It took one bad half, and Mick Cronin, the fiery basketball coach, was back. After his UC Bearcats played a lackluster first 20 minutes against Bowling Green, Cronin let them have it.
Not like a guy who was coming back from a major medical scare involving his brain.
“I think he peeled the paint off the walls with the way he was yelling,” said his father, Hep.
Mick’s medical drama has been well-chronicled. Cronin suffered a searing headache while coaching against Nebraska on Dec. 13, 2014. Things did not improve. The word aneurysm was tossed around.
The condition was eventually diagnosed as a vascular condition known as arterial dissection. It’s considered non-life threatening. What caused the condition is unknown.
What was known was that Cronin was done coaching for the year. Associate head coach Larry Davis coached the last 25 games on the season.
Cronin was eventually allowed to return to a general manager-like role for the rest of last season. But he wasn’t allowed to attend practice or travel with the team to games. For the condition to heal, Cronin was placed on blood pressure medication, told to limit his exercising to walking and generally ordered to take it easy.
The rest and medication worked. The condition healed. He was cleared to return to the grind in March 30.
People ask what I missed about coaching the most..... ? Here is your answer pic.twitter.com/8NaEmYEpC8
— Mick Cronin (@CoachCroninUC) November 28, 2015
Cronin, 44 and in his 10th season as the UC head coach, is eager to put what happened behind him. The Bearcats are off to 7-0 start and ranked No. 17 in the country — with Cronin coaching as he always has.
“Coach Cronin is very passionate about the game. Having him back was real big,” guard Troy Caupain said. “He makes the final decisions. ... It’s good having your main guy back there. Same energy. Same feeling about the game.”
Cronin would rather talk about rebounding, deflections and shot selection than himself. But before a practice in preparation to play Butler — “I regretted it as soon as I scheduled (Butler),” he allowed — Cronin took some time to talk about the ordeal, the recovery and what motivated him the most to return.
Here’s Cronin on his recovery and return in his own words:
“I don’t think about last year. My life — being a single parent and my job — I’m so busy. I get done in six months what other people do in three years. Forget about last year, every year seems like 10 years ago.
“I’m physically fine. The people that go through similar things to what I had, from what I read about, their biggest problem sometimes when they come back is having fear. Because most of the people that have had what I had ascertain that it was a physical injury. Tennis. Golf. It’s just not in my nature. I’m probably not smart enough. I say that half kidding and half serious. Some people are tentative to get back to their life. ‘Hey, what am I going to do, not sneeze?’
“So many things happen in every day life. I live in Anderson. I read about some woman who was 37 who had a heart attack the other day. You can’t live in fear. So it’s probably good that I’m a little crazy ... From what I’ve read, a lot of people do get tentative. I couldn’t wait to swing a golf club.”
“Being a single parent helped me from not going crazy. Because when you live your whole life in a high-intensity, high-volume of activity every day and you dial it down from 10 to 2, one day seemed like 20 days. You’re just staring at the clock. How am I going to get through the day? Especially if the guys were on the road. When I could be in office, it was easy. When they went to practice, I could go get (daughter) Sammi from school.
“The hardest days were when Sammi was with her mom and the team was gone. It was brutality, just trying to get through the day. The only thing they let me do was walk, so I couldn’t run around and get in the best shape of my life. You can only rest so much.
“I never thought that I wouldn’t be back. Dr. (Norberto) Andaluz and Dr. (Todd) Abruzzo, my main doctor, he told me, 'You’re going to be fine. It’s just a matter of when. If you listen, you’ll be back much faster than if you don’t listen.' People have flown in from all over the country to meet with him. It’s not his first time seeing this. A lot of people — and in defense of a lot of people — they’ve got to pay the bills, so they don’t fully listen and they don’t fully follow the doctor’s orders and the symptoms linger. My symptoms ... they knocked me out to get the headache to go away, but it never came back. That was the hardest part: I’m thinking I’m fine.
“It wasn’t hard (to follow the doctor’s orders). It wasn’t just me and my daughter. I’ve got nine people on my staff who have wives and children. There’s a lot of people who are dependent upon me being the head coach. For them, I had to make sure I was healthy as fast as possible so the university knew the basketball coach is OK. Nobody was put in position of, 'What are we going to do going forward with this? If it lingers a year, what is the school going to do?' Fortunately, the school never had to deal with that.
“The school was great.
“I enjoyed (seeing my players celebrating winning the Barclays Center Classic). I think people misconstrue us as college coaches because of the money we make. But they don’t realize that Tommy Tuberville and Mick Cronin started coaching ... I personally started coaching for $400 for the season at Woodward High School — $400 for the whole year for five years. Driving all over the country to work six-day camps for $150. My first job with Bob Huggins was for $8,000 for the year. I’m sure that Tommy has all the same stories. We don’t start coaching because we thought we were going to make this kind of money. We started coaching because we loved playing. We loved the locker room. We loved being around the sport.
“The best times are when you win. The older you get, the more you appreciate watching the kids celebrate. After you’ve had some success and you’ve got some security, you’re not worried about your job — ‘This is a big win. We’ve got to make the tournament’ — it allows you to enjoy the students coming to the game, not just my players celebrating but the students celebrating. You notice that stuff a little more than if you’re fighting for your job. I’m kind of past that stage in my career. But I think a fan thinks because of the money you make you’ve got to win, but that’s not all this is about.
“But it’s true. It’s 100 percent true. You’re not going to win every game. Everyone’s doing their best. Both teams practice. The older I get — not just because of what happened — but the older you get, you enjoy the success of players, you enjoy that your fans are having fun. When you’re young and trying to keep your job, you’re oblivious. It’s more fun this way. I think it makes you a better coach. You study the older coaches, they’re really in tune with that it’s not about them. That’s just evolution as a coach. This my 13th year as a head coach. I’m almost all the way bald.”