Mick Cronin could see trouble brewing

December, 11, 2011
12/11/11
1:18
AM ET
Editor's Note: To read Katz's most up-to-date news story on the Cincinnati-Xavier brawl and its potential consequences, click here.

On Saturday night, Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin decompressed for a few hours with his 5-year-old daughter to get away from the stress of the day -- an ugly day that few in the Queen City will ever forget as UC and Xavier took part in one of the nastiest bench-clearing brawls the sport has ever seen.

“My raw reaction [after watching the video] was embarrassing and sad,’’ Cronin told ESPN.com late Saturday night. “It makes kids look bad. Less than a month ago, Yancy Gates was visiting kids with cancer in the hospital but now look at his image. Everyone has to have consequences, but we’ll see what it’s going to be.’’

[+] EnlargeYancy Gates
AP Photo/Al Behrman"Less than a month ago, Yancy Gates was visiting kids with cancer in the hospital," Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin said of his forward, seen here punching Xavier's Landen Amos, "but now look at his image."
Cronin suspended Gates for one game last season, against Pitt on Feb. 5, for a violation of team rules.

“I’ve had no issues with him at all,’’ Cronin said of Gates’ behavior this season. “I don’t know what happened between him and [Xavier center Kenny] Frease in that game. But there was something two years ago when Frease head-butted him. It was a bad scene [this year]. The whole thing is a bad scene."

Cronin said he talked to his team all week about not retaliating to any instigation.

“In my program, we’re going to respect the scholarship and the university,’’ Cronin said. “You’re fortunate to be on scholarship. I’m not na´ve. Kids are going to make mistakes. But we’re about to learn that there are consequences for those mistakes. At our school, no matter if they are taunting you the whole game, we’re going to be above that and not react to that. We’re not going to lose our composure and not throw punches at anybody.’’

He said the squawking that was going on from both sides has been brewing for the past three years in the rivalry. Cronin was also upset that the officials working the game didn’t stop the trash-talking. He said implored the officials to do something. He made a point of saying that the only technical given was to Xavier coach Chris Mack. The crew working the game was not a collection of household names in college basketball officiating.

“If guys run their mouth, there should be technicals,’’ Cronin said. “I was begging guys to call Ts. They never did. That was a problem.’’

The first half ended with Xavier’s Mark Lyons jawing with Cincinnati’s bench as players exited toward the other end.

“This has been a two-to-three-year happening,’’ Cronin said. “My message to [the Bearcats] was that these kids have to realize it’s a privilege to be on scholarship.’’

The Bearcats visit Wright State on Wednesday (ESPN2, 7 ET) and Cronin has no idea who will be allowed to play in that game.

The loss to the Musketeers was the third of the season for the Bearcats. Cincinnati, which had already lost at home to Presbyterian and Marshall, was projected as a Big East contender and ranked No. 22 in the preseason.

“From a basketball standpoint, once we find out what is going on with the suspensions then we’ll have to get a couple of practices in and figure out how to win Wednesday, and when we get certain guys back, we’ll have to stay together and weather the storm,’’ Cronin said. “How it all works out, I don’t know.’’

It took a while, but Cronin resurrected the program last season and picked up an NCAA tournament victory over Missouri before receiving a three-year contract extension in April. But this has been unquestionably a dark start to the 2011-12 season.

“This is no fun,’’ Cronin said of this latest challenge. “Anybody can steer a ship through calm waters. We’ll have to find a way to deal with adversity. Whether it takes a week or a season, we’ll come out better for it at the end of the day.’’

Andy Katz | email

Senior Writer, ESPN.com

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