Cronin introduced as coach at Cincinnati

Updated: March 24, 2006, 7:09 PM ET
Associated Press

CINCINNATI -- Mick Cronin returned to the University of Cincinnati on Friday to take charge of a basketball program that just finished a tumultuous season.

"I'm here to win," Cronin pledged. "I'm here because I believe we can win the national championship. It is important that I convey that to our fans."

Cronin, who coached Murray State the last three seasons, is a former top assistant to Bob Huggins, ousted as Bearcats head coach before the season.

"I'm still floating," Cronin said at a news conference. "This is truly a dream come true."

"I know it's not going to be easy," Cronin added.

Huggins' departure led to a season of uncertainty at Cincinnati.

Interim coach Andy Kennedy gained fan support by leading a team that had to overcome injuries and player departures to a 21-13 season. The Bearcats were knocked out of the NIT by South Carolina on Thursday night, the same day Huggins became coach at Kansas State.

Kennedy was introduced as the new coach of Mississippi on Friday.

Cronin, an all-city player at La Salle High School, coached at Woodward High School while getting his undergraduate degree at Cincinnati. He joined Huggins' staff in 1997, and soon became his head recruiter.

When Cronin left to join Rick Pitino's staff at Louisville in 2001-02, Kennedy took his place at Huggins' side.

Cronin went 69-23 at Murray State and twice earned a spot in the NCAA Tournament.

Cincinnati athletic director Mike Thomas said he recommended Cronin to president Nancy Zimpher on Wednesday, two days after telling Kennedy he would not get the job.

"I said I was going to look at the total quality of the work," Thomas said. "I felt Mick was the best fit for the job."

Cronin said he wanted his players to graduate and develop as good citizens. Zimpher has said improving the school's image is a top priority.

"We couldn't be happier to have you here," Zimpher told Cronin.

Cronin said he has followed the Bearcats this season and praised Kennedy and the team for persevering.

"They had to play in a time of uncertainty, and made us proud," he said.

Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press