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Coombs Departs, But His Sales Pitch Remains

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Shortly after Urban Meyer was hired as the head coach at Ohio State, I ran into Kerry Coombs on an elevator at the Lindner Center.

"Has Urban called and offered you a job yet?" I asked.

The answer at that point was no, but I wasn't shocked when the news broke on Thursday that Meyer was trying to add Coombs to his coaching staff at OSU.  I'll admit to being mildly surprised when I heard that Kerry had accepted the job.

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Kerry Coombs loves the city of Cincinnati as much as anyone I know.  He turned down multiple opportunities (with significant salary increases) to join Brian Kelly's staff at Notre Dame and I'm sure he struggled with the decision of whether to leave this time around.

I wish him nothing but the best.

It's no secret that Kerry would like to be a college head coach and having Ohio State on the resume won't hurt.  While I doubt he made the decision for money, a bump in pay doesn't hurt either.  I thought UC head coach Butch Jones showed tremendous class with the comments that he made about Coomb's departure to Bill Koch in the Enquirer:

"I will always be indebted to him," Jones said.  "He helped me with the whole process of coming to Cincinnati.  He brought me along.  He introduced me to the right people, taught me different things about Cincinnati.  This isn't just a relationship that started when I came here.  I knew Kerry for years prior to coming here.  He made for the transition to be very smooth."  

Kerry will be missed as a coach, recruiter, and ambassador for the UC football program, but I have complete confidence that Butch Jones will find a capable replacement.  As for recruiting, the head coach sets the tone and Coach Jones wakes up thinking about recruiting as much as any coach that I know.  Cincinnati signed its highest-ranked class ever this year, and I expect that success to continue under the current staff because they have a great product to sell.   

I once asked Kerry to give me the sales pitch that he made to Cincinnati-area high school recruits.  I didn't write it down verbatim, but the basic spiel went as follows:  There are several schools where you can play for championships, maximize your ability, and get a great education.  But there's only one school where you can do all of that in your hometown in front of your friends and family.

That message hasn't changed, even though a spot on the coaching staff has.

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One aspect of Cincinnati's 72-61 win over Marquette that didn't get enough attention in my opinion (although my man Mike DeCourcy mentioned it in The Sporting News) was Mick Cronin's decision to play zone defense for the entire game.  It was the biggest change in strategy that the coaching staff made after a 95-78 loss at Marquette on February 11th.

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"I thought I made a calculated error in our first game against Marquette," Cronin said.  "We played zone in the first half and they made six three-pointers, but the reason why were down by 12 was they had 16 points off turnovers.  We went man-to-man in the second half and we never got our bearings.  They had 45 points in the second half on layups and free throws.  Marquette is the fastest team I've ever coached against and the zone makes them take their time - it forces them to run offense.  So we were going to stay in the zone no matter what.  If they made 10 three-pointers in a row, I was staying in a zone.  I told the guys, they can only win if we turn the ball over and let them run it down our throats."

UC only committed 7 turnovers and Marquette finished with 3 points off turnovers and 5 fast break points (total of 8 combined).  The Golden Eagles had 56 points when you added those two stats in game one.  As a result, the 'Cats won by double digits on a night where they were 4-for-24 (17%) from beyond the arc.

"That just shows you that defense is where you have to hang your hat," Coach Cronin said.  "You won't always make shots.  Your defense is your constant.  When you have a really good team and you make shots, you should win easily.

"When we are at our best, we take care of the ball and get shots.  That's who we are.  We don't shoot the highest percentage, but we get more shot attempts than nearly anybody in the Big East - I think we're ranked 1-2 with Louisville in field goal attempts.  Shooting percentage isn't as important for us as some other teams because we get so many attempts.  We don't turn the ball over and we're a pretty good rebounding team even though we're small.  We just get more possessions than our opponents."

The Bearcats attempted 9 more shots than Villanova in an 82-78 win on January 14th.  It's a stat to watch on Saturday afternoon in Philly.

I'd love to hear from you at Dan.Hoard@Bengals.nfl.net

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