There is a common phrase used in sports that states “the players take on the personality of their head coach.” The Cincinnati Bearcats under coach Bob Huggins followed right in line with this statement. His tenure included a record of 399-127 in 16 years as UC head coach. However, it was also marred with NCAA rule violations, player misconduct, and at least one DUI that ultimately proved to be his demise.
So the question becomes “is the basketball program better with him or without him?” In my mind, there’s no doubt the answer is without him.
Since Mick Cronin took over 7 years ago, the Bearcats have a record of 135-99. Take into account that he was playing in a much tougher Big East conference (now known as the American Athletic Conference) opposed to Huggins, who coached in Conference-USA. Mick is a good coach and we should wait to see what kind of success the switch in conferences may bring.
There were so many off the court issues under Huggins because he didn’t hold himself or his players accountable. As long as the team was winning all the indiscretions got swept under the rug. They were known around the country as “Huggs Thugs.” Is that really something that fans, parents, and boosters want to support? Who knows, there may have been some nights the UC players went out for a night on the town and ran into coach Huggins at the bar, ready to party.
Many will point out the huge brawl that occurred during the “Crosstown Shootout” in 2011 as a huge black eye for Mick Cronin and Cincinnati. I see it as a defining positive moment for the program and the coach. It shows exactly why the program is in better hands right now. After this incident, Cronin made his players take off their jerseys and leave them in the locker room. He also clarified that nobody would put their jersey back on until they realized what it meant to represent the university, have a scholarship, and have the privilege to play D-I college basketball.
Would Huggins have done the same? Nobody knows for sure and hopefully we won’t have another fight break out to know the answer. If you look at his history, he may not have handled the situation as well as Cronin. How can young men be expected to act appropriately when their coach can’t practice common sense and not get behind the wheel after a night of drinking?
UC fans don’t call for Cronin’s head yet. You have a good coach who understands how to teach kids about life through the game of basketball. You will continue to get good recruits because parents understand that Cronin will watch over their child after they send him off to college. Most importantly, your program has evolved and won’t have to worry about the constant threat of suspended players, coaches, or NCAA penalties.
Photo: Courtesy of Cincinnati.com