Mick Cronin has restored the University of Cincinnati men's basketball program to that of national-contender status coming off a 2013-14 campaign that saw the Bearcats claim a share of the inaugural American Athletic Conference crown and advance to the NCAA Tournament for a fourth consecutive season.
Despite earning only one vote in the preseason Associated Press poll, Cronin guided the Bearcats to their most successful season since 2001-02. Cincinnati posted a 27-7 record, winning 15 of 18 conference games while ranking among the national leaders in several defensive categories. UC's 2014 NCAA Tournament appearance elevated the program into a select group as one of only 16 in the nation to make the trip during each of the past four seasons.
Cincinnati's 101 wins since the start of the 2010-11 season highlight one of the most successful periods in program history with four 20-win seasons, including three years with at least 26 victories. Along the way, the Bearcats have appeared in the national polls each season, earning their highest ranking at No. 7 during 2013-14. UC was listed among the top 15 teams in the AP poll during each of the last eight weeks of the regular season.
For his accomplishments last season, Cronin was recognized by his peers, earning conference coach of the year and National Basketball Coaches Association District 25 Coach of the Year accolades. He was also nominated for national coach of the year consideration.
The program's current trajectory is in stark contrast from where Cronin found it when he was named head coach at his alma mater in March 2006. His first season featured a roster with only one returning letterman. But with unrelenting determination Cronin went to work and 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 and defeated eight ranked teams while finishing second in the BIG EAST Tournament and advancing to the school's first NCAA Sweet 16 appearance since 2001. Coupled with trips to the NCAA Tournament each of the past two seasons, UC has solidified its place on the national stage.
In eight seasons at Cincinnati, Cronin has compiled a 162-107 mark and owns a 231-131 record in 11 years as a college head coach.
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 regular-season 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 on 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.
During the 2013-14 season, Cronin also wrote a column in the Cincinnati Enquirer, cautioning Cincinnatians of the dangers of texting while driving as part of the AT&T sponsored "It Can Wait" campaign. Following the season Cronin promoted the effort with AT&T and city officials at an event downtown.
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 at UC. 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.