The landscape around Cincinnati sports hasn’t been great, but it’s tolerable. Having teams that yearly make the post season can spoil a city. That advantage can quickly come to an end if coaches are plucked away by desperate franchises. A few days ago, news broke that Bearcats coach Mick Cronin might be leaving the University of Cincinnati.
According to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, the UNLV Rebels were given permission to talk with Cronin about the head coach position. Permission was granted before the Bearcats NCAA Tournament game against the Saint Joseph Hawks. The Bearcats lost that game 78-76.
Cronin has said that he has not met with or talked to any other colleges about coaching vacancies. Cronin replied by text, per the Cincinnati Enquirer, that he was still very much a part of the UC experience.
“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.”
UC athletic director Mike Bohn declined to comment.
Another team frothing at the mouth over Cronin isn’t surprising. In his time as head coach, Cronin has turned the Bearcats program around. Over his 10 years as the main man, he sports a record of 201-129. The Bearcats have been in the thick of the NCAA Tournament seeding for six years in a row. The 44-year-old Cronin is a native Cincinnatian who has lived most of his life in the area. He’s a graduate of both La Salle High School and UC.
Cronin frequently has said he has no interest in any other job. Cronin signed a seven-year contract extension with UC in June of 2014, with bonuses that can see him make up to $2.2 million per year. In the past, UNLV has not paid its basketball coaches that much. Former UNLV coach Dave Rice, fired January 10, was making a base salary of $300,000 and a total package of $850,000 annually.
University of Cincinnati President Santa Ono tweeted about the possibility of Cronin leaving.
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
Ono has since removed a tweet that was posted Monday. It depicted a shot of Fifth Third Arena and the caption, “There’s no place like home.” Possibly trying to woo Mick back?
The Las Vegas Review-Journal also reports that a source close to the process expressed concern about the Board of Regents approving a large contract, even if most of the money came from private donations. If the hiring of Tony Sanchez to be the Rebels’ football coach in December 2014 is any indication, athletic director Tina Kunzer-Murphy already has been in regular contact with the boosters to smooth the process.
If UNLV doesn’t land Cronin, others believed to be interested in the job include former UCLA and St. John’s coach Steve Lavin and New Mexico State coach Marvin Menzies. UNLV also has interviewed interim coach Todd Simon and assistants Stacey Augmon and Ryan Miller.
Rumors have erupted that Cronin is using the talks as leverage to get things done at UC. Cronin has been able to make the most of his situation in Cincinnati and get the Bearcats back on track. Mark Anderson covers UNLV basketball. He’s not so sure if Cronin is just bluffing. He calls it a move that wouldn’t make much sense.
My own take on #UNLVmbb search: I'm still not convinced Cronin would leave native city and alma mater for job that is mostly lateral move.
— Mark Anderson (@markanderson65) March 22, 2016
Mick Cronin has been faithful and loyal to the city and the program. The returning squad for the 2016 version of the Bearcats is one of the best yet. The cat-and-mouse game between Ono and Cronin is dragging on and causing the natives to get restless.
The money issue was quickly shot down when information surfaced that UNLV could match the salary that Cronin currently averages.
The rumors are swirling with fury and the Cincinnati Bearcats may be on the losing end.
[Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images]