Cincinnati coach Cronin to miss rest of season with artery issue

CINCINNATI — Mick Cronin is taking a breather from his role as the University of Cincinnati basketball coach for the remainder of the season but he will continue to oversee the program in an advisory capacity as he deals with an arterial dissection.

Cronin, 43, has not coached the Bearcats since announcing on Dec. 20 that he had been diagnosed with what at the time was described as an unruptured aneurysm. Cronin had been experiencing headaches and was convinced by team medical officials to have them checked out. The announcement of his diagnosis came hours before the Bearcats hosted Virginia Commonwealth. They lost that game 68-47 but have since beaten Wagner (72-48) and North Carolina State (76-60) under the direction of associate head coach Larry Davis.

Davis will take over as head coach in practices and games for the remainder of the season. UC (9-3) hosts Southern Methodist University (10-3, 1-0) Saturday at 11 a.m. in its American Athletic Conference opener.

Cronin said he will help Davis and the rest of the staff work on recruiting, game analysis and planning for upcoming opponents but upon doctor’s recommendations will stay away from any on-court activities, including practices. He is, however, in good health and has received a favorable prognosis from this doctors.

"It’s important for people to see me," Cronin said. "I know I’ve walked into a few places to get tea and coffee and people looked at me like they saw a ghost. I think unfortunately the word ‘aneurysm’ maybe scared some people a few weeks ago but my intent was to always be honest when asked questions and we didn’t find out actually until the morning of the VCU game."

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Cronin was in good spirits throughout a Friday morning press conference that included Davis and lasted 45 minutes. He even joked that the only people who didn’t applaud him in one of those coffee shop visits were a "couple of guys were booing, but they were wearing blue and were wearing some ‘X’ thing" — a reference to UC’s crosstown rival Xavier.

Cronin is in his ninth season at UC since taking over following the drama of Bob Huggins’ departure and one season of Andy Kennedy, who now coaches at Ole Miss, as the interim coach. The Bearcats are 169-110 under Cronin. He began his coaching career as a video coordinator under Huggins in the 1996-97 season and spent five seasons on Huggins’ staff before being hired at Louisville under Rick Pitino in 2001. He was there just two seasons before taking over the program at Murray State in 2003 and leading the Racers to two NCAA appearances in three seasons.

UC had just one returning scholarship player in the program when Cronin took over but he’s led the Bearcats to four consecutive NCAA appearances, including reaching the Sweet 16 in 2012.

"Lord knows when we took this program over there was enough to overcome," said Davis, who had been the head coach at Furman before joining Cronin’s staff in that first season of 2006-07. "This is just one more hit for Mick but he’ll overcome it. That’s why I think he’s so upbeat. He’s used to fighting the fight and you’re going to see nothing less from him. He’s going to fight the fight."

Cronin said he will be re-evaluated after three months with the same tests he was given when he initially went to see the doctors.  

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"Toughness isn’t the answer on this," Cronin said. "I’ve got to be intelligent, so I have to listen to some of the things and practice some of the things that I preach to my players. I intend to have fun with my new role. My goal is to make Larry Davis coach of the year in the American Conference."

Cronin has been treated by UC Health’s department of neurosurgery. Dr. Norberto Andaluz, M.D., the department’s director, is Cronin’s primary neurologist.

"The prognosis is excellent," Dr. Andaluz said. "An important part of Mr. Cronin’s treatment and recovery includes rest, medication and keeping a normal blood pressure."

There is no need for Cronin to undergo any surgical procedures at this point. Cronin said the doctors don’t know what caused the arterial dissection but that if all goes well he could return to coaching next season.

That’s a decision that is off in the future. For now, Cronin is just grateful for how this situation has turned out. He has a daughter, Samantha, who has accompanied him to games and press conferences in the past. Cronin said her suggestion and diagnosis to him was that if he was having headaches he shouldn’t coach. That way he wouldn’t have to scream and yell.

That was another instance of Cronin attempting to inject some levity into a situation that is life serious. He has to make some changes to his daily routine.

"It’s not going to be easy. I’m well aware of that," Cronin said. "It never hurts to mature. I’ve had candid discussions with my doctors about this and flat-out asked them "Do I need to seek another profession?" and one of them started laughing talking about you can get upset in all different ways."

Cronin talked about not wanting to be a distraction or an excuse for the team the rest of the season. But he also pointed out the biggest motivator for him going forward.

"For me, you have to remember I have a daughter," Cronin said. "She needs her dad to be healthy and around."