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Cronin sheds necessary light on dark day

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Following the ugliest moment in the storied history of the Crosstown Shootout, Mick Cronin proved why he's the face of the University of Cincinnati basketball program.

[Watch the entire Mick Cronin press conference here. Seriously. Do it.]

 

CINCINNATI -- The light of cameras shined directly on Mick Cronin. Following one of the darkest moments in his six-year tenure at UC, he wouldn't hold back. The emotion of anger, humiliation and shock were evident with every rapidly repeating perk in his voice.

"I've never been this embarrassed," he said. "I'm just hoping President Williams doesn't ask me to resign after that."

Cronin could have said many things in the moments following one of the nastiest, most unadulterated brawls in college basketball history. Yet, in the instant reaction fresh off his team being escorted off the hardwood, rather than jumping deeper into the mess, he backed away.

This black eye didn't need more analysis. It didn't need more finger-pointing. It needed perspective.

Players, coaches, administrators and everyone else puts a lovely PR foot forward when all is going well. It's how somebody reacts against adversity that shows who the university really hired.

If we learned anything from Saturday's mess, it's that Mick Cronin shouldn't be concerned with his job security.

On the court may have been his lowest moment, but his stance afterward may have been his finest.

"My players need to handle themselves the way I expect the University of Cincinnati basketball team to handle themselves, regardless of the situation they are in. Period," Cronin said. "Represent our university. That is what I was hired to do six years ago. That's what will happen as long as I'm the coach; whether we have five guys on the team on Monday or 10 or 13."

Suspensions are handed down by the conference and they will likely come in the near future. But nobody needs to worry about Cronin taking the punishments easy on his own guys. He's never been one to cut a corner when it comes to discipline, no matter how big the game. Just ask Yancy Gates, who was left at home for a game at Pittsburgh last season.

Cronin stands by what he believes in and that may be part of his basketball coaching style, but has little to do with the game.

We were all reminded of that for 16 minutes following the Crosstown Shootout Saturday.

"One thing that I hope that the people that I work for know is that as long as I am the coach they don't have to worry about me doing the right thing and the program standing for certain things," Cronin said. "And that might not maybe be as sexy as some people want it, but that is how it's going to be when I'm the coach. Period. They are not going to have to worry about that."

Following the game, Cronin addressed his team. They all had no shirts on. The coach made them take the jerseys off.

"Some of them I physically took them off," Cronin said. "They will not put it on again until they have a full understanding of where they go to school and what the university stands for and how lucky they are to even be there, let alone have a scholarship."

Blame can be cast in many directions. The officials didn't do a good enough job of cutting off the trash talk before the incident. Xavier didn't do a good enough of job of winning with class. UC didn't do a good enough job of not retaliating.

Cronin wasn't dodging any of it. He accepted responsibility for his team and the actions of everybody involved.

Easy to talk about, difficult to do.

"There is no excuse for any of it," Cronin said. "On our side, on their side, guys need to grow up. I am not blaming anybody from our standpoint, we accept full responsibility and it will be handled. There is no excuse for that in basketball. You got to learn how to win on one side, you got to learn how to lose on the other side."

For Cronin, this wasn't just about Cincinnati and Xavier. This wasn't about Sean Kilpatrick's comments or Tu Holloway's reaction. This was about everyone. This was about every athlete, media member or fan who forgot an important point: this is just a game.

"Too much glorification of all of sports in our society," Cronin said. "The fact is guys are here to get an education. They represent institutions of higher learning. Xavier has been a great school for years. We are trying to cure cancer at Cincinnati. I go to school at a place where they discovered the vaccine for polio and created Benadryl. I think that's more important than who wins a basketball game. And our guys need to have appreciation for the fact they are there on a full scholarship. And they're there to represent institutions with class and integrity."

People can question Cronin's play-calling all they want. They can take shots at his x's and o's. They can even place blame on him for Saturday's brawl.

But nobody can question what he stands for. Nobody can question his integrity.

Among the many lessons learned Saturday, that was chief among them.

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Here is the complete transcript of Mick Cronin's press conference following the loss to Xavier:

(Trying to call timeout, you see it coming?)

I was trying to call time out. I was trying to call time out so their players would go to their bench because the game was over. I saw them talking to our bench. I saw them. Of course, they were talking to assistant coaches. I don't know who they were talking to, some of their players.

I saw it, tried to call timeout, but I had repeatedly asked the officials to stop it. That being said, there is no excuse for any of it. On our side, on their side, guys need to grow up. I am not blaming anybody from our standpoint, we accept full responsibility and it will be handled. There is no excuse for that in basketball. You got to learn how to win on one side, you got to learn how to lose on the other side. All these kids all need to realize they are here to get an education. And playing in Europe isn't really sexy. Eric Hicks just left to go to Israel. You think eh wants to do that if he can get a good job over here. These guys, very few of them are ever going to make a dollar playing basketball. They are here to get an education at two great universities and they need to appreciate that. The world don't revolve around them, around basketball. They need to learn how to act, they need to have respect for the fact they are on a scholarship, that people come to see them play. That's just the facts of college athletics. I understand there is media and people asking for autographs, but it's a prime example of guys thinking they are too important. And I am talking about everybody involved. Too much glorification of all of sports in our society. The fact is, guys are here to get an education. They represent institutions of higher learning. Xavier has been a great school for years. We are trying to cure cancer at Cincinnati, OK. I got to school at a place where they discovered the vaccine for polio and created Benadryl. I think that's more important than who wins a basketball game. And our guys need to have appreciation for the fact they are there on a full scholarship. And they're there to represent institutions with class and integrity. That's that. Now, what happened, I got to watch the tape, I'm like you guys. I saw it coming and tried to call a timeout. I saw it coming and I asked the officials to stop it. So if you are going to ask me where I am upset, that's where I'm upset. With all due respect to the three guys, that's where I'm upset the most.

(Lyons and Holloway seemed to delight in fact they were in fight, you tell players what told us?)

Absolutely. My players don't act the right way they will never play another game at Cincinnati. Right now, I just told my guys, I will meet with my AD and my president and I'm going to decide who is on the team going forward. That is what the University of Cincinnati is about. Period.

I've never been this embarrassed. I'm hoping President Williams doesn't ask me to resign after that. We represent an institution of higher learning, it's way more important than basketball games. Whoever puts that jersey back on - I made everybody take their jersey off and they will not put it on again until they have a full understanding of where they go to school and what the university stands for and how lucky they are to even be there, let alone have a scholarship, because there's a whole lot of kids that can't pay for college. And don't get to go to school. My mom didn't get to go to UC, she grew up on campus. They couldn't afford it.

(Made players take jerseys off?)

Absolutely, they are all sitting in there with no jersey on. Some of them I physically took them off.

(advised officials)

The whole second half. Guys were talking to our bench the whole second half. I was told I need to calm down. I got guys sitting there cursing at coaches and I got an official sitting right there listening to it. It's crazy. There's no cause for that. For anybody, that needs to be handled early. This isn't professional sports, guys. This is not professional sports.

(Xavier guys cursed at your bench?)

It was going on the whole game. Now, when I am going to say that, I don't know what my guys were saying. Understand that, I am not here to, you know, I was told at halftime, because I asked at halftime. They said well make sure your bench don't say anything to the point where he said, we'll give him a T. I said, well, give him a T. And then tell me who did it because he is going to be thrown off my bench in the second half. Now, my team can't score right now and we got a way to go to be a better team, but as long as the President lets me be the coach, that's not going to happen.

(What happened right before halftime)

I don't know, I couldn't tell. It was a lot of talk for no reason. There should have been multiple technical fouls way before the incident, way before the incident. And the reason I am upset, I've got an official there watching it and doing nothing about it. That's where somebody, whoever assigned the guys should make sure they understand what they are walking into. But you know what, we play Wright State and I don't know who Xavier plays, but there is no place for that in collegiate athletics. And I am not pointing fingers. I am talking on both sides. If somebody on my team was provoked, they were coached for the last five days to not retaliate. Ibrahima Thomas got punched last year in the game. Somebody should have been thrown out. They didn't throw him out. Thomas walked away. I don't know what happened. I am just saying there's just no place for any of it period.

(revisit playing series?)

Every game we go out to play if guys run their mouth they should be - in the big east that stuff doesn't happen. I am just going to tell you it doesn't happen. Big east, two guys start talking, ref tells them to shut up. I was at St. John's they threw both guys out. They were saying, well, we knew each other. They said I told you to shut up, you are out.

At the end of the day, if that has to happen, that's a shame. If you have to not play a game because of something like that. All I can control is my team. I don't care how hard it is when you are provoked or somebody hits you in the face, there is no excuse for it from my standpoint. Period.

(you are going to go through the film and do your own investigation)

Absolutely.

(Then the league will suspend guys?)

I have no idea. One thing that I hope that the people that I work for know is that as long as I am the coach they don't have to worry about me doing the right thing and the program standing for certain things. And that might maybe be as sexy as some people want it, but that is how it's going to be when I'm the coach. Period. They are not going to have to worry about that.

(Most agitated seen you, this the low point for you?)

You got to understand something. I represent the University of Cincinnati. That whole scene, it's embarrassing, to be a part of that? Are you kidding me? It's a complete embarrassment. No matter who started what. Just the whole thing, it's a complete embarrassment. We talk all the time, toughness is doing the right thing in life. That is what we talk about. If that is the case, you are being provoked, this or that, true toughness, you walk away from it. You take your ass whipping and you go home. You get better. Certain people want to act a certain way, that's on them. If that's who they want to be that's on them. That is not what we are going to be. Period. That's not what we are going to be. Am I agitated? Yes. Do I think my guys are somewhat responsible in some way, I don't know who started it but I can tell you that is not what we are going to be about.

(Holloway said Kilpatick started it by disrespecting him on the radio)

That's ridiculous. Grow up. Grow up, OK. Our sports information department made a mistake by putting him on with somebody that was going to provoke him. Read the statement. The kid said he was a great player to start off then people want to make something of it. I mean, who cares, at the end of the day. What's that got to do anything? Go play the game. Guys, there's thousands of people in our country - watch 60 minutes - half of Orlando is homeless. You are not that important. None of us. Have some class. Represent your university and I am talking about everybody involved. Everybody involved. Let's be honest, guys, come on. It's a basketball game. That has nothing to do with it. He should never have been put in that situation, in an interview with somebody that going to just try to do that. But that's got nothing to do with nothing and again if he wants to act like, my players need to handle themselves the way I expect the University of Cincinnati basketball team to handle themselves, regardless of the situation they are in. Period. Represent our university. That is what I was hired to do six years ago. That's what will happen as long as I'm the coach. Whether we have five guys on the team on Monday or 10 or 13. There is enough guys out there that would appreciate the scholarship. I don't care how good you are. That whole scene is just an embarrassment. Guys think they are way too important in the scope of what is going on in the world. It's not professional sports. Thanks guys.

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1 Comment

Just found out that Yancy Gates, Octavius Ellis and Cheikh Mbodj got suspended for just 6 games. You got to be kidding me. I'm a neutral observer that played and coached college basketball. Gates and Mbodj should have been suspended for the year and be charged with assault. Plus this is not Gates first offense. And you say Cronin has integrity. Give me a break. He recruited those players and a solid coach would have better control of his kids. Have you ever seen a Coach K, Bob Knight, or John Wooden team behave like that. Absolutely not because they recruit kids ,both black and white, with character. "Cronins" have no place in coaching. That game was a disgrace to basketball and to humanity. Pathetic. Also another problem with that game were the refs. All three of those men should be suspended. If they had stopped the jawing early this would have probably not happened. I've been coaching my sons
AAU team for years and this crap happens every game from the other teams players. Not from my players because I dont put up with it. I tell them the very 1st practice that if they want to play for me they will keep there mouths shut. You try to tell the refs to put a stop to it and they just ignore you. The refs play a huge role in the escalation of trash talking.