After a Senior Day win over Tulsa that improved his team to 25-4, Mick Cronin dropped a line at a postgame press conference that's made some overly-sensitive, comprehension-challenged fans of other programs quite angry. If you missed it, here's what Mick said that has so many Kentucky, Indiana, Louisville worked into a froth....
Hoo boy, did some corners of college basketball social media totally lose its shit when this clip went viral. You would've thought Mick played fast and loose with the facts, called out a coach for cheating, or even ridiculed one program's national title banner coming down. If you're aghast or angry at what Mick said, or if you're offended, I'm here to help. Back off Twitter for a few minutes. Hold off being the 983,291st person to remind your favorite team-friendly blogger that Mick "called us out!" Just hang with me until the end of this, and I'll help you understand what Mick Cronin was trying to say, who his message was being aimed at, and I'll even try to help all of us figure out why he said what he said. OK? Good.
Here's what Mick was saying.....
"My team is having an excellent season and I hope the people who care about UC basketball understand and appreciate how good of a season we're having. I hope they aren't taking this season for granted, because winning, no matter your league, is hard. Within a two-hour drive, you have three historically relevant programs, each of whom has had their share of success in recent seasons, and for whatever reason, be it youth, the cupboard not being full for the new coach, or a combination of factors both within and beyond the program's control, they've each had their individual struggles. Everyone has a bad year, even the most highly-acclaimed programs and coaches in the sport. Successes should be enjoyed, and by the way, have the seen the shit-storm affecting college basketball? See our school's name or our players connected to it anywhere? Damn straight you don't. Our fans should be very happy with how this program is being run."
Did you just read that? Good. Read it again. Then again. Copy and paste it and send it to the people you've been sharing your indignation with on message boards. Tell me within my exceptionally accurate interpretation of what Mick said where he took a shot at another program or coach. Tell me what facts he was free and easy with. Tell me why you're so pissed off at Mick Cronin.
Mick was sending a message to his program's fan base. Now, you may be asking A) why he cares about what fans and other outsiders think and whether they're happy with the season his team is having or B) what group of UC fans is he speaking to. Again, I'll offer help.
A) Every coach cares about what their program's fans and other outsiders think. I've listened to Chris Mack (who I'm a very big fan of) address criticisms some have had of his team. I've listened to John Calipari (who I'm also a very big fan of) go on and on and on and on about the things that people say and write about him, his players, and his program. These coaches might do as best as they can to insulate themselves from what's said, written, tweeted, etc., but it's impossible to not hear everything (especially when you're from here) and as he's rebuilt the program and turned it into an NCAA Tournament mainstay in the face of not only the mess he inherited 12 years ago, but a toxic environment in which long-time UC fans were openly rooting against the Bearcats, having to play in an outdated, dumpy arena, a shaky conference situation, and being landlocked in a region with so many really good programs that at times, it seems like anything your program accomplishes is diminished because it might not be as good at times as what's happening 100 miles away, or sometimes, three miles across town. At some point, any one of us would get tired of hearing about what we don't do, or why what we did do wasn't good enough. I might not have chosen the forum of that particular postgame press conference or used the specific question that was asked to launch into the point he made, but I understand - and agree with - where he's coming from.
B) Most UC fans I know are very, very happy with the season the Bearcats are having, myself included. Most are very, very pleased with how the program is being run, again, myself included. But....
My inbox doesn't get filled after UC wins. My Twitter mentions are usually pretty light when the Bearcats are winning. As the Bearcats went more than two months between losses, I rarely got calls from UC fans about anything related to the team on my radio show.
After the Houston loss, and specifically after the Wichita State loss, my inbox filled up. There were too many Twitter mentions to count. My phone rang at work. There was plenty of constructive criticism of things like strategy, individual performances, and other facets of the team. Some understandably wondered how the two losses would affect UC's NCAA Tournament seed. But outnumbered by all of that was an element that would've made an uninitiated person think that the Bearcats were among the worst teams in the country, run by a clueless rube who was going through the motions and collecting a paycheck. Mick should be fired because his teams don't play offense. Mick should be fired after he loses in the second round. Mick should be fired because he uses too many players. Mick should be fired because he's out of control on the sideline. I've long learned that the most pointed reaction to any team is when it loses, that's an inescapable part of what I do for a living. And as a fan, I get it, at least to an extent. But the message that I hear from fans after the Bearcats suffer a setback is, well, mainly that Mick should be fired and that any good fortune the Bearcats enjoy is in spite of their head coach, not because of him. That's right, as unfathomable as it might sound to anyone reasonable, there are people who believe Mick Cronin should be rewarded for his 12 years of work, which has included almost no off-court incidents from his players, annual qualification for the NCAA Tournament, no FBI probes, and all sorts of obstacles that he's been forced to overcome, by getting the ax.
Now, I don't think these people who feel that way represent anything close to the majority of UC fans. I don't even think they represent a large minority. But they are vocal, and while I don't know how Mick hears from these fans, I'd be willing to bet he does hear from them, sometimes even directly. And as unhappy as certain corners of the fan base seemingly always are, it'd be very, very hard to completely ignore their constant, never-ending griping. And if you had to hear about how whatever you do is never good enough, you'd be a little on the defensive too.
So, even as a UC fan - one who has to occasionally remind himself to stop and enjoy what's good, by the way - I get why Mick is sending this message. I understand that toward the end of his 12th season, having formed a team that's got a ton more going for it than against it, that's having an excellent year, and still has a chance to do some special things in the coming weeks, a coach would get a little tired of hearing about what goes wrong instead of what goes right.
If you're a UC fan, chances are that you're delighted with the season the Bearcats have had and the job Mick Cronin is doing. If you're among those who can't apply the needed perspective to understand indeed how hard it is to do what the Bearcats have done, then he sent you a message that you can do whatever you want with.
And if you're a UK, IU, or Louisville fan, he was merely using those typically-excellent programs to provide context. If that upsets you, then it's because you either lack basic comprehension skills or because in your endless search for something to piss you off, you stumbled upon the soundbite from Mick Cronin and found what you were looking for.