In his eighth season at his alma mater, Mick Cronin has returned pride to the University of Cincinnati basketball program by restoring its winning tradition with three consecutive trips to the NCAA tournament and reclaiming its place as a national contender.
Though the process was anything but easy - with a roster that included only one returning letterman when he arrived at UC in March 2006 - Cronin's steadfast determination and loyalty for UC spearheaded what could be considered one of the nation's top rebuilding efforts.
Cincinnati was the only program from a major conference to improve its win total every season from 2007 to 2011, building from 11 wins in 2007 to 26 victories and a return to the NCAA tournament in 2011. A year later, the Bearcats won 26 games again while advancing to the school's first NCAA Sweet 16 appearance since 2001. UC made its third consecutive NCAA tournament appearance last season as attendance figures at UC's Fifth Third Arena climbed to their highest average of the Cronin coaching era and a Top-50 national ranking.
A trip to the NCAA tournament in 2014 would make Cronin only the second coach in school history to take the Bearcats to the Big Dance four consecutive times (Bob Huggins sent 14 UC teams from 1992-2005).
Last season he earned his 200th career victory and enters the 2013-14 campaign with a 204-124 overall record after 10 seasons. He owns a 135-100 mark after seven years at UC, ranking third in school history.
Cronin and UC reinforced their commitment to one another in April 2013 when the head coach signed a contract extension through the 2018 season.
TRACK RECORD OF SUCCESS
Success seems to follow Cronin, who came to UC after serving three years as head coach at Murray State (2004-06). As mentor of the Racers, Cronin compiled a 69-24 overall record while earning a pair of NCAA tournament berths.
In his debut season as head coach, Cronin directed Murray State to a school-best 28-6 record, the Ohio Valley Conference tournament championship, and an NCAA tournament appearance. His 28 wins are the sixth most in NCAA history for a first-year head coach. He earned OVC Coach of the Year honors two seasons later, guiding Murray State to another OVC title, league tournament crown and NCAA tournament appearance with a 24-6 mark in 2005-06.
Prior to earning a head coaching position, Cronin built a sterling reputation for his ability to evaluate and recruit top talent. In his stint at UC as an assistant coach for Bob Huggins from 1997-2001, Cronin recruited several top players, including NBA Draft selections Steve Logan (Golden State); DerMarr Johnson (Atlanta); Pete Mickeal (Dallas); Kenny Satterfield (Dallas); and Jason Maxiell (Detroit).
Following the 2000-01 season, Cronin became the associate head coach and recruiting coordinator at Louisville, under Rick Pitino. In his first year, Cronin helped attract a top-10 ranked recruiting class.
Cronin's passion for success on the court also carries over to the Cincinnati community where he is committed to making a difference. He currently serves as a board member of the American Cancer Society's Coaches vs. Cancer of Southwest Ohio chapter.
He also assists with a major fundraising event - Soul of the City Soiree - for Our Daily Bread that has generated more than $100,000 each of the past two years to assist the soup kitchen located in the Over-the-Rhine area of Cincinnati.
Cronin also annually speaks with the Young Executive Group of the Catholic Inner-City Schools Education (CISE) Fund. The group raises money from area corporations to help give children from low income urban settings the opportunity to attend Catholic schools.
PATH TO COACHING
Cronin has long held great pride in the Queen City, the University of Cincinnati and the sport of basketball. As a child growing up on the west side of town, he used to follow his father, Harold "Hep" Cronin -- a highly successful local high school coach with more than 400 career wins -- around the gyms of Cincinnati. A product of LaSalle High School, Cronin had his playing career end sooner than expected due to a knee injury in high school.
That didn't stop his desire to find his place in basketball. While completing his undergraduate degree at UC, Cronin served as assistant varsity coach and head junior varsity coach at Woodward High School. He helped develop six players who went on to play Division I college basketball, including former Bearcat Damon Flint, who ranks among the top 25 scorers in program history.
Cronin made the jump from high school to college coaching during the 1996-97 season joining Huggins as video coordinator for UC basketball. A year later, Cronin was elevated to an assistant coach for the Bearcats, setting the stage for his long tenure in college basketball.
Cronin resides in Cincinnati with his seven-year old daughter, Samantha.