Could Mick Cronin Bring Back Louisville Basketball Back to National Prominence?

Is Mick really the next pick for Louisville basketball?
Dec 14, 2022; College Park, Maryland, USA;  UCLA Bruins head coach Mick Cronin  during the first
Dec 14, 2022; College Park, Maryland, USA; UCLA Bruins head coach Mick Cronin during the first / Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

After Louisville basketball fired Kenny Payne last week there has been mass speculation on who would be the next head basketball coach, and besides Scott Drew and Dusty May, Mick Cronin has been the 3rd hottest name in this coaching search.

Scott Drew from Baylor has seemingly been the front runner since rumors started surfacing that Payne would be fired at the end of the season. And with the way that Drew has built Baylor into a national powerhouse, there is good reason for it. However, Drew is a man of faith and staying true to what he believes in. Because of that many think that he would pass up on Louisville and continue building up in what he has built in Waco, Texas. If Drew turns down the Louisville job then athletic director Josh Heird will have to look elsewhere.

That then brings us to Mick Cronin.

Dusty May and Mick Cronin seem to be edging out the spots after Scott Drew from the information that has been put out by various local and national sources. While there are various rumors saying that May or Cronin are already picked to be the next head coach at Louisville, none of that information is coming from a reputable source.

While both are possible candidates for the job we're going to mainly look at Cronin here. If you want a more in depth look at Dusty May click here for that piece.

Cronin spent several years as an assistant coach and spent his last 2 years as an assistant under former Louisville head coach (and yes, national champion) Rick Pitino. He then coached Murray State for 3 years, Cincinnati for 12 years, and has been at UCLA for the past 5 seasons.

This is Cronin's complete record below:

Murray State Racers (Ohio Valley Conference) (2003–2006)

2003–04              Murray State    28–6      14–2      2nd        NCAA Division I Round of 64
2004–05              Murray State    17–11   11–5      T–2nd   No Tournament Appearance
2005–06              Murray State    24–7      17–3      1st          NCAA Division I Round of 64

Overall: Murray State:  69–24 (.742)     42–10 (.808)    

Cincinnati Bearcats (Big East Conference) (2006–2013)

2006–07              Cincinnati          11–19   2–14      16th       No Tournament Appearance
2007–08              Cincinnati          13–19   8–10      10th       CBI first round
2008–09              Cincinnati          18–14   8–10      T–9th    No Tournament Appearance
2009–10               Cincinnati          19–16   7–11      T–11th  NIT second round
2010–11               Cincinnati          26–9      11–7      T–6th    NCAA Division I Round of 32
2011–12               Cincinnati          26–11   12–6      T–4th    NCAA Division I Sweet 16
2012–13               Cincinnati          22–12   9–9         T–9th    NCAA Division I Round of 64

Cincinnati Bearcats Transition to American Athletic Conference (2013–2019)

2013–14               Cincinnati          27–7      15–3      T–1st     NCAA Division I Round of 64
2014–15               Cincinnati          23–11* 13–5*   T–3rd    NCAA Division I Round of 32*
2015–16               Cincinnati          22–11   12–6      T–3rd    NCAA Division I Round of 64
2016–17               Cincinnati          30–6      16–2      2nd        NCAA Division I Round of 32
2017–18               Cincinnati          31–5      16–2      1st          NCAA Division I Round of 32
2018–19               Cincinnati          28–7      14–4      2nd        NCAA Division I Round of 64

Overall at Cincinnati:        296–147 (.668)                 135–87 (.608)

UCLA Bruins (Pac-12 Conference) (2019–present)

2019–20              UCLA   19–12   12–6      2nd        No postseason held
2020–21              UCLA   22–10   13–6      4th          NCAA Division I Final Four
2021–22              UCLA   27–8      15–5      2nd        NCAA Division I Sweet 16
2022–23              UCLA   31–6      18–2      1st          NCAA Division I Sweet 16
2023–24              UCLA   16–17   10–10   5th          No Tournament Appearance

Overall at UCLA:  115–53 (.685) 68–21 (.764)    

Total Wins & Losses: 479–224 (.681)               

Cronin has a track record of winning at each stop he has made in his coaching career, and his recent string of sweet sixteens and a final four have been a big talking point in how far Cronin could take Louisville. His ties to the city from coaching under Rick Pitino and being an avid appreciator of the Kentucky Derby seems to please fans. Not to mention the way he gets his teams to play with full effort and hard nosed defense.

However, his critics say that his hard edged personality and his "unexciting" philosophy would bring boring basketball to the KFC Yum! Center. While also mentioning his lackluster tournament runs at Cincinnati. While that is true, his recent string of tourney success shows that with bigger resources he can succeed. As he has won more with every bigger job he has gotten, and no school has better NIL and facility resources than the University of Louisville.

When it comes to Cronin's anger and pettiness, there really is no answer. Cronin is extremly passionate abour basketball on and off the basketball court for the better or worse. But fans may need some of that anger fueled passion after two years of Kenny Payne's lackluster emotion as the Cardinal's head coach.

Also not to mention that in last 9 years at Cincinnati his defensive were no lower than #28, and his defensive numbers at UCLA rank as this:

Defensive Ranks from 2018-2024 (5 seasons): 113th, 106th, 33rd, 6th, 22nd

Cronin would bring the type of defense that Louisville played when Pitino was here back and that comes with offense as well. While Cronin is not the #1 option (that goes to Scott Drew) he would be a good hire that could get Louisville back to 20+ win seasons and tourney appearances without a doubt.

Before Louisville thinks about national championships they need to start thinking about actually getting back to the tourney first. And with the candidates that are available besides Scott Drew, Cronin seems to the be the guy that Louisville will likely go after based on all the information we know, and what has already been put out there.

There has also been noise that Louisville can get around Cronin's 16 million dollar buyout since UCLA is moving to the BIG Ten next year. The argument is that Cronin could get rid or severely diminish the buyout if Louisville wants to hire him because of the conference move. Not only has this been an ongoing rumor but other local media sources like Ty Spalding from and Mike Rutherford from Card Chronicle have said they can "likely" get around the buyout. While this isn't final, there is suspicion to believe UofL can get around it.

Mick Cronin could be the next head coach at Louisville, but Scott Drew and Josh Heird ultimately hold the chips in their hand at this point. As Cronin would likely "crawl" to take the head coaching job at the University of Louisville.

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