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Cincinnati hires Murray State coach Cronin

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."