Kruger blocks Sooners' shot, no plans to leave UNLV


After what he called "a crazy day of travel," UNLV basketball coach Lon Kruger said he has no plans to leave Las Vegas permanently.

Kruger is in Houston for the Final Four. Before boarding a flight Thursday, he turned down an opportunity to move beyond informal discussions with Oklahoma about filling the school's coaching vacancy.

According to sources in Oklahoma City, Kruger was the Sooners' top candidate and would have been offered the job by Oklahoma athletic director Joe Castiglione.

"I don't talk about other jobs. Those rumors are out there every year," Kruger said. "I really like the group we've got returning."

Kruger, 58, just completed his seventh season at UNLV. The Rebels (24-9) finished third in the Mountain West Conference before losing their opening game in the NCAA Tournament, 73-62 to Illinois.

Kruger also was recently linked to the coaching vacancy at Utah. Last year, he turned down a lucrative offer from Oregon and instead recommended friend Dana Altman, who was hired by the Ducks from Creighton.

With four starters returning, plus the additions of UCLA transfer Mike Moser and Marquette transfer Reggie Smith, Kruger said the Rebels have a "terrific core" of players capable of contending for the league title in 2011-12. UNLV has reached the NCAA Tournament in four of the past five years.

Oklahoma fired coach Jeff Capel on March 14 after back-to-back losing seasons and in the midst of an NCAA investigation that began in May. Kruger could have faced a major rebuilding job with the Sooners.

Marquette coach Buzz Williams, believed to be Oklahoma's primary target, agreed to a new contract Wednesday. Illinois' Bruce Weber said Thursday he was not interested in the Oklahoma job.

Missouri is also among the few high-profile programs still searching for a new coach.

Contact reporter Matt Youmans at myoumans@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2907.

 

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