Mick Cronin knows college basketball is changing and he has to change with it. The Bearcats of 20 years ago wouldn’t win as much today. The old Big East “rock fights,’’ as Cronin calls them, have been replaced by daggers from 22 feet. If you can’t make threes now, if you can’t spread the defense and make open shots, you won’t win. Try winning a game 54-53 today.
Cronin understands that. What he doesn’t completely understand is how the perceptions of his program haven’t changed in at least 20 years. He says that makes recruiting today’s players harder than it should be.
“Hard, tough, inner-city guys,” Cronin says, not without disdain. “That’s the perception of our program (still). The connotation is, we’re not an academic school. But we are an academic school. We don’t get the credit for the academic school this place has become.
“We fight that stigma that we only recruit tough guys. Interview our guys, tell me how hard and tough they are. Kyle Washington, Jacob Evans and Gary Clark were not hard and tough guys. They’re the nicest guys in the world.”
(Cronin’s right about that. The same would apply to lots of other Bearcat basketball alums, including familiar players such as Sean Kilpatrick and Troy Caupain.)
Today’s college game requires versatile players who can shoot the three. The stereotypical UC player didn’t usually fit that mold. So long as that stereotype exists, it will be harder for UC to get the players it needs.
Cronin opened this box, so we might as well spill the contents. According to Mick, recruits and their families living outside the Tristate still see UC as a landing place for African-American players from sketchy backgrounds, who aren’t interested in learning beyond the court.
Fair? Of course not. Never was. Stupid? Oh, yeah. Always.
“The stereotypes (surrounding) the colors of people’s skin,” Cronin says. “That does affect recruiting.”
Cronin says opposing coaches still recruit negatively, using dated perceptions. “You get involved with a kid, whatever color he is, he’s a really good player and student. The competition says, first thing, ‘You won’t fit in at Cincinnati. They play too hard, they got tough guys.’