Lon Kruger over Rick Pitino: UNLV Hiring Decision Paying Off

Todd JacobsCorrespondent IJuly 15, 2010

LAS VEGAS - MARCH 13:  Head coach Lon Kruger of the UNLV Rebels signals his players as they take on the San Diego State Aztecs during the championship game of the Conoco Mountain West Conference Basketball tournament at the Thomas & Mack Center March 13, 2010 in Las Vegas, Nevada. San Diego State won 55-45.  (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Many may have already forgotten the circumstances under which Lon Kruger was hired by the UNLV administration. 

Rick Pitino was the hot choice at the time and the deal was all but done.  Then, someone forgot (allegedly) to pick up Pitino's wife at the airport when she arrived and the deal was blown up.

Next in line was Lon Kruger and the hire was perfect for both—Kruger was looking to settle down, and the UNLV Runnin Rebels needed a coach with a clean reputation.


Unfair To Compare Kruger and Pitino—Kruger Has Class

To compare Lon Kruger to Rick Pitino isn't fair.  Lon Kruger has class, character and fortitude.  To be honest, Rick Pitino has none of the above.

The fact that the UNLV boosters mishandled wining and dining the Pitinos was the best thing to ever happen to the UNLV program. Lon Kruger was hired soon after and the program has been run with integrity and transparency ever since.

Kruger will not let any one person be bigger than the team. The stifling defense Kruger teaches, makes UNLV non-reliant on the overbearing star player. That is why when Beas Hamga committed to UNLV in 2007, it didn't seem to fit. Hamga was being trumpeted as the next great NBA prospect. It just didn't feel right.

Soon after Hamga arrived it was apparent he was not committed to Lon Kruger's style of play and he was out. The best recruit in the country, Kruger did not  give in to the temptation of giving Hamga the star treatment.

On the other side of the equation we have Rick Pitino. A man rivals.yahoo.com refers to as having "slimy recruiting tactics ."  What are they referring to?  Pitino recruited an AAU player named Marcus Teague, a five star rivals-rated recruit from Indianapolis, Indiana.

Previous to Pitino landing Teague as a recruit, he hired an assistant, Shabaka Lands who just happened to be the AAU coach of Marcus Teague. Is the move above board?  Whatever makes you sleep at night Mr Pitino.

Lon Kruger and Rick Pitino are similar in one aspect: they both talk about the good of the team. Kruger backs his words with actions. Pitino at least claims to make decisions for the good of the team. Pitino should have three I's in his last name because he thinks of himself first so much. Ask the bitter fans in Kentucky.

UNLV Has Beaten Louisville in Freedom Hall and at the Thomas and Mack

Last New Years Eve, when the UNLV Runnin Rebels beat Pitino's Cardinals on his home court, Pitino left the court at Freedom Hall without shaking Lon Kruger's hand. Pitino later would say he was arguing with the official and it was unintentional. He never did make a public apology.

For his part, Lon Kruger shrugged it off and let it go. The difference between the two is condensed in that one act of immaturity by Pitino.  When Kruger defeated Pitino on UNLV's home floor, Pitino did acquiesce and shake Kruger's hand.

Pitino's character vs Lon Kruger's character

Next is the issue of character and trust. Yes, I had to go there. UNLV could not have withstood the humiliation that Pitino put the Louisville fans and administration through. If this had happened at UNLV it would have been devastating.

had claimed during an impromptu news conference that Karen Syphers claims of rape and physical abuse were "total fabrication" on a day "when Ted Kennedy died." The entire news conference can be viewed on espn.go.com. If you want to see him try to shove the issue under the rug look here .


What Pitino is Going Through Now Would Have Destroyed UNLV

If you view the video of Karen Syphers , she accuses him of much more than an indiscretion. The police did not press charges against Pitino for any of the claims Syphers made.

Syphers did attempt to blackmail Pitino and in all likelihood embellished her story, but the fact remains, Pitino did have sex with Syphers , admitted it and did bring disgrace to Louisville.

The facts are clear, UNLV has made the right choice. It is great that now Kruger and the Rebels are nationally ranked but the fact that Kruger has done this the right way, with character and the fortitude to run a clean program, is the greatest accomplishment of all.


Todd Jacobs is featured on many websites you may contact him through Suite 101 , Associated Content or view his handicapping picks on www.lasvegasinsideinfo.com