Yesterday, my initial thought about the hiring of Mick Cronin as UCLA’s new basketball coach was disappointment. I didn’t feel like Cronin was really the best choice for the Bruins moving forward.
Then, a few things happened as the day went on.
First, I saw the video of Mick and his daughter’s conversation about Cincinnati’s trip to Sacramento in 2017.
It’s a nice inside look into Coach Cronin as a single dad dealing with his precocious daughter, who totally steals the show.
Then, last night, I was poking around on Twitter and came across a series of tweets from A.J. Arand who did some statistical analysis on what he called “Mick in March” and he concluded that Mick was “squeezing the absolute MOST out of the talent he has, and cannot get better talent because of the non-P5 disadvantages he has....”
But, don’t take my word for it. Read Arand’s tweets. Normally, I’d just embed them, but there are twenty tweets in all and, frankly, it’s a bit of a digression. So, right-click on the link, read them for yourself and come on back for the rest of this. Or, read them when you’re done reading this.
So, this morning, I tuned in to see Cronin introduced as the new head coach of the UCLA Bruins interested in finding out more about the guy from Cincinnati.
Before Cronin spoke, Dan Guerrero asked him to stand so they could do the usual holding of the jersey photo op, but, even then, Cronin started to make the right impression on Bruin fans. After Guerrero showed off Cronin’s name on the back, Cronin actually turned the jersey around and said, “This is the most important. The Four Letters are more important than my name.”
Well, damn. It’s nice to have a UCLA basketball coach who’s ego isn’t the size of the entire state of California.
But that was just the beginning.
This was the rest of Cronin’s opening statement.
To be named the head basketball coach, not only at John Wooden’s program and UCLA, but to be named a head basketball coach at the world’s foremost number one public institution is an unbelievable incredible honor for me. So, I’m overwhelmed a little bit, but, trust me, I’m prepared,
So, what I would tell you when when we spoke...when we shared a vision...a guy like myself...when you’re running a program and you’re having success, but every night when you’re sitting up and you’re watching the Bruins play and you’re saying to yourself, “What if I ever got that opportunity?” and you think about those things, and you’ll learn this for me, I’m extremely honest. So I try to be very candid. That’s reality for me. So, this goes way back, whether it was Coach Harrick, Coach Howland Coach Lavin or Coach Alford, I’m sitting there as a young coach and I’m watching and I’m saying...what would...this went on for years. So, when we met, I felt like I was really prepared. because I’d laid in bed and watch the Bruins play many times. “What if I ever could get the opportunity to coach at the elite program in America with 11 national championships? How would I handle it? What would I do? How do you have success? What would your vision be? What could you do there that you can’t do at other places?” Well, the answer is a lot. So, what it is, we had a chance to meet...national championships, having the best players, graduating elite student athletes, all of the above is at your fingertips here. And, what I tried to convey to Dan and the committee was that I understand it’s a tremendous challenge. Tremendous challenge, but it’s also a great opportunity and that’s one that I was not going to pass up because I came from a situation, obviously, where I was at home. We had great success, but I had a chance to be the coach at UCLA. Let’s be honest. The chance to be the coach where John Wooden coached.
This is not a hard decision, not...not when...not when you’re Irish and you’re a little bold and you’re not afraid. You’ve got to embrace it! You only live once! What an opportunity for myself...my family who’s here today. I’d like to introduce some people real quick. My father Pep Cronin...So much is made...there’s a lot...So much is made of my intensity, my passion, my toughness, but I assure you it’s all...I’m not even the boss in my own house...my daughter Samantha...stand up....
She’s almost taller than me. She’s 12 and I had to get the sign-off, okay? I planned this. We’ve been coming on vacation to California since she was a child. So, she’s a little girl. So, this was not a hard sell and I’ll tell you a funny story.
About four years ago, we spent a week in Santa Monica and we’d hit all the theme parks and all this stuff and I kept driving her by campus. “This is the best school in the world. This is the best school in the world.” That’s a true story and, then, finally, after about five days, she goes, “We don’t have to ever go home. Do we?” We’re driving back down to Santa Monica and she says “You know, dad, they’ve got a high school.” and it was Santa Monica High School. She’s like, “Hey, yeah, they do.” So. it’s so ironic.
My longtime girlfriend Christine is here with me as well. My brother Dan couldn’t make it today. My sister Kelly, who was the one person in our family who could have gotten into school here, she just got named principal at the number one elite high school in Cincinnati. So, yeah, how did I become a basketball coach, right? So, anyway, there’s a lot of people that I love...a lot of people I need to thank, but I want to say this...we talk about, “Okay, what’s really going on? Okay,so, my message is real simple. Okay? I’m a player’s coach. Now, you may say, “Well you’re hard on players.” Well I spell love...I just met with the team. I said, “Look, I don’t have a lot of time right now.” We talked for about 30 minutes or so and “You’re gonna leave right now...I’ve got a short time. So, you’re gonna leave here. You’ve got to know one thing: I’m honest.” And, I told them guys I need them. “Right now, I really need you” because I just came off yesterday was the toughest day of my life professionally telling the team that you love you’re leaving. I never thought I’d have that meeting to be honest with you. I never thought that day would come...that I’d ever have to have that meeting. So, that was a really hard day. So, I need the guys. I told I need him right now. I need to spend a lot of time with them but then I want them to leave the meeting knowing one thing. “Hey, I don’t know about this guy. He may not play me...may not let me shoot enough.” But, you’re gonna know this. Okay? He’s obviously honest. Okay? And, I spell love and discipline the same way. And, I think whether it’s being a father...you’ve got to spend time with people if you love them. If you spend time with people, you know who they are...they know what you’re about and they know you’re about helping them become better men as a basketball coach and, if you’re doing that, it’s easy to coach because the kids know you love them.
So, people say, “What’s important?” Got to hire the best staff in the country. Okay? And that starts when we get out of here and, obviously, I’m sure you guys have questions that many...it’s not like I don’t have thoughts...ideas and some things that are going on with that.
Then, I have to have make sure that I develop and communicate with the players we have because they’re now my players as we talked about in the meeting. There is no “He played...he’s gonna bring in his guys.” You know all the stuff that goes...They’re now my guys and like I told Chris Wilkes, “You may never play a day for me. Okay? But I want you to think of me as your coach because you play at UCLA...you played at UCLA...anything I can do to help you. That is my job, first and foremost. is to be there for young people.
That’s the beauty of being a college coach, Bob. That’s what being a college coach is to me. My father is a high school coach. If it’s all about the players...it’s not all business...it’s my job to teach them that their adult life will be about business, but it’s my job to be there for them and to be their guardian...their protector...their coach...their mentor and that’s what I’m about. The winning stuff takes care of itself if you build the right culture and if you get the great staff. Then, obviously, recruiting is paramount which becomes a little easier when you put Four Letters on your chest. So, I want to make sure everybody understands how appreciative I am of this opportunity...how excited I am to be here. I feel like I’ve prepared for this day a long time. Hopefully that there’s...in my business you always want...you don’t want to be too well-liked that means you’re losing. I told our team today our goal is nobody wants to play us. Nobody. You can never be easily defeated and Dan knows young people don’t like to ask questions. I made them ask me some questions and you know they’re obviously style of play. This is...here’s how I spell fun: W-I-N. Okay? And, Offense...defense.... win. We’ll figure out how we have to win and it starts with that first meeting. It starts with our first session of workouts and you build from there because culture is everything...on the floor...off the floor...who we are...what we’re about because whether you’re a one-year player or a four-year player...we talked about this a lot, and this was important to Dan and the committee that they knew that I felt this way, you represent the school you play for and if you get the chance to put the Four Letters on. Okay? You don’t get to shoplift the Four Letters. Okay? Because the Four Letters, as we know, they do a lot for your life. Okay? And you have to pay back by the way you conduct yourself as a person, as a student and by playing to win. And that is my message to the guys. And, when you do that, you make yourself attractive to a guy like Bob Myers because people want to win. People want success. People want people they can count on and you have a chance to brand yourself for however long that you are here. So, our brand will be representing the UCLA brand at the highest level academically, in the community, obviously, in the classroom. Like I said, on the court...win. Win. How do you win?
You play together, which brings me to my final part of the opening statement is: Together is everything. As I sit here looking around and I see people that I never thought I’d get a chance to meet in my life you, the power of together is magnified, obviously, if you’re at UCLA where you have 11 national championships, the greatest most revered college coach of all time and you walk into the Hall of Fame and it’s overwhelming how many Hall of Famers, former greats, supporters, people that have called and offered their support and the power of together here is gonna be a lot stronger than the power together of at a lot of places and uniting for the cause of what’s best for the school and my job is to engage all of you, all of our former players, I can’t wait to meet gentlemen like Jamal Wilkes, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Bill Walton and there’s too many people to name, but what an opportunity for me to get to know these people. Convey my message to them in ways they could help engage in our players. We can all be one to help the Bruins and get us back to where people say UCLA and they don’t write articles were saying they’re not elite because UCLA is elite. Has always been elite and we need to be elite on the court and, obviously I believe that we’re going to do that and that’s why I’m here and I appreciate everybody being here today.
Here’s the full video of the press conference from the start until the end of Cronin’s opening statement, courtesy of UCLA Athletics.
He pretty much checked all the boxes and it’s quite clear from watching him deliver his statement that he is the anti-Alford.
He understands the history of the program. He understands the need to get former players involved. He’s humble enough to acknowledge that he isn’t the boss in his own house.
At the same time, he’s bold enough to talk about UCLA being “the elite program in America with 11 national championships.”
The bottom line is that Mick Cronin gets what being the coach at UCLA is all about, and that includes winning. But, at the same time, he understands that winning starts with culture and it starts with being a teacher and a mentor of young men.
He may not have been at the top of anybody’s list, but it seems like Cronin is up to the task at hand of restoring the program to where it should be.
While the video from UCLA Athletics covered much of the press conference, it didn’t include the questions and answers from the media. Here is that portion of the press conference. Thanks to Tracy Pierson of Bruin Report Online for sharing this portion.
I’m going to wrap this up with a post-press conference interview from Pac-12 Networks. In it, Cronin is asked what his message is to the UCLA fanbase. He said:
Let’s stay together. I think coaching changes bring about a lot of emotion and, in this day and age of the 24-hour news cycle, I think it’s important that you stay together and it’s my job to make sure that I embrace our fanbase, our student body, in particular, our alumni and, very in particular, our former players because nobody has a group of former players like UCLA. So, that’s something for a guy like me, I’m excited just to meet some of those guys.
So, I think that together we’ll be much stronger and make sure that and it’s my job to make sure everybody believes in the vision for our program and when they watch us play they say, “Okay, they’re on their way.” Whether...how soon we get there, I want people like to sitting at the game say, “Okay, we see what Coach Cronin’s trying to build and we see how he’s doing it and we really have great respect for it and we know it’s coming.” And, that’s my job to make sure that I create that belief in our fan base and that was my message to our team today.
So, while my initial reaction was probably best described as “meh” and which, admittedly, came mostly from Battered Bruin Syndrome, I think UCLA now, after six long years, finally has a coach who understands what it means to wear the Four Letters and all that entails or, at the very least, is, as Bob Myers told Pac-12 Networks, is willing to “continue to learn on that” and that’s a lot more than we could EVER say about his predecessor, who just weeks ago still seemed totally ignorant to the fact that UCLA had ever hired a former player to coach the team.
And, that leaves me hopeful for the future of UCLA basketball.
Welcome to Westwood, Mick! May you be at least as successful as Jim Harrick and, hopefully, more so!