Say what you want about the Cincinnati Bearcats athletic administration—or that former coach who now coaches at West Virginia—but what you cannot say is that Mick Cronin cannot coach.
Nor can you say his kids cannot play.
We all know the story: Cincinnati President fires beloved, former Bearcats Head Coach Bob Huggins. Andy Kennedy, current Ole Miss head man, takes over on an interim basis. Kennedy gets consideration for the job, but ultimately does not want it, and does not get offered the position.
No one blames him.
In steps Mick Cronin, long time assistant to Huggins.
Immediately, one had to have respect for the man, as it seemed he was single-handedly trying to rebuild a team that had been ripped apart by a tornado.
He was left with one guy worthy of a scholarship, two walks-ons, and please do not forget Ronald Allen.
In no time, Cronin was on the recruiting trail in what appeared to be a five-year rebuilding process. He brought in a plethora of junior college transfers—none of whom would have been playing Big East basketball had it not been for the Bearcats.
Cronin also snagged soon-to-be stud Deonta Vaughn from Indiana; at the time, it was not a big deal.
After a season of losses to the ever formidable Wofford's of the world and two wins in the Big East conference, the team is beginning to put the remaining pieces of a powerhouse back in place.
The JUCO talent on the squad sometimes seems to go unnoticed; it’s not like Cronin just threw a bunch of guys on the basketball court—he not only filled a roster, but filled a roster with good basketball players.
The JUCOs only have one year of Division I experience but they play as if they have three.
It is now that the team is finally reaping the benefits of their struggles.
Led by sophomore guard Vaughn, the Bearcats stand at 3-2 in the Big East.
For the average man, 3-2 is just one game over .500. In fact it is. But to many of the Bearcats fans it is much more than that: it is a sign of things to come.
As for Cronin, life has not been so easy. Message boards were calling for his head just games into the season. The administration, so pleased with football coach Brian Kelly, was not at all impressed with Cronin.
If they have not eaten their words yet, they might want get out the fork and knife, and do it fast.
Not only has Cronin wowed everyone with his recruiting capabilities, he is beginning to get recognition as a solid basketball coach and deservedly so.
The six freshmen on the team are improving rapidly. From losses to Bowling Green and Belmont, 20 point thrashings against UAB and Illinois State, to now road wins at Louisville and home upsets against Syracuse and Villanova.
If you do not call that progress; I call you blind.
They may not make the NCAA Tournament this season, they may not end up with more than eight wins in the Big East, but the maturation of the young guys on the team is staggering.
They play hard. They play scrappy. They are prepared. Say what you want bitter Bearcats bums, but Mick Cronin is about to take the Cats further than the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
Lucky for you, when it happens, you can just sit back and say you knew it was going to all along.
Cronin may be a little guy standing in at 5'7" (is that generous?) but he is going to be doing big things for the University of Cincinnati.
Just sit back, relax, and enjoy the show.
Maybe you could even head out to Fifth Third Arena: Home of the Vaughn show.
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