Kruger says he "absolutely" will be back

ST. LOUIS – Scratch those Lon Kruger to Michigan rumors. Better yet, scratch those Kruger to fill-in-the-blank as well.r>

The 54-year-old head coach, who led UNLV (30-7) to its first 30-win season and first Sweet Sixteen appearance since 1991, has been one of the hot names for several recent college head coaching vacancies. But he said after UNLV's 76-72 loss to Oregon at the Edward Jones Dome on Friday night that he intends to remain in Las Vegas for a while.

"Absolutely," Kruger said when asked if he would be back next season. "I have no thoughts or plans or interest in doing anything else.

"We love Las Vegas and we love the support of the people. I think we have something started here in terms of what this group did. And we have to transition that into the off-season programs and work and right into next season."

Kruger says his challenge is to keep UNLV's program in the national limelight.

"Your feel good about doing this," Kruger said. "But still what you really want to do is just kind of do it on a consistent kind of basis over time. And you have to start somewhere. And we've got a really good starting point based on what this group did.

"The challenge now is to come back next year and, obviously, it's going to be tough to do more but that's always the goal. We've just got to really get to work this spring and summer and I think we have a group of guys who will do that."

Kruger said his coaching priorities are different now than they were 10 years ago when other major college openings might have drawn more of his attention.

"For sure," Kruger said. "I think we all change in that way. We've been very fortunate to have had opportunities at some great programs with great people, and we've had outstanding players that have allowed us to win some ballgames. And that's always what you're looking for. But I think being at a place where you really want to live and doing it with people you really like doing it with maybe takes on a greater significance at this point then maybe when I was 35."

Although he must replace five key seniors, including son Kevin at point guard and first team all-Mountain West Conference pick Wendell White at forward, Kruger said he believes he has a young nucleus that could develop into a good team next season.

"I think so," Kruger said. "I think the experience from this run is hard to measure what affect it will have on the guys in the spring and summer and fall. It absolutely will help. There's no question about that. To what degree, I don't know. I know we have a group with outstanding attitudes, and they'll work hard."

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