Despite speculation that Mick Cronin may leave the University of Cincinnati for another position, the longtime Bearcats head coach announced Friday he will return to the program for the 2016-17 campaign.
In a release on the school's official athletics website, Cronin explained the reasoning behind his decision to remain at Cincinnati:
I would like people to try and understand after 10 years of dedicated service I chose to evaluate my career and my life. Reflecting through that process was extremely difficult, but it was something I needed to do for me personally. The city of Cincinnati and the university are special places to me, and I've always said what an honor it is to be the head coach at my alma mater. This program has come such a long way in 10 years, and we've still got work to do and goals to achieve. The 2016-17 season starts for me today, and I can't wait for the future that lies ahead for the Bearcats and this University.
Cincinnati athletic director Mike Bohn added to that by praising Cronin and expressing his excitement over the coach's decision to stay put:
It's important to me and the University of Cincinnati to sustain continuity with Mick Cronin leading our storied men's basketball program. I salute what Mick has built in his first decade at UC as he was and is the catalyst for the prominent growth around the program. Together, along with our donors, fans, students and supporters, we remain on an onward trajectory for long-term success.
ESPN.com's Jeff Goodman reported Wednesday the Cincinnati native and UC alum was closing in on a deal to become UNLV's new head man. Goodman previously reported the 44-year-old could receive $3 million per year without the restriction of state taxes in Nevada.
Geoff Grammer of the Albuquerque Journal reported Cronin left Las Vegas with a verbal deal in place but never called back when he got back to Cincinnati.
"I never officially accepted," Cronin said, per Jeff Goodman of ESPN. "The interest was flattering and I understand these things are difficult for everyone."
Following the announcement of Cronin's decision, UNLV released a statement confirming it had met with the veteran coach, per ESPN.com's Jeff Borzello:
Jeff Borzello @jeffborzello
UNLV also released a statement about Mick Cronin and its coaching search: https://t.co/1SDJOj3s4g3/25/2016, 5:35:29 PM
After a three-year stint as Murray State's head coach from 2003 to 2006 that saw the Racers make the NCAA tournament twice, Cronin joined the Bearcats prior to the 2006-07 campaign.
He is 207-129 during his decade at the helm with Cincinnati, and he has qualified for the NCAA tournament in six straight seasons, including a run to the Sweet 16 in 2011-12.
Cronin missed some time in 2014-15 due to an unruptured aneurysm, but he returned to the sideline this season and led Cincinnati to another 20-plus win season.
The Bearcats were bounced by Saint Joseph's in the first round this year in heartbreaking fashion, but Cronin will have an opportunity to help the team bounce back next season:
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Despite his success with and ties to Cincinnati, Goodman reported he had some connections to UNLV, which made that job enticing as well:
Jeff Goodman @GoodmanESPN
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.3/22/2016, 2:45:13 AM
When asked about his interest in the UNLV position in recent days, though, Cronin denied having any conversations with the school, according to Tom Groeschen of the Cincinnati Enquirer: "As I have always said, I am honored to be the coach at the University of Cincinnati. I have not met with any other schools. I do not have any comment on any other coaching jobs."
While there was mounting skepticism about a return to Cincinnati, Cronin stayed true to his word and showed his loyalty to the Bearcats on Friday.
Cronin has put together a consistent winning program at Cincinnati, but he has struggled to get the team over the hump in terms of being a true contender for the national title.
With three of his top five leading scorers in Troy Caupain, Gary Clark and Jacob Evans set to return next season, however, the foundation may be in place to build toward something bigger.
Cronin is a big reason why Cincinnati is in the mix and in the tournament field on a yearly basis, and now that his commitment to the Bearcats is clear, the program may be ready to take the next step.
Follow @MikeChiari on Twitter.
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