UNLV Runnin' Rebels Basketball: Is Coach Lon Kruger's Seat Heating Up?

Chris GolightlyCorrespondent IJanuary 20, 2011

LAS VEGAS, NV - JANUARY 19:  Head coach Lon Kruger of the UNLV Rebels looks over the court late in his team's 78-63 loss to the Colorado State Rams at the Thomas & Mack Center January 19, 2011 in Las Vegas, Nevada.  (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
Ethan Miller/Getty Images

The Colorado State Rams buried the UNLV Runnin’ Rebels in Las Vegas last night by an eyebrow raising score of 78-63.

Naturally, the unexpected and disappointing defeat sent minions of reactionary knuckleheads spiraling towards the internet to spout nonsensical negativity behind the veil of anonymous stupidity.

The two dumbest words being spewed repeatedly by frustrated, reason-deficient Rebels fans:

"Fire Kruger."

It never fails. The minds of some are as simple as they are predictable.

“Team lose. Me angry. Coach bad. Fire Coach!”

Hopefully, these sentiments represent just a small handful of idiots and vultures rambling and whining for a coaching change, a brainless vocal minority.

But just in case the anti-Kruger, anti-intelligence movement is gaining some traction in the minds of the reasonable, yet unhappy portion of the fanbase, a few things need to be said:

First: the last few weeks have been undeniably and understandably frustrating for all who love UNLV.

All three home losses (to UCSB, BYU and now Colorado State) have spawned an emotional swirl ranging from embarrassment to confusion to humiliation to anger to disgust to sadness, depending on one’s personality.

The team has been has been inconsistent and ineffective. Their shooting has been slightly above awful. The offense has been predictable and stagnant. The defense has been solid, but the rebounding has left much to be desired.

Simply put, the team has been playing poorly, well below their abilities.

Obviously, when a team struggles, it is the head coach’s responsibility to get things straightened out.

As of yet, Kruger hasn’t been able to do that with this particular group. It is perfectly reasonable to expect better and to be dissatisfied with the current results.

Second: Lon Kruger is a great college basketball coach.

At this point, that should go without saying. The man has been successful at every university that has been fortunate enough to employ him. He has done wonderful things for UNLV and has the program in much, much, much better shape than Las Vegas has enjoyed since Tark and his towel were sent packing.

With Lon Kruger at the helm, the Rebels are consistently relevant for the first time in two decades. The reputation is squeaky clean and utterly respectable. Not to mention, he wins games, and lots of them.

Grumblings about Kruger’s perceived shortcomings are either lack perspective or are just plain false. He may not be perfect, but he gets the job done commendably well.

Third: it’s not time to hit the panic button just yet.

It’s important to remember, this season is barely half over. While there is very legitimate cause for concern, there is also ample opportunity to get this thing turned around.

The loss to the Rams is clearly the low point of the season’s first 19 games, but if the NCAA tournament started today, the Rebels would be playing in it. The overall resume is still strong.

The real concern is that if the Rebels continue to play the sloppy, sporadic brand of basketball that has plagued them of late, they are likely to drop quite a few more games between now and March, and slowly remove themselves from NCAA tournament contention.

They must right the ship, and they must do it fast.

They can hardly afford to drop any more contests they are “supposed” to win, and would be well served to steal a couple they are expected to lose. This team may yet be considered a whopping success by the time the madness of March arrives, or they may yet sink in to further depths of disappointment.

Ultimately, that is up to them.

Panic time? Not yet. It is, however, time for the Rebels to play with a poignant sense of urgency. Any more slip ups and the panic alarm will ring out loud and fierce.

All UNLV fans can do is cross their fingers and hope for the best. In all likelihood, the Rebel rollercoaster has a few more twists, turns, ups and downs to endure before the schedule fully plays itself out.

At this point, only one thing is clear:

Firing Kruger is not the answer.

Unless, of course, the question is, “How can we make things much, much, much worse?”