Mailbag Response Time!

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Got some great e-mail regarding my mailbag, and I thank everybody for taking the time to write and tell me their feelings. Most, not surprisingly, didn't necessarily agree with me and my thought that Mick Cronin deserved another year. And that's OK. I'm just happy to have the dialogue.


But let me take one e-mail from the pile, because it makes some interesting points. Bear with me because Craig spent some time on this bad boy and put together a fair amount of research for it. I, once again, edited parts of it for length but tried to stay true to the original intent of the e-mail.


From Craig:


Four years ago, when people were talking about a five-year rebuilding process for Mick Cronin at UC, I thought it was too conservative and I still think it is. For a traditional basketball program that has continued to have success in modern times (the past 10-15 years), more should be expected of Mick by this point in his tenure at UC. To help validate my argument, here are Mick's results compared to those of other coaches at traditional NCAA basketball programs that have had similar success to UC in modern times and have been on the job for a comparable amount of time as Mick. All of these coaches came in after losing seasons (with the exception of Tom Crean at Indiana) and without a stocked cupboard of talent, similar to Mick. In some cases, the program was facing NCAA violation issues that certainly could have affected recruiting and the rebuilding process.


Mick Cronin, University of Cincinnati

Previous team record in 2005-2006: 21-13, NIT

2006-2007: 11-19 (2-14 Big East)

2007-2008: 13-19 (8-10), CBI 1st Round

2008-2009: 18-14 (8-10)

2009-2010 (current): 14-9 (5-6)


John Beilein, University of Michigan

Previous team record in 2006-2007: 22-13      

2007-2008: 10-22 (5-13 Big Ten)

2008-2009: 21-14 (9-9), NCAA 2nd Round               

2009-2010 (current): 11-11 (4-6)


Thad Matta, Ohio State University

Previous team record in 2003-2004: 14-16 (6-10)

Previous coach, Jim O'Brien, fired over alleged NCAA violations. Matta was hired when team was potentially facing probation (and eventually was ineligible for post season his first year)

Coaching record:

2004-2005: 20-12 (8-8 Big Ten)

2005-2006: 26-6 (12-4), Big 10 Champs, NCAA 2nd Round

2006-2007: 35-4 (15-1), Big 10 Champs, Big 10 Tournament Champs, NCAA Runner-Up

2007-2008: 24-13 (10-8), NIT Champions

2009-2010 (current): 19-6 (9-3)


Matt Painter, Purdue University

Previous team record in 2004-2005: 7-21 (3-13)

Coaching record:

2005-2006: 9-19 (3-13 Big Ten)

2006-2007: 22-12 (9-7), NCAA 2nd Round

2007-2008: 25-9 (15-3), NCAA 2nd Round

2008-2009: 27-10 (11-7), Big 10 Tournament Champs, NCAA Sweet 16    

2009-2010 (current): 20-3 (8-3)

NOTE: Matt Painter was hired as the Associate Head Coach under Gene Keady for the 2004-2005 season to help with the coaching transition. If one would wanted to treat this as his "first" year when comparing to Mick, then consider his team's performance in 2007-2008 as his fourth year. The improvement in that time frame is still significantly better than Cronin's.


Bruce Pearl, University of Tennessee

Previous team record in 2004-2005: 14-17 (6-10)

Coaching record:

2005-2006: 22-8 (12-4 SEC), NCAA 2nd Round

2006-2007: 24-11 (10-6), NCAA Sweet 16

2007-2008: 31-5 (14-2), SEC Champs, NCAA Sweet 16

2008-2009: 21-13 (10-6) NCAA 1st Round

2009-2010 (current): 18-5 (6-3)


Tom Crean, Indiana University

Previous team record in 2007-2008: 25-8 (14-2), NCAA 1st Round

Kelvin Sampson was fired towards the end of the season due to NCAA violations. Interim Coach Dan Dakich coached final 7 games. Most of the team left following season.

2008-2009: 6-25 (1-17)

2009-2010 (current): 9-12 (3-6)


Not all of these coaches are Hall of Famers, but, excluding Tom Crean momentarily, they all got their teams to 20-win seasons and into the NCAA tournament in within their first 2 years of being a coach. All of the programs I did list, though, have a similar basketball tradition and success to that of the Bearcats, and the UC faithful would be much more satisfied, or at least look toward the future in a much more promising manner, if Mick were to turn in performances similar to any of these guys.

In short, mark me up for one that does not think Mick deserves year 5.


OK, so we're going to have to agree to disagree on the conservative estimate that it would take five years to rebuild. You say it shouldn't take that long; I say UC's predicament four years ago was similar to a program just reemerging from an NCAA-sanctioned death penalty. Although others in the national media said the same thing at the time - I think Mike DeCourcy said it would take about twice as long as I predicted - this is just argument that's not going to be settled. We'll leave it there.


I agree that the Tom Crean analogy is most similar to what Cronin went through. Of course - and this also goes for the arguments with Matta and Painter - you can't compare the competition in the Big East and the Big Ten. If UC played in the Big Ten, where there are like four legit teams this season, the Bearcats wouldn't be struggling nearly as hard to break the .500 mark in conference play. Not when you have the likes of Michigan (there's Beilein struggling), Indiana, Iowa and Penn State playing.


I think that's what lost most here. People forget that the Big East is the strongest conference in the history of college basketball. Trying to come back from the dead to play in a league like this is ridiculous. Even the teams that struggle the most in the league are still pretty good teams. OK, maybe not DePaul or Rutgers, but you get my point. How would St. John's or Seton Hall fare in the Big Ten? I'm betting they'd be better than the 3-8 and 4-7 records, respectively, those teams are displaying in the Big East. I'm not saying that Matta and Painter haven't done nice jobs with really good players - I would argue Craig's point that their cupboards were bare when they took over - but they also weren't competing in the same league against Rick Pitino and Jim Calhoun and Jim Boeheim and Jamie Dixon and so on and so on.


As for Bruce Pearl: yes, Tennessee was down after Buzz Petersen left, but to me, you can't really compare his situation to Mick's. Yes, a couple of top recruits had transferred out after Pearl was hired, but it's not like the program was decimated. He still had Chris Lofton and C.J. Watson and Major Wingate - guys who were pretty good to legitimately great players. The Bearcats had Deonta Vaughn, a freshman. And that's about it.


But there's one program Craig didn't mention: Baylor and coach Scott Drew. Most of Dave Bliss' player had transferred out before Drew was hired in August of 2003 after that humongous scandal, but since then, Drew has done a remarkable job bringing this program back from the brink of irrelevance. Here's his record through his first four seasons:


2003-04/8-21/3-13 Big 12





And in his fifth year, the same number I'm saying Mick should get? The Bears went 21-11 and made the NCAA tournament.

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