UC makes it official: John Brannen named coach

CINCINNATI –John Brannen has been named the 27th head coach in University of Cincinnati men’s basketball history, Director of Athletics Mike Bohn announced Sunday, April 14. A formal introduction will take place Monday at 10 a.m. ET in the media room at Fifth Third Arena.

Brannen took Northern Kentucky University to unprecedented success as the school’s athletics department underwent reclassification. Since earning active Division I status eligibility prior to the start of the 2016-17 season, the Norse men’s basketball program has compiled a 72-30 overall record under Brannen, making three consecutive postseason appearances (NCAA Tournament [2017, 2019], NIT [2018]), winning back-to-back Horizon League regular-season championships (2018, 2019) and claiming a pair of conference tournament titles (2017, 2019). No other school in the nation has enjoyed NKU’s amount of success in its first three years with active status at the Division I level.

“We are thrilled to welcome John, his wife Lisa and their daughters, Jaylee and Katelyn, to the Bearcats family,” Bohn said. “He has a proven record as a head coach, longtime ties to the local community and coaches an exciting style of basketball. We were impressed with his passion, drive, determination and basketball acumen during the interview process where he truly emerged as the best coach to lead the Cincinnati basketball program with a bright future.”

Brannen, whose coaching career spans 20 seasons, owns an 82-52 career record as head coach. He registered an 81-51 ledger in four seasons at NKU and a 1-1 mark as Alabama’s interim head coach at the end of the 2014-15 campaign.

The 2017 Horizon League Coach of the Year, Brannen led the Norse to a 24-11 record in 2016-17, the Horizon League Tournament title and an appearance in the NCAA Tournament in the school’s first season of active status eligibility. NKU’s win total was an improvement of 15 victories from the previous season, marking the third-best turnaround in the nation behind only UCLA and Minnesota. 

Brannen guided NKU to a 22-10 mark, the Horizon League regular-season championship and an NIT appearance in 2017-18. Last season, NKU posted a Division I-era record 26 wins with eight losses, claiming the league regular-season championship and tournament title and its second NCAA Tournament appearance in three years.

“It's truly an honor to take over such a storied program at the University of Cincinnati,” Brannen said. “The Cincinnati-northern Kentucky community is special to my family and we are happy to remain at home. I want to thank President Pinto, Mike Bohn and the search committee for this opportunity. We are thrilled to join a world-class University and continue to build on the historic success of Bearcats basketball and the incredible lineage of former coaches.”

Brannen’s players have earned 10 Horizon League postseason accolades, highlighted by Drew McDonald receiving league player of the year honors this past season. NKU finished 2018-19 ranked 11th in the nation in both total assists (592) and assists per game (16.9). The Norse also ranked nationally in field goal shooting percentage (27th at .478), scoring margin (28th at +9.6), assist-to-turnover ratio (32nd at 1.34), three-point shooting defense (34th at .314), rebound margin (43rd at +4.5) and scoring offense (44th at 78.5 points).

Brannen came to NKU after spending six seasons (2010-2015) at Alabama coaching under Anthony Grant, four as an assistant coach and two as the associate head coach. The Crimson Tide made four postseason appearances during his stay. Alabama finished as the runners up at the 2011 NIT, posting a 25-12 overall mark and winning the Southeastern Conference West Division title. The Crimson Tide made an NCAA Tournament appearance the following season and later advanced to the NIT quarterfinals in 2013 and the second round of the NIT in 2015. Brannen served as interim head coach for Alabama’s two games in the 2015 NIT. While in Tuscaloosa, Brannen helped sign Alabama’s 2011 recruiting class that ranked fifth in the nation according to Rivals.com.

Prior to Alabama, Brannen served as an assistant coach at VCU for three seasons (2007-09) under Anthony Grant, helping leads the Rams to three 20-win campaigns, two NCAA Tournament appearances (2007, 2009) and a showing in the NIT (2008). The 2007 squad posted a 28-7 mark, upsetting Duke in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Brannen helped recruit Larry Sanders, who later was drafted by Milwaukee as the 15th pick in the 2010 NBA draft and also helped recruit four of VCU’s five starters on its 2011 Final Four team.

Before VCU, Brannen served as an assistant coach St, Bonaventure (2004-06) for three seasons, Eastern Kentucky (2001-2003) for three seasons and Charleston for the 2000 campaign. 

A native of nearby Alexandria, Ky., Brannen attending Newport Central Catholic. He began his collegiate playing career at Morehead State before transferring to Marshall for his final two seasons, playing for head coaches Billy Donovan (1996) and Greg White (1997). He was named the Southern Conference Player of the Year as a senior in 1997, averaging 20.9 points. He scored 1,008 points in two seasons with the Thundering Herd. A Rhodes Scholar finalist, Brannen received scholarships from both the NCAA and Southern Conference. He earned a degree in business management from Marshall in 1997 and played two seasons of professional basketball in Belgium’s First Division before beginning his coaching career.

Brannen and his wife Lisa live in northern Kentucky and are the proud parents of twin daughters, Jaylee and Katelyn.

//THE BRANNEN FILE

Hometown: Alexandria, Ky.

Alma Mater: Marshall, 1997

Family: wife, Lisa; twin daughters, Jaylee and Katelyn

//COACHING EXPERIENCE

1999-2000: Assistant Coach, Charleston

2001-2003: Assistant Coach, Eastern Kentucky

2004-2006: Assistant Coach, St. Bonaventure

2007-2009: Assistant Coach, VCU

2010-2013: Assistant Coach, Alabama

2014-2015: Associate Head Coach, Alabama

2016-2019: Head Coach, Northern Kentucky

2019-Present: Head Coach, Cincinnati

//AWARDS

2017 Horizon League Coach of the Year

Member of prestigious Villa 7 Consortium since 2006

//PLAYING CAREER HIGHLIGHTS

Began collegiate career at Morehead State (1994, 1995) before transferring to Marshall (1996, 1997)

Named the 1997 Southern Conference Player of the Year as a senior

Scored 1,008 points in two seasons at Marshall, playing for Billy Donovan (1996) and Greg White (1997)

From NKUHIGHLAND HEIGHTS, Ky.– Following the most successful first three years of active status in NCAA Division I history, Northern Kentucky University will commence a search for a head men’s basketball coach after John Brannen has accepted the head coaching role at the University of Cincinnati.

“I, along with NKU and the Northern Kentucky Community, am extremely thankful of John’s accomplishments as our head men’s basketball coach the last four years,” said Ken Bothof, Director of Athletics. “We wish John, Lisa, Jaylee and Katelyn nothing but the best as John transitions to head coach at UC.”

“Coach Brannen has been a terrific ambassador for Northern Kentucky University during his four years as our head coach,” stated Northern Kentucky University President Ashish Vaidya. “We are grateful for what he has done to build the Norse men’s basketball brand into a premier program in the Horizon League and wish both John and his family well in this next endeavor. Norse men’s basketball is positioned to continue its remarkable success and showcase this great university.”

In the last three years, Northern Kentucky has won the two Horizon League Regular-Season Championships, two Horizon League Tournament titles, played in the NCAA Tournament twice and participated in the NIT. No other Division I program has experienced that amount of success in its first three seasons with active status in the history of the NCAA.

The Norse have gone 72-30 during the last three seasons, including a 40-14 mark in Horizon League play.

“During my tenure as athletic director at Northern Kentucky University, sustained support from the community has allowed us to invest in our men’s basketball program and will allow future enhancements,” continued Bothof. “Those investments, both past and future, along with the unprecedented success our program has had the last three years, will help attract and hire a successful coach who continues to elevate our men’s basketball program.”

A national search for the sixth head coach in Northern Kentucky history will begin immediately.

Lance McAlister

Lance McAlister

Lance McAlister covers everything in Cincinnati sports! Host of sports talk on Cincinnati News Radio 700WLW and ESPN 1530! Read more

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