansas, UNC, UCLA, and a few others. Just ask Memphis when they lost Calipari. Just ask Illinois when they lost Bill Self.

    Any coach you hire that is not proven is a gamble. As good as Reggie Theus sounds as a replacement doesn't mean he would be any better than Bayno. Signing a young Tark, Calipari, Lute Olson, or Pitino is probably 1 in 100,00. Sorry to say.

  23. People have to realize that college basketball in the 80's wasn't what it is today. It was a lot easier to be an elite team in the 80's and 90's. There were fewer teams in D1 and there wasn't near as much overall talent. Teams with a few good players could win games and if you had 1 or 2 superstars you could dominate. Now, there are so many good players its harder to compete and there is much more parity. It didn't cost tons of money to recruit and there was a much more even playing field. Now, the rich get richer and schools who have had to endure scandal like UNLV had to endure don't make it back to the top easily. UNLV has no business acting like an elite basketball school because they aren't. Their fans (I consider myself a fan, although I'll admit I'm a transplant) also have no business expecting to compete for national championships. UNLV doesn't have the resources to compete at that level, and even with a Calipari or Pitino it would still be hard (unless they broke the rules) to compete at that level. UNLV won a championship by breaking rules to get players. Believe what you want, but if they had played by the rules we wouldn't be having this discussion. Tark's track record speaks for itself.

  24. yea i think sufferin is just a negative person.
    in these 5 years kruger has been coach it has improved. 5 years ago a 21-11 record would be GREAT!!! Kruger cant bring us to former greatness immediately. give him time, and if he is making progress he is being successful.

    sufferin, you need to stop living in 1990. What Kruger did with the team 2 seasons ago when they got to the second round and lost to KU was truly an amazing coaching job. nobody expected that.
    give him some damn credit!! he is only improving UNLV basketball!!!!!!!

  25. I can't wait for the season to start, so the players can prove all of our pessimistic, uneducated, crybaby fans wrong. This year's team will be very good. Next year's team will be excellent; the best Kruger has had at UNLV. Jasper and Stanback are stud recruits. It doesn't matter how they got here, they are here now and will be two of the best players in the conference.

    Once this team settles down and gets into a groove, they'll make any and all ignorant haters look like the stupid, grumpy, stubborn morons the rest of us know they are.

  26. Just so you know, UNLV finished 14th in the coaches poll in '06-'07. The AP doesn't have a poll after the tournament starts, the coaches do. We finished the year in the top 15, so take that! It's ironic that your name is Sufferin when we are the ones that have to everytime you post. Your negativity is annoying. Get a life.

  27. Stanback, Jasper, Willis, & Marshall are all big time recruits. I will say that I am cautiosly optomistic with this years team. After what I saw Tuesday night I am really reserved right now. If UNLV squeaks by the Gorillas Saturday night then we are in for a long season of boring underachieveing basketball.

  28. listen to this guys,
    next season we have a legit chance at having FOUR ALL CONFERENCE PLAYERS!!
    TRE, JASPER, CHACE, AND OSCAR. im talking about next season, not this.

    you guys are talkin bad about Kruger. Lets see..
    -he is NOT breaking the rules in recruiting and still bringing in high quality recruits. (i cant believe you guys are complaining about recruits after seeing chace, jasp, jhawk, and marshall on Tuesday).
    -he was coach of the year on the ENTIRE WEST COAST 2 seasons ago. last season was a letdown. EVEN LEBRON JAMES HAS A LETDOWN (SEE 2009 PLAYOFFS)
    -The players need to give into his system for it to work.
    -The players need to give it 100% in the games, especially on defense. The defense was really good on Tuesday. Last years team didnt give in.
    -This years team is hungry and wants to prove everybody wrong, including all of you guys who think we should win a national championship every year when Tark only did it once while he was cheating.

    You guys disgust me. You think Kruger is doing such a terrible job but he has only improved this program over the last 5 seasons. Five years ago..Jhawk, Marshall and co would NEVER EVER have consdidered the Runnin Rebels.


    Please, please stop bashing Kruger. He has only improved UNLV. I highly doubt any of you expected the sweet 16 or beating Louisville. AND I REALLY DOUBT THAT YOU WANT THE TEAM TO BE WHERE IT WAS 6 YEARS AGO!!!!!!!!!!!

  29. oh....and Justin Hawkins was heavily recruited by the University of North Carolina..hmm Roy Williams???? yes, Roy Williams. So ratings arent anything (beas). Oscar was rated lower than Deshawn Mitchell. Oscar was a diamond in the rough. I see Jhawk the same exact way.

  30. I wasn't posting Coaches Poll results. I was posting AP Poll results.

    UNLV finished #19 in the AP Poll in 2006/07, that can't be disputed.

    I am not going to go back and do UPI/Coaches Poll Rankings since the coaches poll in 1993/94 started publishing its final poll after the NCAA basketball tournament.

    I went with the AP Poll because it is more repected.

    Kruger having ONE ranked team in SIX years on the job is not acceptable. At any real Basketball school he would have already been shown the DOOR. Kruger is not getting the job done and if UNLV fans had any pride they would be calling him out because of it. You must demand excellence from coaches otherwise you will end up with Mike Sanford, Lon Kruger and Buddy Gouldsmith.

  31. you are an idiot Sufferin.

    THE TEAM THAT KRUGER CAME IN WITH WAS ATROCIOUS. in his first few years he brought in Wink Adams (a VERY HIGHLY TOUTED RECRUIT), Joe Darger (Mr Bball in Utah), Lawrence (remember how valuable he was the sweet 16 year, also very highly respected in HS), Joel Anthony, and Gaston Essengue.

    youre saying at any real basketball school sufferin? at any real basketball school, would the team be that bad when he came in as coach? Kruger has VASTLY IMPROVED UNLV. There is no argument to that. Kruger is making UNLV a real basketball school. if he is getting Coach of the Year Awards, DO NOT EVER COMPARE HIM TO SANFORD. Stop complaining, 1990 only happened one time. Thats how hard it is. Kruger is heading in the right direction.

  32. The first UNLV team Lon Kruger took over in 2004/05 was picked #1 in the MWC preseason. That means they were projected to win the league.


    2001/02: #48 (Spoonhour)
    2002/03: #40 (Spoonhour)
    2003/04: #80 (Spoonhour)
    2004/05: #93 (Kruger)
    2005/06: #96 (Kruger)
    2006/07: #10 (Kruger)
    2007/08: #24 (Kruger)
    2008/09: #72 (Kruger)

    At #72 in the RPI last year Kruger has UNLV at about the same spot Spoonhour had UNLV at (#80) in his final season at UNLV.

    UNLV was not good when Kruger took over but we were a Top 100 program. It is not like he took over the #250 RPI team in the country like you are making it sound. Kruger came in and took over a team that was PICKED TO WIN THE MWC in his first season. He didn't take over the #8 team in the MWC like you would lead people to believe.

    The dropoff in RPI for Kruger from 2007/08 to 2008/09 is shocking. It has to make UNLV fans start to wonder what is happening with the program. This season will be very telling as to whether Kruger has seen his best days at UNLV or if he can get this disaster turned around.

    UNLV has been to the Final Four FOUR TIMES. Yes, we only won the National Championship once.

    All I am asking for is a yearly Top 25 program, with exciting talent that has NBA potential. I don't think I am asking alot. Just get us ranked in the Top 25 EVERY YEAR, that is not that hard for a coach is getting $1 million plus dollars a year at a Basketball school!

    For $6 million dollars that UNLV has payed Kruger we haven't had even one player drafted in the NBA draft. After five years on the job Kruger finished #72 in the RPI last season!

    #72. Embarrassing.

  33. Since we are on the topic of Kruger and recruiting allow me to chime in. I have to say Lon is the best we've had since Tark and there will never be another Tark here so it's time to move on from that discussion. Is Kruger the best coach in the country - (NO) not even close is he a good X & O guy - (YES). When it comes to recruiting I see it like this, blue chippers or 5 star recruits are all about themselves, it is about getting to the association in 1-2 years and you cannot fault them on that. It is their career, and opportunity to make enough money to roll in. You have to jump on it as soon as it shows itself becasuse one fluke injury in college will end that chance.

    I think Krugers style of play and coaching style does not fit into the mix of todays big time recruits. I know it is not right but they aren't going to put up with sh*t from a hard nosed coach who plays everything by the book that is why they go play for Calipari, Patino, & Calhoun because those 3 could give a rats a** about their players as long as you ball and make their programs shine. On the other hand Kruger looks for the kind of players that will buy into his hard nosed system and style of play which is maximum effort mixed average skill. It is like a boot camp mentality. That is why Kruger loved Rene Rougeau but the problem is you don't win titles with the Rene Rougeau's of the world. Todays 5 star recruits aren't looking to play for a coach like Kruger IMO, I'm sorry buts that the truth. It's all about them getting to the next level, playing their style of ball, and playing where they will get the most national exposure possible. It is what it is and that's just the way it is!!

  34. well i wouldnt exactly blame Kruger for much of last years problems. the players saw the rankings, they thought it was a cake walk. they didnt try. Kruger tried as hard as he could to get them to work hard, but they didnt.
    Oh, and thats RPI. That doesnt mean much. Last season was still above average for most teams in the nation, just not for UNLV.
    The standards at this point should be to give it 100% on the court be top 30 (only b/c nobody respects MWC) and win some games in the tournament.

    you are saying this team is CBI material. that is a joke. this team is sweet 16 material if they give it 100% and give into what Kruger has to say. Last years team might have been sweet 16 also if they actually gave a rats ass for what Kruger said to them. the blame for last year should be put onto the shoulders of Wink and Rene. i love them two, but it was their fault.

    wink prepared for the nba before his senior season by bulking up, now hes in europe.

    This team, if they play to their full potential and give into Krugers system 110% is Elite 8 material, easily.

    sufferin, this is a disaster? what the hell are you talking about man? this team has some real talent. get your head out of your ass.

    all the stats you give are usually false, so do not believe any of the stats sufferin puts up unless he gives a link.

    UNLV was NOT projected to win the MWC. remember how Air Force was a TOP TEN TEAM IN THE NATION?


  35. Hey Sufferin' the 1980's called, they want their assistant waterboy back.

    Remember the good old days when you only had to read his drivel on the RJ. The Sun WAS a welcome reprive from the constant blabbering of Robert.

  36. Here is the link rebelsfan11. You will see that the team Lon Kruger inherited from Charlie Spoonhour was predicted to win the MWC.

    Every one of my stats are 100% accurate.


  37. I would also like to mention that Kentucky finished #71 in the RPI last year and they fired their coach! They replaced him with a winner and are now ranked #4 in the country (AP POLL).

    That is what a real Basketball school does when you finish #71 in RPI. You go out and get a coach who can recruit and make you Top 5 overnight.

    Anyone who says UNLV can't do the same thing is NOT A REAL REBEL FAN. They are just a Kruger apologist.

  38. the rebels have improved each season under Kruger. What more can we ask of him? He has some serious talent this season. These next two seasons are going to be special (only losing Santee/Jones after this year). We will be gaining QThomas, Henry Buckley (see ESPN rankings), Carlos Lopez(probably a starter) and hopefully Cory Joseph :)

    If all i just said about next season is true, i am saying Final Four. that probably wont please Robert though

  39. ok sufferin, say what UNLV could of done over the offseason to make us a overnight top 5 team???????????????????????????????????

  40. UNLV could have hired Bobby Huggins or Reggie Theus. They both know how to recruit!

  41. Lon Kruger's RPI at UNLV:

    2006/07: #10 (Kruger)
    2007/08: #24 (Kruger)
    2008/09: #72 (Kruger)

    I hate to break the news to you sweetheart rebelsfan11 but that is not improving every single year. That is going the OPPOSITE DIRECTION of improvement.

  42. hey 11,

    its no use man. they will argue no matter how any times you prove them wrong. they claim to be unlv fans.... i bet they cant tell me how to get to krugers office from the front door.... and if you know that much i guarantee they cant tell me how to get to the locker room from krugers office or what the locker room looks like. their opinions mean nothing to me or the rest of the "real" fans because we know they are full of sh i t.

  43. Bob Huggins is coaching at his alma mater west virginia. Not going to happen.

    Reggie Theus would be no differen't then hiring Bayno. Great Recruiter. Crap shoot on everything else.

    Elite Recruiters will not come to UNLV!

    Suff, I know its hard but you have to look at reality. The odds of UNLV finding another diamond in the rough, like Tark, is 1 in 100,000.

    When UNLV was at its pinnacle of success, we could not lure one good coach to come to UNLV after Tark.

    Kruger is a good coach. Not the best. Sticking with him now is better than rolling the dice every 4 years on some unproven coach that will crap out like UNLV football. Numnely, Jim Strong, that coach from UNR we got, John Robinson, and now Sanford.

  44. look sufferin you are talking abour rpi. who cares about rpi.
    everytime you get proven wrong you bring something else up.
    the talent on the team is better than it was 2 4 and 6 years ago. and it will be better in 2 years. the team is in a good place now and will be in 2 years. (we cant project 4 years b/c everyone will be gone).

    just stop saying how bad UNLV is and LOOK AT THE POSITIVE. they are predicted 3rd in the mwc and the coaches that voted on that know nothing about chace or jhawk. those will be 2 big keys to our team. if the coaches knew our whole team i think we would be #1 not BYU, b/c they are not clutch and we will beat them every year :)

  45. UNLV will finish 6th this season.

    You are a Kruger apologist and refuse to look at the reality of our situation.

    We are terrible and getting worse.

  46. Where you even watching last year, sportsguy702? Mitchell an awesome player? An awesome dunker yes but the game is about more than dunking. He couldn't dribble to save his life.

  47. i would love to meet you in person sufferin and bet 5,000 dollars that UNLV will finish higher than 6th. i trust Rob Miech to hold the money.

    ok answer this question Robert, do you believe that last years team has more talent than this years?

  48. UNLV's MWC Regular Season Finishes:

    1999/00: UNLV #1 (Bayno)
    2000/01: UNLV #4 (Bayno)
    2001/02: UNLV #3 (Spoonhour)
    2002/03: UNLV #3 (Spoonhour)
    2003/04: UNLV #4 (Spoonhour)
    2004/05: UNLV #4 (Kruger)
    2005/06: UNLV #4 (Kruger)
    2006/07: UNLV #2 (Kruger)
    2007/08: UNLV #2 (Kruger)
    2008/09: UNLV #5 (Kruger)

    Only one UNLV coach has finished worse than 4th place in the MWC since the conference was formed. Can you guess what UNLV coach that was? For a bonus prize, can you guess the year?

  49. lenny,

    i was at every game, thanks for asking. you ever see mitchell play outside the T&M ?? i didnt think so. he can dribble, he can shoot. like most freshman, they want PT and are afraid to play their game.... which is why it takes time to "develope" players. so they lose that fear of being pulled and play the way they should. great example is hoffman. practice STUD game DUD. has the skill just cant put it together in a game. never "developed"

  50. Sufferin. What is your experience with basketball. Maybe I haven't been reading the comments portion of this site long enough, but I'm curious. Are you a fan who has been watching basketball all of your life, a coach or former coach, player etc.? At least I, and others, would know where you are coming from experience wise.

  51. hey rebsfan11, I like you man but sufferin just schooled you. if you're gonna call someone out for fixing stats you better be sure otherwise you're the one that looks like an idiot.

    and sportsguy, what are you doing in the lockerroom and his office? are you stalking the guy? so someone is not a fan unless they've been in kruger's office or sniffed the players jockstraps in the lockerroom? come on man, get a clue.

  52. UNR has players in boxing lessons to toughen them up.
    We need to do that with some of our weak minded players.
    It would work.

  53. Hi BBallFan:

    I am the #1 UNLV Fan.

    I am an expert on UNLV Athletics.

    I could tell you how to fix the entire Athletic Department (not just Football, Basketball and Baseball) in 10 words or less.

    I have been around UNLV Athletics all my life. I have seen it from the inside and watched from a distance.

    I have coached, I have played, I have watched, I have listened and I have commented.

    I was born on Maryland Parkway and I will die on Maryland Parkway. I hope to celebrate more than once on Maryland Parkway before I die. I have had great times on Maryland Parkway, sad times on Maryland Parkway, life threatening times on Maryland Parkway. I have witnessed greatness on Maryland Parkway and been forced to sit through terrible times on Maryland Parkway. I have learned alot on Maryland Parkway, some of which I wish I didn't know.

    UNLV is in my blood, always will be. That does not mean that I will sit by and watch the program wallow away in mediocrity.

    You don't have to be a genius to understand the game of Basketball. I can tell you if a player is any good just by watching the way he carries himself while walking out onto the Basketball court.

    Lon Kruger is not for us. I said that on Day One and I will say it until the day he is gone.

    I have been around a long time and watched head coaches, assistant coaches and their families come and go. I will be around long after Lon Kruger is gone and I will not miss him.

  54. please cross maryland parkway outside of the designated pedestrian crosswalk

  55. oh, so sufferin is a homeless man now. hahahaha.

    lenny, he didnt at all. if you have read this whole thing, i make him look dumb and he brings up something else.

    look, no matter what stats(youve brought up fake ones several times) you bring up, UNLV basketball was not on the map before Kruger came.

    Robert do you want to have one and dones every year or guys who are top 100s who are gonna stay all 4 years and be better than the 1 and dones by the time they leave?


    the coach isnt the one that goes out there and plays the games. Im sure you were saying how bad Bayno and Spoonhour were when they were coaching. hell, i bet you were talking sh!t about Tark! all you do is bring up negative stuff.

    i would never think that you are a fan, because i have NEVER heard you say ANYTHING positive about unlv basketball.

  56. there was a guy that was at a game last year that was screaming at the ref in a game with 1 minute left when we were up 20. i think it was the texas-pan am game. he came and sat in section 108 where i sit and was screaming at the ref over ridiculous things like oh that shoulda been an and one and calling them stupid zebras! we were inbounding the ball and he was screaming to hurry and get it in before the ref even handed the guy the ball!

    i think that may have been Robert. I hope to see him again this year. Come sit in section 108 row f with me robert

  57. I once got stuck in traffic on Maryland Parkway and Tropicana. It felt like forever.

  58. well atleast you dont live on the streets of maryland parkway! hahaha

  59. Sportsfan you are being ridiculous now. You are telling me that Scott Hoffman a walk on that came to UNLV and was allowed to be a part of the team because his family and Kruger are close. You are telling me he was a practice stud???? Are you telling me he was shutting down Wink Adams? Posting up and scoring on Rougeau? Power dunking on Chace Stanback? Or was he a nice kid who could shoot pretty well and worked hard? I cannot believe you are using Scott Hoffman as an example of a UNLV player. Game dud? Your passion is admirable but your knowledge is non exisitent.

  60. gumby,
    he is just saying that he worked hard and probably did score on wink once in awhile.

    unlv players may want to look to his example: work as hard as you can, give it your all on the court, practice hard, dont overlook anybody.
    but as far as his skills, i dont think he should be an example. he was a great kid and his work ethic should be noticed.

  61. Keep it comin fellas this has me crackin up!!

  62. You guys are all cool by me. I love the passion for the Rebels.
    Sufferin, you know your stuff I give you that. But just admit once and for all that you have a PERSONAL PROBLEM with Kruger. And in doing so, you need to bury the hatchet if this guy takes us to an elite eight or final four in the next few years.

    If we're in the NIT again this year, I may well join you in asking for his head. But he's not going anywhere right now so get behind the team like everyone else, it's gonna be a fun ride this year!

  63. Sufferin. Now I understand why you are so stubborn. Knowing UNLV athletics does not, by any stretch of the imagination, make you an expert on athletics. Basketball is far more complex than most people give it credit for, and you clearly don't understand the game other than to spout out stats from UNLV history (or whatever you can dig up on the internet to prove your points). BetOnBlack is dead on about players now and the system and coaching style Kruger uses. His system isn't set up for a John Wall or Tyreke Evans type player, and who would want them anyway. I've come to realize there are three types of college basketball fans. There are the fans who want to win at any cost and will settle, like Memphis fans will now, for many wins in the short term no matter what the cost (YOU). Fans who want to root for a team that plays hard, is well coached and competes year in and year out, but doesn't get into trouble (most everyone else on this board including me) and the fans who root for the big guns like Duke, KY etc.. You need to move to Lawrence or Lexington or Durhan (although I have a feeling if you were born etc. in Durham you would be asking for Coach K's head) so your arguments are plausable. What you want isn't going to happen here, not in todays landscape. Sure UNLV could have hired Pitino a while back, but lets face it. UNLV is not a destination like the previous schools I have mentioned are. The sooner you come to grips with this the happier you will be.

  64. I do NOT have a personal problem with Kruger. I have never met him and do not dislike the man.

    I think he is the wrong coach for UNLV. I think Kruger would be perfect in the Big-12 or Big Ten in some sleepy little town where they LOVE FOOTBALL and barely pay attention to Basketball.

    I know in my heart and in my head that Kruger is not the right coach for UNLV. I feel that he was very fortunate to be able to get his son Kevin through an NCAA loophole and I believe that saved his job at UNLV. If baby Kruger didn't transfer Kruger would be long gone from UNLV by now.

    Everyone forgets that UNLV should have lost to TCU in the 1st Round of the MWC Tournament in the 2007/08 season and that we would have been in the NIT that year if not for the miracle win over the frogs in the Quarterfinals that night.

    Two things saved Krugers job so far. Baby Kruger with a miracle transfer and luckily pulling off that TCU win in the Quarterfinals of the MWC Tournament in 2007/08. Those two things don't happen and Kruger isn't the coach here right now.

    I give Kruger credit for the Sweet 16 and Round of 32 trips in the NCAA Tournament. I believe that both of those teams were mediocre and not very talented but coach Kruger found a way (with the help of GOD and some lucky breaks) to win when it counted and that has saved his job so far.

    I don't see good things happening in the future with Kruger here. We struggled big time last year and I feel that we are going to struggle again this season. I really believe that we are the 5th or 6th best team in the MWC this year!

    I am not calling for Kruger to be fired now. I know he won't be fired this year. But if UNLV struggles like I expect this season, the heat will definitely be on Kruger in 2010/11.

    Remember, I own the domain name www.FireKruger.com and I will re-open up the site when the time is right.

    I want UNLV to win more than anybody. But I also want UNLV to win with style and to win because we have the better talent. I am not into winning lucky or going into the NCAA Tournament with inferior talent. I want UNLV to be the best and I want everyone to know it. I want people to fear UNLV Basketball, to know before the game starts that they don't even belong on the court with us. That isn't going to happen under Lon Kruger.

  65. echo BBallFan:
    The talent and athleticism is there this year with the likes of Stanback, Jasper, Willis, Bellfield, Marshall, & Hawkins. If Kruger can get these guys to sell out to his style of play with maximum effort for 40 minutes this could be a real scary bunch.

    @Sufferin - We all want a top 10 program, we all remember what used to be, but we are in the here and now and nobody on this board can change anything. We have to work with what we have now and Lon Kruger isn't going anywhere anytime soon. Either you are going to support the current coach or you're not it's that simple!!

  66. Get real BBallfan, I took Howie Landa's Basketball skills class at UNLV and got an A. I am a Basketball expert! LMAO!

  67. Howie does know his basketball, thats for sure. I'd have to day though that if thats the extent of your knowledge you should retire your name and never post here again. I am curious as to this 10 words or less nugget you threw out, lets have it. From what I can tell the main problem with UNLV and its inability to be an elite program are the Alumni and boosters (I know why UNLV is afraid of the word booster). The programs that are elite have alumni and boosters who throw money at their programs, which allow them to build basketball only practice facilities, fly on private jets and maintain top of the line facilities. The only school I can think of that is considered elite without the above things is UCLA and lets be honest, they are sort of the top of the heap in terms of not only tradition and history, but proximity to the best HS players in the country.

  68. college basketball has changed since Tark. The GREAT teams have all one and done players.

    and the TCU game? you say UNLV won luckily? dude, did you watch? TCU was the lucky one. that was the best game TCU played in its history. UNLV had GOOD players, so they kept up with a team that shot 60% and shot only 3's.

    if you want top 10 recruits every year and one and dones, unlv wont be an elite program. there will be a ton of nba scouts at the games and there will be no teamplay. maybe one in every couple years they will click and do something.

    i think you guys have forgot that Stanback was Mr Bball in CA (even All-America in some mags), Anthony marshall (jr yr in HS-18or21ppg, 9rpg, 8 apg,3+bpgandspg), and Jasper started for Kentucky as a Freshie and Soph. Thats impressive.


    1. Tell me what you think about each player, the numbers each will put up his senior year in your opinion, and if you would let this player go if you became coach today:
    -Chace Stanback:
    -Derrick Jasper:
    -Anthony Marshall:
    -Justin Hawkins:
    -Quintrell Thomas:
    -Oscar Bellfield:
    -Tre'Von Willis:
    -Carlos Lopez:

    2. Do you believe that last years Rebel team is better than this years Rebel team? Why?

    3. What had Kruger done with this years team that is wrong in your opinion?

  69. sufferin, please answer the questions i posted. just copy and paste the questions into the comment box, and answer them. then, say whatever after. i really want to hear what you have to say on those things though.

  70. rebelsfan11

    Who cares what sufferin thinks of those questions dude?! He's just gonna give you the same spiel that he has given countless times. Are you new to this board?

    I've already figured this guy out. The reason why he hates Kruger so much is cause he wants Reggie Theus to be coach. Which would be a disaster. That guy isn't ready to be handed the keys to this beloved program right now. Needs more seasoning...I will say though that I do enjoy Sufferin's posts. I completly disagree like 99% of the time, but hey we have to have opinions from both ends of the spectrum to stir up the convo :)

  71. i just want to see what he has to say man, b/c some of his answers may be entertaining.

    and if theus was such a good coach, why didnt Sacramento work out?? i believe he has the potential but isnt ready yet. he may be ready to take over when Kruger leaves

  72. Lets be realistic, anybody that becomes a D1 head college basketball coach is not a dumb guy. I know Lon is an intelligent man so I will roll with this. Smart coaches play to their players strengths and that might mean adjusting your coaching style occasionally from time to time. There are no 2 teams or players alike and I don't think you can have a one size fits all coaching approach when it comes to your teams year in and year out. If Lon is as smart as I think he is he will play to this teams strength which is up-tempo, athletic, alley-oop, get your swerve on style of play. He can still keep them under his discipline but allow them to play their style and to their strengths. I hate Duke but look at coach "K" he constantly adapts and adjusts to his players and that is why they are so stinking good all the time. When he has athletic, slashing, alley-oop players he lets them play that way and doesn't stop them or reign them in. I will say this much, we will all know really how good Lon Kruger is with this current squad of athletes by how he lets them play or if he lets them play to their strengths.

  73. great point betonblack. couldnt agree more

  74. Goodness, guys, the rebels are an interesting competitive product. Get a life and enjoy the wonderful things in front of your nose.

  75. It's way to early to really judge this years team. Let's just hope that we blow out Pitt st. There is no reason why we shouldn't, if not it's going to be a very long season. I hate to admit it, but I do kinda agree with sufferin's comments.

  76. with the roster unlv has now and kruger has coach, Robert believes that the rebels have no shot.

    but he thinks if we hired Theus or any other coach and had the same exact roster we will be final 4.

    i dont see any logic in this.

    i also dont see any logic in why kruger has done BAD. he won 20 games three straight seasons for the first time since 90-93. Bayno/Spoonhour didnt win any games, but i guess they brought in NBA talent so they are better coaches.

    also, kruger has won 75% of the games these last 3 years in a harder conference than it was at the time of Bayno, Spoonhour, etc.

    The players are a team. On Twitter tonight, Oscar and Anthony both posted how they stayed in on a Friday night (to their friends demise) because it was a game day tomorrow. Marshall really talks about how nothing is given and he refuses to fail.

    If we recruited a ton of one-and-dones, we wouldnt be a team and it would be tough to win close games b/c the team wont play together!!

    once this team develops chemistry, watch outttt!!!


  77. hey guys..click this link and read #10:


    UNLV is already being counted out! they are saying the Ponies next opponent in the Classic will be either Charleston or Hawaii. wow, that should be motivation.

  78. I really do like Lon Kruger, how could you not like the guy he is so stand-up and professional? I feel I may have hit the nail right on the head with my most recent post about the one size fits all coaching style that Lon has exhibited. After watching Lon the past 5 years he has not changed his style one bit any of those years. Granted he hasn't had the athletes on any of those teams that he has now so I will give him that. Now is the time that we are going to see if he can adapt his coaching style to the strengths of his players this year. This is the year I believe when we will all know if he really is the coach that is right for UNLV basketball. If he does not use their athleticism, their length, their running ability, their playmaking ability, their dunking ability, their alley-oop ability, and their playground mentality on the court to his teams advantage then it will be another mediocre year. You cannot force a one size fits all style of coaching on these kinds of players, it destroy's the whole make-up of the basketball player that they already are. You take their strengths away from them by forcing them into a 40 yeard old mold. You want your players playing to their strengths not just to a particular style. You have to let them be who they are and play the style of ball that has gotten them this far. This is only an observation not a put down but I think it is one that we should all put under the watchful care of our Rebel eyes this year!

  79. rebsfan11, how are SMU counting the rebels out by merely stating the fact that they're playing either hawaii or charleston in the 2nd round?

  80. I call BS on you Sufferin' Robert. Were you NOT fired from the UNLV Athletic Dept.? You have indeed met Kruger and it IS all sour grapes with you.

    I know you hate your dad and all, but he is the only MWC head coach with a NCAA victory within the last 5 seasons, pumpkin.

  81. hmmmmm you go grayback :)