Since there have been numerous questions raised recently about coaches and how they dealt with difficult situations, I thought that pointing out the response of Cincinnati head basketball coach Mich Cronin to his players brawling at the end of their blowout loss to fierce rival Xavier would be instructive regarding the right way to respond to serious controversy.
The video is appalling. There was smack talking between the rivals for the entire game. When the ruckus finally broke out, punches were thrown on both sides. One Xavier player was seriously hurt when a blind side straight right by a Cincinnati player felled him. Another Cincy player viciously kicked the injured player as he was trying to get away.
The Xavier players did not cover themselves in glory in the post game press conference. Star player Tu Holloway talked like a thug:
"That's what you're going to see from Xavier and Cincinnati," Holloway said. "We got disrespected a little bit before the game, guys calling us out. We're a tougher team. We're grown men over here. We've got a whole bunch of gangsters in the locker room -- not thugs, but tough guys on the court. And we went out there and zipped them up at the end of the game."
And then there's Cronin's response. Keep in mind the excuse making of Joe Paterno at Penn State and Jim Boeheim at Syracuse when reading these excerpts from the press conference:
Too much glorification of all of sports in our society. The fact is, guys are here to get an education. They represent institutions of higher learning. Xavier has been a great school for years. We are trying to cure cancer at Cincinnati. I got to school at a place where they discovered the vaccine for polio and created Benadryl. I think that's more important than who wins a basketball game. And our guys need to have appreciation for the fact they are there on a full scholarship. And they're there to represent institutions with class and integrity. That's that.
Absolutely. My players don't act the right way they will never play another game at Cincinnati. Right now, 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 is what the University of Cincinnati is about. Period.
I've never been this embarrassed. I'm hoping President Williams doesn't ask me to resign after that. We represent an institution of higher learning, it's way more important than basketball games. Whoever puts that jersey back on - I made everybody take their jersey off and they will not put it on again until they have a full understanding of where they go to school and what the university stands for and how lucky they are to even be there, let alone have a scholarship, because there's a whole lot of kids that can't pay for college. And don't get to go to school. My mom didn't get to go to UC, she grew up on campus. They couldn't afford it.
(You made your players take their jerseys off?)
Absolutely, they are all sitting in there with no jersey on. Some of them I physically took them off.
We talk all the time, toughness is doing the right thing in life. That is what we talk about. If that is the case, you are being provoked, this or that, true toughness, you walk away from it. You take your ass whipping and you go home. You get better.
Certain people want to act a certain way, that's on them. If that's who they want to be that's on them. That is not what we are going to be. Period. That's not what we are going to be. Am I agitated? Yes. Do I think my guys are somewhat responsible in some way, I don't know who started it but I can tell you that is not what we are going to be about.
It would be a huge story if Cronin follows through and kicks the guilty parties off the team. From the tape, it appears that at least two and possibly three members of the team are guilty of throwing punches. Will that be enough to bounce them? Will the Cincinnati University president allow the dismissal of half the starting lineup of a very good team that has a chance of making the university a pile of money in the NCAA tournament?
Certainly the sentiments that Cronin expressed can be applauded. Now we'll see whether those fine words are followed by tough action against players who disgraced their university and the uniforms they wear to represent it.