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Cincinnati Bearcats basketball: John Brannen named new coach

Cincinnati Enquirer logo Cincinnati Enquirer 4/15/2019 John Fay and Jason Williams and Michael Perry

When Mick Cronin left the University of Cincinnati, speculation immediately turned to Northern Kentucky coach John Brannen as Cronin's replacement.

Sunday, UC made the announcement.

Brannen, 45, becomes UC's 27th basketball coach – but only the third permanent one in the last 30 years. The press conference to introduce Brannen will be Monday at 10 a.m.

A UC source says Brannen's deal is for six years with a base salary of $1.5 million. Cronin made $2.2 million last season.

"We are thrilled to welcome John, his wife Lisa and their daughters, Jaylee and Katelyn, to the Bearcats family," UC director of athletics Mike Bohn said in a statement. "He has a proven record as a head coach, longtime ties to the local community and coaches an exciting style of basketball. We were impressed with his passion, drive, determination and basketball acumen during the interview process where he truly emerged as the best coach to lead the Cincinnati basketball program with a bright future." 

Bohn headed the search and moved quickly. Cronin's departure happened Tuesday.

Brannen is a Northern Kentucky native. He had been a long time assistant before NKU hired him to take the program in Division I in 2015. He's had unprecedented success with the Norse. They are 72-30 with the two NCAA berths since becoming Division I. 

"It's truly an honor to take over such a storied program at the University of Cincinnati," Brannen said in a statement. "The Cincinnati-northern Kentucky community is special to my family and we are happy to remain at home. I want to thank President (Neville) Pinto, Mike Bohn and the search committee for this opportunity. We are thrilled to join a world-class University and continue to build on the historic success of Bearcats basketball and the incredible lineage of former coaches."

Brannen is the first coach with no ties to the university since Bob Huggins was hired in 1989. 

Former player and radio analyst Terry Nelson is trying to help with the transition. 

"We have a new coach and we're going to rally around him," Nelson said. "He's our guy now. We've got to figure out what we need to do as a program and a community to Bearcats basketball to another level.  

Another former player, Alex Meacham, applauded the hire.

"I know what John Brannen can do because I’ve seen him do it for a long time," Meacham said. "When you’re a college basketball head coach of a Division I program, you’re like a CEO of a Fortune 500 company. John Brannen is a CEO. It’s a business. What happens on the court during games is such a small part of what a college coach has to do. They have to speak in the community, raise money and more. John is probably the perfect guy to lead that right now.

“He’s a great guy, a tremendous hire for a lot of reasons. If you look at a smooth transition from Mick to whoever gets the job, if I’m the athletic director, of the candidates I heard about, I thought John Brannen was one of the guys who could make it the smoothest. He has a great feel for the area. There’s so much good talent in the Tristate area that has left the area that shouldn’t have. He understands that. He has great relationships."

a man standing in front of a crowd: Northern Kentucky Norse head coach John Brannen shouts to his offense in the first half of the NCAA Tournament First Round game between the 14-seeded Northern Kentucky Norse and the 3-seeded Texas Tech Red Raiders the BOK Center in downtown Tulsa on Friday, March 22, 2019. Texas Tech led 30-26 at halftime. © Sam Greene, The Enquirer Northern Kentucky Norse head coach John Brannen shouts to his offense in the first half of the NCAA Tournament First Round game between the 14-seeded Northern Kentucky Norse and the 3-seeded Texas Tech Red Raiders the BOK Center in downtown Tulsa on Friday, March 22, 2019. Texas Tech led 30-26 at halftime.

Kenyon Martin, on the other hand, expressed his doubts.

One thing that will be important to Brannen immediately: Finding out if Jarron Cumberland is staying for his senior year or declaring for the NBA Draft. Cumberland told The Enquirer Friday that he was undecided.

Cumberland was the American Athletic Conference player of the year this season. He leads a strong returning core. With top assistant Darren Savino reportedly joining Cronin at UCLA, UC may have to deal with transfers.  

This article originally appeared on Cincinnati Enquirer: Cincinnati Bearcats basketball: John Brannen named new coach

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