LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — Former Runnin’ Rebel student-athlete and assistant coach Kevin Kruger has been appointed the new head coach of UNLV’s men’s basketball program, Director of Athletics Desiree Reed-Francois announced Sunday.
Kruger was formally introduced via a virtual press conference on March 22 at 10 a.m.
“As we methodically went through the interview process speaking to many strong candidates, Kevin impressed us with his vision, the depth and sophistication of his plan, and his enthusiasm,” Reed-Francois said. “He cares about student-athletes and helping them achieve their hopes and dreams. He has demonstrated integrity and consistent leadership, and his love for UNLV and our Las Vegas community is without question. He is a Rebel, 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 just completed his second year as an assistant coach for the UNLV program after he returned to his alma mater in April 2019. The point guard on UNLV's 2007 NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 team as a senior under his father, former UNLV and current Oklahoma head coach Lon Kruger, Kevin returned to Las Vegas after spending three years as an assistant coach for the Sooners (2016-19).
With Kevin on the coaching staff, Oklahoma made multiple NCAA Tournament appearances. He was also an assistant coach at Northern Arizona for two seasons (2014-16) following a year as a graduate assistant at Oklahoma. Prior to making the move into coaching, Kevin played professionally from 2007-13.
“I am excited that Kevin will serve as the new head coach for UNLV men’s basketball,” said UNLV President Dr. Keith E. Whitfield. “Kevin has demonstrated incredible knowledge, high integrity and preparation for this opportunity. I am enthused about the direction the athletics department is going under Desiree’s leadership and Kevin is the perfect person to lead our Runnin’ Rebel basketball team.”
During his first season on the coaching staff at UNLV in 2019-20, the Runnin’ Rebels tied for second place in the Mountain West, marking the program’s best league finish in 12 years. The team also sent shockwaves through the college basketball world with its victory at fourth-ranked and previously undefeated San Diego State, posting the program’s best true road win since 1991 (a span of 29 seasons).
“I couldn’t be happier and am so thankful to President Whitfield and Desiree for this incredible opportunity,” Kruger said. “I have proudly represented the UNLV men’s basketball program and to now have been chosen to lead it, I really am speechless. This is home for me and my family and I’m looking forward to continuing to work with the guys on our team. We will get after it and build on the foundation that has been set.”
Achievement in the classroom has been just as important with Kruger on staff. The team turned in a semester grade point average of 3.57 for fall 2020, the program’s highest ever. It also holds a record-cumulative GPA of 3.32 with an all-time program-high nine student-athletes on the Dean’s Honor List.
Kruger began his collegiate playing career at Arizona State, where he earned his criminal justice degree in 2006, before transferring to UNLV. In his lone season as a Runnin' Rebel student-athlete, UNLV won 30 games. He earned All-Mountain West Third Team honors and was named to the conference's all-tournament team.
At ASU, Kruger was named an honorable mention All-Pac-10 and second-team NABC District 15 selection in his third and final season in Tempe. Also a Pac-10 All-Freshman honorable mention pick, Kruger left the Sun Devils ranked fourth in career free throw percentage at ASU, fifth all-time in 3-pointers made and attempted and seventh in 3-point percentage.
Kruger had professional basketball stints in Bulgaria, Italy, China, Mexico, Belgium, and Germany in addition to NBA training camp invitations from the Orlando Magic and Milwaukee Bucks. He also played with the Utah Flash and Los Angeles D-Fenders of the NBA D-League before launching his coaching career.
His father, Lon, coached the Runnin’ Rebels from 2004-2011 and made four NCAA Tournament appearances (2007, 2008, 2010, and 2011) and an NIT (2009).
Kevin earned a master's degree from Oklahoma in human relations in 2017 and is married to the former Allison Gerding. The couple has a daughter, Cameron, who celebrated her second birthday in October.