By Gary Parrish
Cincinnati lost to a crosstown rival by 23 points. The Bearcats best player threw a punch that might end his career. But I'm not sure Mick Cronin has ever had a better day as a college basketball coach.
"There's no excuse for any of it on our side or on their side," Cronin said. "Guys need to grow up."
And it got more intense from there.
In an era when too many coaches play it safe, avoid questions and promise to address everything at a later date, Cronin, clearly emotional, spent roughly 13 minutes talking about the brawl that overshadowed Xavier's 76-53 win over his Bearcats. The fight featured lots of punches. The Cincinnati coach pulled none.
"We accept full responsibility and it will be handled," Cronin said. "There is zero excuse for that in basketball. ... The fact is the guys ... represent an institution of higher learning. Xavier has been a great school for years. We're trying to cure cancer at Cincinnati. I go to school at a place where they ... created Benadryl; I think that's more important than who wins a basketball game. And our guys need to have an appreciation that they're there on a full scholarship and they better represent the institution with class and integrity. ... I just told my guys I will meet with my AD and my president and I'm going to decide who is on the team going forward. That's what the University of Cincinnati is about. Period. I've never been this embarrassed."
Cronin went on to explain that he didn't know exactly why the fight started.
He said he needed to watch the film.
But he also made it clear that, ultimately, he didn't care about the details.
If his players started it, he said his players were wrong.
If Xavier's players started it, he said his players were wrong to react violently.
"Toughness is doing the right thing," Cronin said. "You take your ass-whipping and go home."
The entire press conference was fascinating.
You can watch it here.
It's a great example of how to handle a terrible situation. Cronin didn't make excuses and he wasn't guarded. All anybody wanted to hear from anybody involved after the bloody court was cleared was that they were as disturbed by what happened with 9.4 seconds remaining as the nation that was watching, and that those responsible for starting -- or escalating -- the incident would be held accountable. Cronin sat at a desk with a microphone in his face and made both points convincingly. It was a nice performance on a horrific afternoon.
We like to pretend college coaches are "leaders of young men."
Oftentimes, that's laughable.
But on this day, after it was all over, Mick Cronin very much looked the part.