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Kruger remains a driving force in success of Coaches vs. Cancer

When Lon Kruger began the Las Vegas chapter for Coaches vs. Cancer in 2008, he envisioned making a big impact.

Just not this big.

For the first time, the fundraiser that draws top college coaches from around the country will net more than $1 million, making it one of the largest chapters nationally that benefits the American Cancer Society. This is the local event’s 10th year; in all, it has netted more than $3.6 million.

“I didn’t know how eagerly and enthusiastically all the coaches and all the sponsors would jump into it, and they’ve done that,” Kruger, the former UNLV basketball coach, said.

Kruger said the MGM Grand coming onboard about five years ago was the turning point for the Las Vegas chapter.

“That cut our overhead by half a million dollars,” Kruger said. “So right away, we were able to contribute a big number to the fight against cancer. Then all the other sponsors, and we’ve had over 20 coaches come in from the country and bring their foursomes to Las Vegas. When all that happened, it really started to take hold and gain traction.”

The event began Sunday night with a reception at the MGM Grand Producer’s Pool. The coaches play golf at Shadow Creek on Monday and Southern Highlands on Tuesday. They also will take part in an event at Topgolf on Monday night.

“The golf is fun, the reception is fun, but really the cause is what everyone is there for,” Kruger said. “It’s a reminder that people have lost their lives and people are fighting this disease every day, so let’s not lose sight of that.

“Everyone’s been affected in some way by cancer, and the coaches are no different. They’ve been affected either directly through families or friends of theirs or supporters, any number of different ways. Cancer touches everyone for sure.”

Three of this year’s Final Four coaches will participate — North Carolina’s Roy Williams, Oregon’s Dana Altman and South Carolina’s Frank Martin. UNLV’s Marvin Menzies also will be part of it.

“This has become a huge event that every coach in the country knows about,” Kruger said. “Many have participated. When those coaches are coming and other people are drawn to the event because of participation of all the coaches, that helps in a big way. The coaches across the country have taken ownership of not only the Vegas Coaches vs. Cancer, but the Coaches vs. Cancer events all over the country.”

He said that commitment has helped Coaches vs. Cancer on a national level raise more than $100 million over the past 25 years.

Kruger has remained heavily involved with the Las Vegas event since leaving six years ago to take over as Oklahoma’s coach. He was UNLV’s coach from 2004 to 2011, compiling a 161-71 record and making four NCAA Tournaments.

“Barb (his wife) and I loved our time in Vegas,” Kruger said. “People were great. They’re very giving there. They’re very caring. It still feels like home in a way to Barb and I because every time we come back we see a lot of friends and relive a lot of great memories.”

Contact Mark Anderson at manderson@reviewjournal.com. Follow @markanderson65 on Twitter.

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