All the things that prepared Mick Cronin for this | #television | #elderly | #movies
Of course his whole career was preparation for this moment. Mick Cronin on Tuesday night, on national TV, thanking his players for allowing him to coach them. If you looked hard enough, you could see Bob Huggins off one shoulder, Rick Pitino off the other and Hep squarely in the middle, looming over the proceedings.
Coach’s kid. Mick fits the definition like twine fits iron.
When Hep was a scout for the Braves in 1995, his reports told Atlanta pitchers how to get Reggie Sanders out, in the NLDS. He suggested ATL sign a guy out of NKY named David Justice. Later on, especially after he retired, Hep was a fixture on UC basketball road trips. Son was never too full of himself not to listen to his old man.
Here’s a thing about Mick Cronin, and it might not even be the right thing. I’ve never talked to him about it. It’s strictly observation:
Mick knows what he knows. He can be downright cocky about it. But there’s a core humility to him. His respect for his mentors, his willingness to put in the hours earning what they owned. . . his thanking his players for letting him coach them.
He understands who and what made him. In a sport fat with self-important coaches, that’s so very appealing.
That 51-49 W over Michigan had Big East tattooed all over it. At times, especially in the 2nd half, I felt like I was watching Mick and Boeheim at Fifth Third. All the Big East cliches won that game. Toughness, heart, toughness, will, toughness. The UCLA players won it, sure. It’s their journey. Cronin drew them the map.
And to think we’re sitting here this morning praising a SoCal team for its sand. That we’re praising a LaLa Land team for out-flexing a Michigan crew that looked gigantic and was accustomed to rolling up its sleeves.
Old perception: UCLA overwhelms teams with its talent, not necessarily its temperament.
New perception: UCLA has no seniors, no McDonald’s all-Americans, is missing two starters since February, its best player rolls his ankle early in the 2nd half, and UCLA is still upright at the end. That’s a bit o’ Mick at work. Huggs and Pitino’s palms in his back, nudging, and his father’s perpetual insistence leading the parade.
No need to glance derisively at Mike Bohn’s decision to let Cronin leave. Until the former AD gently showed Mick the exit, school and coach did well by each other. Very likely, Cronin had maxed-out in Clifton. UC will never have UCLA talent. Time for someone else to strive for better things.
To me, what Cronin has done with the Bruins is no more remarkable than what he did at UC. He went from 2-14 in the Big East his first season, to 26 wins and a 2nd-round NCAA tournament run in Year 5. That was as good a resurrection as Marvin Lewis accomplished. Better, maybe. There’s no free agency in college basketball.
If Mick Cronin never met our expectations, it’s because he made those expectations so high.
UCLA has a puncher’s chance against Gonzaga Saturday. The Zags just look better than everyone else. But the Bruins are playing with house money now. Like their coach, they’ve paid their dues.
Now, then. . .
I DUNNO. . . One thing I’ve learned about what I do is, I didn’t enter the heathen media business as a cynic/skeptic. Or, oh dear, “negative.’’ These are learned traits.
When it comes to assessing the character of someone I cover, I learned a long time ago that I don’t know nuthin’.
“What’s so-and-so really like?’’ is a popular question at civic functions where I’ve been asked to speak. Since ’88, I’ve done quite a few. In ’88, I’d have answered, “So and so is a Great Guy.’’
Truth is, as I’ve been learning ever since, I/we have no idea who these people are. Especially in recent times, when sports personalities can PhotoShop their images on social media. This comes up now, in reference to the multiple accusations leveled by women at Houston Texans QB DeShaun Watson. YahooSports:
We don’t really know these guys. That’s what I keep coming back to with Watson, who is now facing civil suits from 19 women, all of them massage therapists, and all of them telling a similar story. A 20th woman, who is not part of the suits against Watson, told Sports Illustrated’s Jenny Vrentas her experiences in a story that published on Monday.
Watson has been rightfully praised in the past for his civic-mindedness. He has posted his financial generosity on his social media pages. The current accusations against him don’t change that. But they might change our perceptions of him. Great Guy?
Now, when I’m on the rubber-chicken circuit and I’m asked about SoAndSo – is he a good guy? – I’ll say what I’ve said for 25 years at least:
“I have no idea.’’
He’s nice to me. He respects I’m doing a job. I get along with him professionally. I admire his work. Offering takes on his character, beyond what I can see – he plays hurt, his teammates love him, he signs of autographs, whatever – isn’t smart.
In case youse were wondering.
NAVEL-GAZING, BECAUSE I CAN. . . A Mobster weighed in this AM, suggesting I – wait for it – Stick To Sports. It could be the first time someone has ever asked that of me.
Short answer: No.
Long answer, which I delivered this AM to the Mobster in question:
TML is not, and never has been, a sports column. Since Feb. 2006, it has been whatever I’ve wanted it to be. The first entry was from Oahu, a short take on climbing to the top of Diamond Head. Since, I’ve written regularly about family, friends, beer, cigars, bourbon, road trips, vacations, movies, TV, music, cars, food etc etc etc. Should I stop those as well? Or is it just because you don’t happen to agree with my politics that I’m not suited to express them? (BTW, the numbers suggest I’ve gained readership steadily on the blog, politics or no politics.) If you can explain to me how it’s OK to deny would-be voters drinking water as they wait in line to exercise their Constitutional rights (the item she objected to), I’m all ears. Otherwise, I’d suggest humbly that you skip over the parts of TML you don’t like. There’s a lot more there. Best.
It has taken extraordinary circumstances for me to stray from sports in the Traditional Media column. George Floyd and the storming of the Capitol are two examples. At least 99 percent of the time, I’m strictly sports.
But a blog isn’t a column. At least this blog isn’t, and won’t be.
MORE ABOUT ME! The virus is fascinating, in its evil little way. Day 1 post-Shot #2, I felt beaten up. Day 2, which was yesterday, I felt like climbing Everest. Day 3, I’m somewhere in the middle.
Get vaccinated. Endure, overcome, emerge better for it.
And stop claiming I discouraged people from getting the shot(s). I didn’t do that.
I’VE BEEN MEANING to write something about the NFL’s 17-game season. But what? Knee-jerk: It’s yet another cash grab. Media rights will explode again. So will more players knees and shoulders and brains. The league says it will be safer, because the tradeoff is one fewer exhibition game.
That’s a joke.
Players OK’d it, proving the majority of them care more about their bank accounts than their bodies. All the green in the world won’t matter when you can’t play in the back yard with your grandkids. Or when the brain scan comes back flawed.
The cash will buy a lot of Advil, so that’s good.
To fans: Do we really need a 17th game? Did we wake up this morning and decide, “Our lives will never be complete until we have one more professional football game a year to watch?’’
I’m thinking not.
WHAT’S YOUR BEST OPENING DAY memory is a question I get occasionally. So. . .
1975, my senior year in high school. Denis O’Fallon, Ron Zelaya and I skipped school and took Zilch’s car to Memorial Stadium in Baltimore. I’d told my folks I’d be going to Denis’ house after school and wouldn’t be home ‘til dinner. It would have worked, except there was a car wreck on I-95 on the way back from the Orioles game. When it got to be 6 and I wasn’t home, my mother called Denis; house and said to Mrs. O’Fallon, “I hear Paul’s over there. When is he coming home?’’
To which the lovely Mrs. O’Fallon replied, “That’s funny. Denis told me he was going to your house after school.’’
Your best OD tale, please.
TUNE O’ THE DAY. . . My son Kelly is a music enthusiast who does his best to keep my tastes young and fresh. No easy task, that. Here’s a new, pleasant one.