Three days after his heated exchange with referee Ted Valentine drew headlines, University of Cincinnati basketball coach Mick Cronin was taking a different view — there’s no such thing as bad publicity, especially if it can help recruiting.
During the Bearcats 51-45 loss to Connecticut last Saturday, Cronin needed to be restrained by one of his players during an argument with Valentine about a loose ball midway through the second half. Many have thought that Valentine exacerbated things by openly confronting Cronin.
"I talked to Coach (Rick) Pitino about his beard situation, keeping Louisville in the limelight so my goal is to make sure Cincinnati stays on the ESPN.com front page," Cronin said during a media availability previewing Thursday’s game against Memphis. "That all helps recruiting. Kids think I’m more famous then maybe they want to play for me."
Cronin was referring to the beard pact that he made with his players at the beginning of February. Pitino has reverted back to being clean shaven after the Cardinals’ six-game winning streak was snapped last Saturday.
Added Cronin: "The more you get talked about as a coach, the more kids see you and recognize you when you go out to recruit. That was a problem for me eight years ago. I would walk into the gym and guys would ask who is the short, young guy in the corner? Well, he’s the head coach at Cincinnati. All that stuff does help to an extent although, obviously, I’m being funny about it."
Going into Thursday’s game, the 15th-ranked Bearcats are 24-5 and tied for the lead in the American with Louisville. The Cardinals, who also have a 13-3 conference mark, have a tough test of their own on Wednesday at SMU.
The latest subject of Cronin’s ire is having to play a noon game at Rutgers on Saturday following the Memphis game.
"Playing Thursday-Saturday is life in the NCAA Tournament but playing Saturday at noon to me is irresponsible on our conference’s part," he said. "I voiced that to them through our athletic director when the schedule came out. My thing to them was there is a chance we could be playing for a conference championship and how fair will that be? I think they didn’t believe that was possible and it may not be. We have to win on Thursday night."