I’ve been asked lately how I feel about Mick Cronin as the coach; I’ve heard rumblings of uncertainty about the current regime.
First of all, although I know it’s tough right now to watch the Bearcats get beaten by Belmont and Bowling Green, I’d like to ask for your patience—Mick would too. Just stop and think about the hand Cronin was dealt. Basically a ten high, not even a pair of deuces.
He inherited a program in distress—the former coach was basically unable to recruit the previous two seasons. Oh, and he had about five months until practice started... and the roster? Just three scholarship players, including tight end Connor Barwin and “Lebronald” Allen.
Working 25 hours per day and using three phones, Mick was able to scrap together seven JuCo throwaways. Guys nobody wanted—basically “replacement players.” And to further hinder the Cincinnati native, the two tallest players—Hernol Hall and Adam Hrycianuk—were ruled ineligible, leaving Mick with absolutely no height or depth.
Even with that makeshift roster, Cronin and his staff managed to shock Xavier, NC State, and West Virginia, while almost stunning Syracuse and Providence on the road. That’s pretty amazing.
As the staff was taking their lumps through the brutal Big East schedule, it somehow found time to pull in a Top 20 recruiting class for 2007. There wasn’t enough time to woo any superstars, but the class consisted of a seven-footer, a 6’8” former McDonald’s All-American, three talented 6’5”-6’7” wings, and a highly regarded shooting guard. Not too shabby, all things considered.
All the while, Mick was working on his 2008 class. He has since landed big-time Top 50 talents Yancy Gates and Cashmere Wright, both of whom are considered potential McDonald’s All-Americans.
I know it’s been difficult to watch the Bearcats lose so much lately, but it is way too early to start judging Mick Cronin. You can’t let impatience take over. Remember the cards he was dealt and think about what he has done with that hand so far.
Of course the NCAA Tournament and probably even the NIT are out of the question this season, but the future is bright. The university has built top-notch facilities to help with recruiting. The lure of Big East basketball and early playing time possibilities will help one of the best recruiters around assemble an exciting squad—and eventually a return to the national rankings and March Madness.
If you’re still in doubt, you should also remember who Mick has learned from: your beloved Bob Huggins and of course, The Master, Rick Pitino. Also keep in mind Mick made the NCAA Tournament two out of three years at Murray State.
And don't forget about Mike Williams, who Mick deemed his best player. Although he will miss this entire season with a torn Achilles, the 6'8" PF will be back next year to add some beef and experience to the front line.
So while we would all rather be watching a winner, I urge you to exercise patience and try to enjoy the journey. Going through this humbling rebuilding experience will make it that much sweeter when the Bearcats get back to The Dance.
Have fun watching Deonta Vaughn and this current freshman class grow up. Get excited when Rashad Bishop makes a great pass. Clap when Alvin Mitchell finally starts to get some shots to drop. Pump your fist when Darnell Wilks gets a steal and soars in for a sweet reverse dunk.
Be positive, have patience, and stick with Mick—otherwise it’ll be a long, frustrating season for you. The choice is yours.