Well, the headline of this story might be a stretch that Hall of Fame basketball coach Lon Kruger is going to give us 12 million moments that stand out from his memories of the annual Coaches vs. Cancer Las Vegas Golf Classic. But if anyone would have that many, it’s Kruger, who created the event 16 years ago while head basketball coach at UNLV and has watched the impact grow a million times over. Photo: UNLV women’s coach Amy Bush-Herzer and former North Carolina coach Roy Williams.
The 16th Annual Coaches vs. Cancer presented by Sanford Health is schedule for May 14-16 in Las Vegas at Cascata, Southern Highlands, Shadow Creek and TPC Summerlin. Special events at Park MGM of MGM Resorts International are also included. The event has raised more than $12 million since its inception.
“It’s hard to believe it has been so many years because the time has passed so quickly,” says Kruger, now retired in Las Vegas and chasing grandkids while enjoying the head coaching tenure of his son, Kevin, at UNLV. “What I really think stands out is just the sincerity of the people who are involved. So many coaches bring their boosters and it just keeps growing. And the loyalty of our sponsors is heart warming. Everyone has been touched by cancer and people come out to honor loved ones, have a great time and play great golf courses. MGM Resorts has been great to us as a host. What is very special is that nobody loses sight of why we do what we do, which is to raise funds for the fight against cancer.”
The event has evolved in popularity and courses have been added to the rotation. TPC Summerlin, the host of the PGA Tour’s Shriners Children’s Open, is being played for the first time, but even with the four courses, there is a waiting list for golf foursomes. However, there are limited sponsorships available for those interested and those include golf.
In 2023, the event is being held over Mother’s Day Weekend, so there are some special activities being planned. There will also be a special guest entertainer on Monday evening in addition to the Sunday party at Park MGM.
Kruger often thinks about the people he has met over the years during the Classic.
“Unfortunately, there are a lot of stories about people who have participated over the last 15 years who are no longer here as a result of cancer, but the better stories are the ones who are cancer survivors,” Kruger says. “We raise funds and awareness about the importance of research. There are people now living longer, healthier and better lives as a result of the progress we’ve made. The survivor rates are way up, as well. The Coaches vs. Cancer project has done a great job of leading the way in the fight against cancer. Coaches are using their platforms to advocate for others to join in the Fight Against Cancer and to raise dollars. In all, Coaches vs. Cancer has raised $150 million over the last 30 years, and we are excited that more progress lies ahead.”
Kruger says President Joe Biden has committed to reducing the cancer death rate by 50 percent over the next 15 years and to investing in more research. The American Cancer Society is also doing a great job as are the researchers and doctors.
“We have to keep giving them the tools to do what they do,” Kruger says.
A new message for 2023 is the importance of screening. Coaches around the country are not only helping to raise funds but are sharing information with fans.
“Cancer screening is vital in the fight against cancer, and we had a good initiative this year called the ‘Set the Screen’ campaign that was part of the suits and sneakers games,” Kruger says. “Cancer is a winnable battle, but much more so when it is detected early. I want to encourage people to get screened and to also encourage others to get screened. The pandemic set back a lot of screenings, so we need people to get back to getting screened.”
Sponsors for the 2023 Coaches vs. Cancer Las Vegas Golf Classic presented by Sanford Health include NextGen Cattle Co., Nike, Top of the World, Comprehensive Cancer Centers, The UPS Store, Wald Family Foods and Xs & Os of Success. Interested companies can contact Bridget Byrne at email@example.com for sponsorship information.
Coaches who participated in 2022 included:
Dana Altman, Oregon
Brad Underwood, Illinois
Kevin Kruger, UNLV
Fran McCaffery, Iowa
Greg McDermott, Creighton
Tubby Smith, High Point – retired
Roy Williams, North Carolina – retired
Matt Painter, Purdue
Fred Hoiberg, Nebraska
Porter Moser, Oklahoma
Andy Enfield, USC
Jerod Haase, Stanford
Tad Boyle, Colorado
Wayne Tinkle, Oregon State
Wes Miller, Cincinnati
Chris Crutchfield, Omaha
Tim Miles, San Jose State
Ron Cottrell, Houston Baptist
Todd Eisner, Winona State
Johnny Tauer, St. Thomas
Bob Chipman, Washburn – retired
Chris Klieman, Kansas State – Football
Sonny Cumbie, Louisiana Tech – Football
Gar Heard, NBA – retired
Spencer Haywood, NBA – retired
CJ Watson, NBA – retired
Ricky Sobers, NBA – retired
Kevin McKenna, Oregon
Brandon Chappell, UNLV
John Cooper, UNLV
Jud Kinne, Houston Baptist
Alan Huss, Creighton
Joe Washington, NFL – retired
Pete Herrmann, Young Harris – retired
Lindy La Rocque, UNLV WBB
Ron McHenry, Washburn WBB
Sherri Coale, Oklahoma WBB – retired
Craig Robinson, NABC
Dr. Karen Knudsen, American Cancer Society
Erick Harper, UNLV AD
Gene Taylor, Kansas State AD
Dale Clayton, Nations of Coaches
Russ Ortiz, MLB – retired
Danielle Kang, LPGA
Kendall Dye, LPGA
Alex Kang, PGA
Craig Barlow, PGA
JT the Brick, Radio Personality
Sean Farnham, ESPN
Dalen Cuff, ESPN
Scott Rochelle, National Basketball Retired Players Association
Eric Lautenbach, Nike