Fri Apr 01 09:23pm EDT
Between a threadbare roster and the threat of impending NCAA sanctions, Oklahoma isn't as attractive a job as it once was during the peak of Jeff Capel's tenure.
As a result, the Sooners had to overpay to lure UNLV coach Lon Kruger into agreeing to be Capel's replacement.
Kruger has reportedly accepted a seven-year, $16 million offer from Oklahoma, a solid hire considering the 58-year-old's track record of rebuilding success yet a high price to pay for a coach whose NCAA tournament record at UNLV was 3-4 in seven seasons. Initially, Kruger rebuffed Oklahoma's inquiries, but the Sooners upped the offer to the point where the UNLV coach apparently felt compelled to listen.
The program Kruger takes over no longer resembles the one Blake Griffin led to the Elite Eight just two years ago. Oklahoma fired Capel after back-to-back 18-loss seasons made worse by an NCAA investigation into a loan former Sooner Tiny Gallon received prior to enrolling at the school.
While it's unlikely that the nucleus of Andrew Fitzgerald, Steven Pledger and Cameron Clark will be enough for Oklahoma to contend in the Big 12 next year, Kruger has a history of success in such situations.
He took over Kansas State, Florida and UNLV when each were middling programs and transformed each into perennial NCAA tournament contenders. He also won't do anything to embarrass the university, a key criteria after Capel's rocky final two seasons.
What's encouraging for UNLV is that plenty of factors should make the job desirable to potential candidates to replace Kruger. The Rebels have strong basketball pedigree, a formidable team returning next season and the advantage of playing the conference tournament on their home court each season.
Early reports suggest the leading candidates are a pair of former UNLV players: BYU lead assistant Dave Rice and former New Mexico State coach Reggie Theus. Rice's up-tempo offense would fit well with UNLV's personnel and his ties to local high school powerhouse Bishop Gorman would benefit the program, while Theus earned a reputation as a terrific recruiter before making the leap to the NBA in 2007.
It's understandable that Kruger would make the jump to Oklahoma for such a big pay raise, but the result is an unusual circumstance. The man who replaces him at UNLV will step into a far more promising situation than the one Kruger inherits at Oklahoma.