Last year, University of Cincinnati administration decided they liked Mick Cronin and wanted him to stay around for a while. They rewarded him with a 7-year contract extension at $2.2 million per year. At the time, this made him one of the top-20 paid coaches in college basketball. Not bad.
Cronin started as a video coordinator for Bob Huggins in 1996-97. He was quickly moved to assistant coach and made a name for himself in recruiting, picking up big names such as Steve Logan and Jason Maxiell. He continued his great recruiting record under Rick Pitino in 2001-02, and then served as Head Coach for Murray State for three seasons. In 2006, he came back to Cincinnati. This time as Head Coach.
Image pulled from: http://enquirer.com/bearcats/1999/02/18/uc_uc_82_unc_charlotte.html
The situation Mick came into was not ideal. The controversial mess after Bob Huggins left Cronin with very little to work with. He was forced to scrounge together a team using anything he could find - even pulling in football players like Connor Barwin. That year, the Bearcats won just 11 games. Since that season, Cronin has steadily improved the program year-after-year.
In his eight years with Cincinnati, Cronin boasts a 162-107 (60.2%) record. He was the only coach in a major conference to improve his team's record every year from 2007-11. Here is a breakdown of his head coaching record pulled from GoBEARCATS.com.
|Mick Cronin - Head Coaching Record|
|2003-04||Murray State (OVC)||28-6/14-2||NCAA Atlanta Reg. (0-1)|
|2004-05||Murray State (OVC)||17-11/11-5||---|
|2005-06||Murray State (OVC)||24-7/17-3||NCAA Washington Reg. (0-1)|
|Murray State Totals||3 years||69-24/42-10||.742/.808|
|2006-07||Cincinnati (BIG EAST)||11-19/2-14||---|
|2007-08||Cincinnati (BIG EAST)||13-19/8-10||Col. Basketball Invit. (0-1)|
|2008-09||Cincinnati (BIG EAST)||18-14/8-10||---|
|2009-10||Cincinnati (BIG EAST)||19-16/7-11||NIT (1-1)|
|2010-11||Cincinnati (BIG EAST)||26-9/11-7||NCAA Third Round (1-1)|
|2011-12||Cincinnati (BIG EAST)||26-11/12-6||NCAA East Regional Semifinals (2-1)|
|2012-13||Cincinnati (BIG EAST)||22-12/9-9||NCAA Second Round (0-1)|
|2013-14||Cincinnati (American)||27-7/15-3||NCAA Second Round (0-1)|
|Cincinnati Totals||8 years||162-107/72-70||.602/.507|
|Career Head Coaching Totals||11 years||231-131/115-80||.638/.590|
Seing Cronin's record at Cincinnati laid out like that, you can see the steady improvement. In his tenure at Cincinnati, 2012-13 was the only season Cronin failed to win more games than the year before. That is the steady building that fundamentally and sustainably changes a program.
Addressing the crowd at the "Bearcat on the Banks" event a week ago, Cronin asked if anyone knew where the Final Four was this year. Sounds like he is setting that as the mark for this team. I think he knows it, but the Final Four may be a bit of a stretch. Simply put, the goal is the tournament. That gets every quasi-basketball fan across the country staring at the word "Cincinnati" on their bracket for a month, which is great advertising for the program for building the fan base as well as helping to attract recruits.
But Mick doesn't only do his work on the court. He lead an effort in renovating the Bearcats locker room with private funds that he helped raise, and is leading the charge to get the University to invest in basketball at the same level they invest in football.
His daughter, Sammi Cronin, was the host of the Sammi Cronin Show last year and is set to take the helm again in Season 2 this year. Easily the best moment of her show was when she asked Jermaine Lawrence if he had a girlfriend. Clearly the lady situation was a complicated one for him. Here is the interview (Lawrence is the last one).
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As noted, the program has been on a nice steady incline for almost a decade. Getting better and better, year after year. Much of the credit should be given to Mick Cronin, and I don't know if enough is. Everyone on this year's team seems to be young, new, or young and new. Cronin has a lot of work to do this year, but as I mentioned earlier, the goal for this squad is the tournament. A top-4 AAC finish should get them there and there is no reason why they shouldn't be in that spot come February. There are some tough games on the schedule, but it isn't like they have to play Kentucky.
Thank you for the past few years, Mick, and keep up the good work.
-Daniele "Da" Bologna