For the first time since the 2005-06 season, Mick Cronin will not be the head coach of the Cincinnati Bearcats basketball team. After 13 years, Cronin left to accept the job at UCLA and the Bearcats chose John Brannen to be their new head coach.
Brannen coached Northern Kentucky, just down the road from UC, for four seasons, beginning in 2015-16, which is three years after they official became a Division 1 program at the start of the 2012-13 season.
In four years, Brannen compiled an 81-51 record and led the Norse to the NCAA Tournament in 2 of the last 3 seasons. In both of those years, NKU won the Horizon League regular season and conference tournament championships.
In the Tournament, they lost to Kentucky in 2017 as a 15 seed and lost to Texas Tech in 2019 as a 14 seed. In between those two seasons, in 2018-19, they qualified for the NIT and lost in the first round.
His specialty at NKU was offense. Rather than explain NKU’s pace and how exciting it is to watch them play, let’s present some simple data points. Using numbers from only 2018 (small sample size), let’s compare NKU and Cincinnati’s offenses.
- 78.5 ppg (ranked 60th)
- 16.9 assists per game (23)
- 68.9 points allowed (105)
- 71.6 possessions (153)
- 71.8 points per game (ranked 226th)
- 13.5 assists per game (212)
- 62.9 points allowed (15)
- 67.1 possessions (334)
As you can see, NKU plays faster, therefore scoring more and, with those extra possessions, showing great ball movement.
Before taking over at NKU, Brannen was an assistant coach at Alabama from 2009-2015 and was actually the interim coach in the 2015 NIT, when Anthony Grant was fired. Alabama (a 6 seed) upset Illinois in the first round before losing to Miami in the second round. Brannen has always been close to Grant, coaching under him at VCU from 2006-2009.
His lead assistant is Jayson Gee, who has had two stints of previous head coaching experience. He coached at Charleston from 1996-2003, making the Division II Tournament four times in seven years. Gee spent a few years as an assistant (and associate head coach) at Saint Bonaventure from 2003-2006, before taking the same roles at Cleveland State, where he was from 2006-2013. He became the head coach at Longwood, compiling a 42-120 record in 5 years and was an assistant coach at Winthrop in 2018-19.
The other two assistant coaches are Sean Dwyer and Tim Morris, who both previously worked under Brannen at Northern Kentucky. They both overlapped with Brannen at Alabama as well.
Dwyer coached at Alabama from 2011-2015, before moving on to NKU in 2015-16 with Brannen.
Morris coached at Alabama from 2012-2015, but didn’t go straight to NKU in 2015 with Brannen and Dwyer. He was the Director of Player Development at Nevada for 2015-16, under Eric Musselman. He then spent three seasons under Brannen at NKU.