Cincinnati hires Murray State coach Cronin

Updated: March 24, 2006, 11:12 AM ET
Associated Press

CINCINNATI -- Former Cincinnati assistant Mick Cronin took over the Bearcats' program Thursday night, shortly after the team's 65-62 loss to South Carolina in the NIT quarterfinals and on the same day that former coach Bob Huggins landed a job.

Earlier, Huggins signed a five-year contract with Kansas State.

Also Thursday night, Bearcats interim coach Andy Kennedy -- beaten out by Cronin for the Cincinnati job -- was hired by Mississippi.

The 34-year-old Cronin left Cincinnati to join Rick Pitino's staff at Louisville in 2001-01, and was 69-23 the last three seasons as head coach at Murray State.

"Since becoming AD on Dec. 1, I have talked to countless coaches, commissioners, administrators and other experts around the college basketball world," athletic director Mike Thomas said in a statement released by the university. "The one name that constantly came up in these discussions was Mick Cronin."

Cronin will be introduced at a news conference Friday.

"Mick is held in high regard as an up-and-coming head coach by several coaches in the Big East Conference," Thomas said. "He is considered among the best as a recruiter, and that comes both from coaches and recruiting experts evaluating the results of his recruiting efforts, and the families of the young men who have great respect for the way he communicates with them."

Kennedy also was considered a top recruiter, and won over a Cincinnati team plagued by injuries and hard luck.

"I would never trade this for anything," Kennedy said of his season since being becoming interim coach. "I also hope I never see it again."

South Carolina coach Dave Odom commented on the way Cincinnati fans supported Kennedy.

"He's done a great coaching job with great class and great dignity," Odom said.

Fans chanted their support for Kennedy and gave him three standing ovations -- when he came onto the court before the start of each half, and when two fans who participated in a free-throw shooting contest during a timeout held up signs saying, "Hire Andy."

"I think this is the end of the chapter for Bob Huggins basketball," Kennedy said after the game. "This kind of puts closure ... and it's kind of ironic it happens today -- he gets a job and we're done. I think it closes the chapter."

But the hiring of Cronin left that chapter open, and it was apparent that Kennedy's ties were too close to Huggins, who was forced to resign when he butted heads with university president Nancy Zimpher.

"One of the important qualifications that Mick brings to the program is his previous ties to it," Thomas said. "He has been part of our great tradition here at Cincinnati.

"Throughout this process I have said that I would take into consideration the opinion of our fans, but I have been focused on finding a coach who could link the proud past of the UC program with our promising future."


Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press

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