It's hard to imagine 6 years ago when Mick Cronin was named the mens basketball coach at the University of Cincinnati, devoid of players and recruits, that this day would come in the eyes of many doubters. While attending the NCAA pairing party at Montgomery Inn last night Mick reminded me that I, while still consulting with Cincinnati Bell, delivered the first batch of cell phones to him and his staff. My how times have changed! I've moved onward and Coach Cronin has moved forward, and his plan to restore this program has come front and center.
UC has their coach and Mick has his school. He is truly a home town guy; he is a Montgomery Inn, Cincinnati Reds, Cincinnati Bengals, West Side, UC, High School, family and friend kind of Cincinnatian that you find in ample supply around here. And that's why he never doubted what he was doing because his roots reminded him that what he learned from Hep Cronin his dad; from Woodward High School, Bob Huggins and from Rick Pitino would all come together to create a model of success.
If you've never lived in Cincinnati you might not understand a lot of the thinking that goes into leaving but always knowing you want to come home. That being the coach at home is more prestigious than any of the darling jobs; that looking behind you at the games and seeing your family, friends and a couple of guys you played against nodding their heads in approval mean more than you can explain.
When the band of haters mounted up their arsenal it was met with resistance not by Mick but by them. When people didn't want to acknowledge his progress it was the hometown team that spoke on his behalf using the truth to uncover the hate. The real question was as this team was progressing why didn't anyone want to accept it? He showed resolve cutting players who were supposed to transform this program. He sat players on the bench who thought they were entitled; and he even reminded them during tough times it's a privilege to wear the same uniform that the great Oscar Robertson wore.
Mick had a plan; and it included his Dad going with him to every game discussing the fundamentals of the game and of coaching. Because no matter how high they jump, how fast they run or how great a shooter they are it's still basketball. And that means the game will always outlast the players. So knowledge is king and Hep has plenty of it; so did Huggins and Pitino but honestly Mick has some of his own too.
He proved it at Murray State and he has now proven it here. Two years in a row UC is going to the big dance; and this year it's a tank of gas away in Nashville where they'll start their run for the Final Four. If you are a fan or want to see this team in the prime time of college basketball the opportunity is there.
But the bigger opportunity is for you to give Mick his due; admitting that you didn't see the possibility of him reestablishing this program or getting it back to the level you were accustomed to when Huggins was here. But he has; and don't say well he did it two years in a row but not three because last year you said lets see him do it twice.
Lets see you get on board, like the 10k plus people who got on board at the beginning of the year. That's what recruits see when deciding where they want to play; where they watch on TV and feel the energy that burst through the screen when they played Syracuse and Marquette at home. Where they made a statement in the Big Apple at the Big East tournament and said we belong and you, potential recruit, could be the missing player to take us even further.
This program is moving ahead with all the right pieces in place and needing just a few more. Are you a missing piece? Are you coming back? They've earned your support UC fan, alum and Cincinnatian. You don't even have to apologize or say you were wrong; just say you're on board.
That's the way I see it, sitting in The Box Seat