The handling of Yancy Gates

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Mick Cronin's suspension of Yancy Gates wasn't a personal attack, rather the latest tactic to return the junior to the dedicated, focused form he carried into the season. 


Click here for a full transcript of Cronin's revealing discussion of the Yancy Gates situation. 


CINCINNATI - A theme resonated through the dozens of press conferences Mick Cronin held over the first two months of the season.


With an older, more mature group this year, he no longer was forced to coach attitude. The number of times this was said could fill pages and pages of print. And Yancy Gates' face would be plastered on the cover of that book.


The enigmatic Gates looked to have turned the corner in both actions and words. From running sand dunes in California and improving stamina to stepping into a more vocal leadership role on and off the court, the storyline was set. The player who long struggled with consistently playing hard finally dedicated himself.


For Mick Cronin, however, somewhere around the flip of the calendar to 2011, Gates reverted to 2009.


"I think his effort has dipped since Big East play," said Cronin, who spoke with Gates on Monday and allowed him back to practice. "No, I'm not happy with his effort. I wasn't happy with his effort. He was told that (last) Monday and all week."


When news broke of Gates' suspension for the Pittsburgh game, everyone searched for what happened. What incident caused Cronin to drop the hammer on his star forward.


There may or may not have been an incident that occurred late last week. Regardless, that wasn't the reason Cronin held Gates out. The suspension served as the tipping point of what Cronin viewed as a festering issue.


Numbers support his conviction. Gates owns 13 offensive rebounds in nine Big East games. That's tied for third on the team. The 6-foot-9, 260-pound manchild owns fewer offensive boards than guard Dion Dixon (14).


In the ultimate effort stat for a power forward, Gates is significantly underachieving.


"The worst thing you can say for something that is untrue to a player is you don't play hard," Cronin said. "No, that's not the case (with Gates). You don't play hard all the time is the case. You play hard at certain times of the game not at other times of the game - when a shot goes up, for instance. Your job as a coach is to get your players better. All means necessary."     


The principles of avoiding Cronin's doghouse are simple: "Play hard, be coachable, be committed to your team," he said.


Cronin made the decision after a week of hounding Gates that the junior violated the code. Making the call to leave the building block of the program in Cincinnati for a trip to play No. 4 Pittsburgh wasn't difficult. For Cronin, it was simple.


This decision wasn't about Pitt. In many respects, it wasn't about Yancy Gates. This was about the standards of the program. 


"Your talent level is only going to get you so far," Cronin said. "For me your program has to stand for certain things. And they are not complicated things - basic things. The minute you begin to sacrifice that you compromise your credibility as a coach. You'll pay the price in the long run as a coach."


The suspension didn't represent a personal attack on Gates' character. Far from it. Four times during the 12 minutes of Gates discussion on Monday Cronin reminded everyone "he's a good kid."


Players across the country are suspended or miss practices on a daily basis. Cronin even admitted other players on his team have been forced to miss practices this season.


It became clear to Cronin Gates needed a reminder his best effort is not only expected, but demanded every day.


"He's far from the only guy on our team or other teams that deal with the issue of looking in the mirror and being accountable for themselves and their own effort and taking responsibility for their own actions," Cronin said. "It just so happens in this case it cost him a game so it's a big deal."


This move was the latest piece in the development process. Maybe it works, maybe not. But the fifth-year coach had to make the decision he did. If he didn't, he wouldn't be doing right by the program, his principles or a player who he dedicated himself to extracting the most production out of his unlimited potential.


For 21 year olds who've been told far too often how outstanding they are, that reality check often comes with a negative backlash.   


"Some young people really struggle with people that try to make them better and hold them accountable...and they won't let anybody help them," Cronin said. "They won't let anybody set standards for them and they become bull-headed, for whatever reason. It can be their demise."


What it will be for Gates is yet to be determined. As for the suspension, Cronin hopes it will one day be viewed as a turning point.


"That should be your chief want in life is somebody to force you to give your best every day and be the best you can be," Cronin said. "A lot of young people struggle with that. Yancy is definitely one of them. He knows everything I am telling you. He knows."

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