The pain from Cincinnati's 2015-16 season ending is still fresh, but that doesn't mean coaching searches can't pick-up. For Cincinnati fans, that starts with head coach Mick Cronin being linked to the UNLV head coach search, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
Cincinnati gives UNLV permission to interview Mick Cronin. If you can't get Rick Pitino, go to his coaching tree.— Tim Sullivan (@TimSullivan714) March 22, 2016
Now, Cincinnati has reportedly granted UNLV permission to speak with Cronin, according to the Cincinnati Enquirer. This comes after Cincinnati athletic director Mike Bohn declined comment Monday and after Cincinnati President Santa J. Ono had his say in the matter.
Great conversation with Mick Cronin today. Made it clear he is a key member of our team here at UC.— Santa J. Ono (@PrezOno) March 21, 2016
Cronin is a Cincinnati native who has lived in the Cincinnati area for most of his life. He hasn't ever really expressed interest in going elsewhere, as the city of Cincinnati and Cronin grew synonymous to one another it seemed. In fact, it was only a year ago (March 2015) that Cronin was quoted saying:
"I'm the only guy who has an agent that doesn't need one. I have no interest, none. The only job I have an interest in is the Cincinnati job."
So, that begs the question: what does this all mean?
UNLV isn't a terrible opportunity by any means, but it's hard to see Cronin leaving. Perhaps there are issues with higher ups, frustrations with the financial backing of the program or even frustrations stemming from a fan base that at times seems to discredit six straight NCAA Tournament berths.
That said, Cronin is a Cincinnati guy through and through who has developed a very good and consistent program through his time at the helm. Not to mention, he has another exciting season coming up -- despite losing four seniors --with key players returning, transfer Kyle Washington getting involved and the arrival of highly-touted recruit Jarron Cumberland. Factor in the prospect of displacing his family from his hometown and there are a variety of reasons why Cronin could be back on the bench for Cincinnati next season.
There is also the issue of Cronin's paycheck. Cronin signed a seven-year contract extension in June of 2014 that has the 44-year-old making up to $2.2 million per year. UNLV's former coach Dave Rice, who was fired in early January (Jan. 10) was making a base salary of $300,000 and a total package of $700,000 annually, but there are rumors that UNLV is serious about making a splash hire and shelling out more cash to do so. Cronin would certainly be that hire, if they could afford him.
UPDATE (3/22): Evidently they may be able to afford him, according to ESPN's Jeff Goodman...
UNLV making a strong push for Cincinnati’s Mick Cronin. Been told UNLV could pay in the $3 million range, plus no state tax.— Jeff Goodman (@GoodmanESPN) March 22, 2016
The more likely scenario, in my mind, is that Cronin is ensuring the future of the program. With Cincinnati's push for a Big 12 invitation, football has been a focal point of the athletic renovation projects, and while Fifth Third Arena is next on the docket, the basketball program has been in the background. That would perhaps provide a little additional context to Ono's tweet above, as Cronin could be wanting clarification that the basketball program will see some of those improvements moving forward, leveraging the UNLV interest in the process. After all, Cronin is a very good recruiter who can only be more impactful on the recruiting circuit as facilities upgrade, right?
That said, Gary Parrish at CBS Sports writes that multiple sources have communicated to CBS Sports that Cronin has "been looking to move." Depending on the validity of those claims, Cincinnati fans may be facing the reality of a Cronin-less team. That would be a reality that I'm afraid wouldn't be a positive step for the program, considering what he has done for UC during 10 years with the Bearcats, racking up a 207-129 record with six straight NCAA Tournaments.
Cronin is a very good coach who is still in the process of building something at Cincinnati. It will interesting to see what happens here with UNLV.
I can tell you with 100% confidence that Cronin has to this point not met with anyone seeking his employment. https://t.co/xUCQuJtZgJ— Chad Brendel (@ChadBrendel) March 22, 2016
Mick Cronin doesn’t need to go see UNLV in order to take the job. He recruits there every summer, has played in multiple tourneys there.— Jeff Goodman (@GoodmanESPN) March 22, 2016
UNLV has better facilities than Cincinnati -- but question is whether UNLV will step up and pay Cronin in the 2 million range.— Jeff Goodman (@GoodmanESPN) March 22, 2016