Looking Back: 2003 - The Cronin Era Begins at Murray State

MurraySports  

This story was written in October 2003...

As Mick Cronin begins his first season as head men’s basketball coach at Murray State University he has a clear vision for the future of the program and what he wants it to stand for

“We’re looking for guys who will be good people and good teammates,” he noted. “Good people in the that treat others right. Good teammates in that they are accountable to other members of the team. Good teams have good players, but great teams have great teammates.

“We also want good students who are diligent toward academics. And obviously we want good players who dedicated to improving.”

Of course, Cronin understands that he’s dealing with teenagers and knows that they won’t always do exactly what’s expected of them. But he remains convinced of the basic importance of treating people right and acting responsibly that he learned from his father Hep Cronin.

“My father coached 27 years without a losing season,” he said. “And I’m not going to say people won’t make mistakes. But you have to care about your teammates and the people around you or you won’t have much of a team.”

On the court, Cronin emphasizes the importance of another time honored virtue, hard work.

“The biggest thing I want us to stand for is outworking our opponents,” he said. “We want to be the hardest working, most prepared team on our schedule.”

That may sound like a platitude, something most any coach would say. But anyone who has seen MSU practice knows that Cronin’s idea of hard work is far different from what others might take it to mean.

Picture intense full court drills with coaches barking encouragement like marine drill sergeants and you’ve got a pretty good idea of what it’s like to be a Racer these days.

“My understanding of hard work is probably a little different from that of some of our returning players,” Cronin noted. “That’s because of where I’ve been and who I’ve coached with, and that’s the biggest thing those players have had to adjust to.”

Cronin’s experience coaching with Rick Pitino at Louisville and Bob Huggins at Cincinnati not only taught him what hard work really was. It showed him how important it could be a team’s success.

“My first year with Pitino we didn’t have a lot of talent but we won 19 games,” he recalled. “One year when I was with coach Huggins we had lost six of our top seven players and we went to the Sweet Sixteen. In both cases we did it with hard work and preparation.”

Cronin is fond of saying that it’s amazing what a team can accomplish when no one cares who gets the credit and the players get their fun and fulfillment through the team’s success.

Prepare to be amazed.

In his three years at Murray State, Cronin took the Racers to the NCAA tournament twice, in 2004 and 2006. Cronin's teams won 69 games and lost 24. They were 42-10 in OVC play.