UNLV senior associate athletic director D.J. Allen, who wrote a book with Lon Kruger, “The X's and O's of Success: A Playbook for Leaders in Business and Life,” said the Runnin' Rebels coach was everywhere his seven seasons in Las Vegas.
“He is a marketing and community outreach machine,” Allen said. “He uses the power of his position and takes it seriously to help other people and other organizations.”
The list community activities Kruger and his wife, Barbara, were involved with in Las Vegas included:
Nevada Health Department.
Clinics for middle school coaches.
Education awareness (reading).
Wellness, fitness programs.
Bridget Phillips, a former principal who works with 350 schools in the Las Vegas area, said the list doesn't include all of the Krugers' endeavors.
“They embraced our community,” Phillips said. “That's what was so heartwarming and powerful. He was such a dynamic community member who wanted to make a difference, especially with children.
“Whether it was getting involved with an eating-right and exercise program, staying in school, coaching clinics, contests where classes with the best grades got to go to (UNLV) games or serving on our advisory committee ... I could go on and on. He did so much for students and teachers.”
Long-time UNLV booster Wade Leavitt, who has followed the program for 40 years, said Kruger invested countless hours in the community and also helped raise money towards a $12 million practice facility that's nearing completion.
“You go to a women's volleyball game or soccer game and generally he and Barb were there,” Leavitt said. “He did so much in the community. He'd go anywhere they asked him to go. Sometimes I think they maybe asked too much of him time-wise.”
Jon Sadler, UNLV's radio play-by-play voice the past eight years, said he introduces Kruger at the post-season basketball banquet, telling the same story.
“I say, ‘I tried to find someone to say something bad about coach Kruger. It's another year I came up empty,'“ Sadler said. “You won't ever find a nicer guy or a guy with more integrity.”
Several coaches and athletes assist community projects but Phillips said Kruger is rare.
“There wasn't one person I met that didn't say, ‘What a wonderful human being, what a down-to-earth human being,'“ Phillips said. “It's so refreshing to see someone in his position reach out to so many people and try to help. We're really going to miss him.”