Skip to main content
UCLA head coach Mick Cronin during a game against Michigan State.

UCLA Coach Mick Cronin Overcame a Frightening Health Scare That Kept Him From Coaching Before Ultimately Taking Over the Bruins’ Program

UCLA coach Mick Cronin built one of the most consistent college basketball programs in the country at Cincinnati. The Bearcats were always in the NCAA Tournament with Cronin. While he was there, though, he also overcame a frightening health scare. This story looks at that health scare, his time in Cincinnati, and his move to UCLA.

UCLA basketball coach Mick Cronin has been one of the most consistent coaches in college basketball. His teams have pretty much always been in the NCAA Tournament during his career. All of that success, though, also eventually helped him become the head coach of the UCLA Bruins, one of the most storied programs in college hoops. However, just a few years before becoming the Bruins’ head coach, Cronin overcame a frightening health scare that may have actually played a role in him deciding to move to UCLA.

Mick Cronin became a successful coach at the University of Cincinnati

Mick Cronin worked under some stellar coaches as an assistant coach. This included Rick Pitino at Louisville and Bob Huggins at the University of Cincinnati, Cronin’s alma mater.

However, in 2003, Cronin became the head coach at Murray State, and he ultimately had a decent amount of success there. Cronin won two conference tournament championships at Murray State and went to the NCAA Tournament twice.

Then in 2006, Cronin returned to his alma mater as he became the head coach of the Cincinnati Bearcats. He helped make that program one of the most consistent in the country, too. After winning more and more games each season from 2006-07 through 2009-10, Cronin led the Bearcats to the NCAA Tournament in 2010-11. Then, during the following season in 2011-12, Cincinnati went all the way to the Sweet 16.

The Bearcats then continued finding success under Cronin in the years that followed, as they made the NCAA Tournament year after year. However, during the 2014-15 season, Cronin ended up dealing with a pretty frightening health scare. This ultimately forced him to take some time off from coaching, too.

A health scare kept him from coaching

UCLA head coach Mick Cronin during a game against Michigan State.
Head coach Mick Cronin of the UCLA Bruins reacts to a call during a game against Michigan State on Nov. 27, 2019. | Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

According to Sports Illustrated, Mick Cronin began feeling a pain in the back of his head during a game against Nebraska on Dec. 13, 2014. Several days later, Cronin then received a CAT scan, which revealed “an abnormality in the back of his brain,” per SI. Some people initially feared that it was an unruptured aneurysm. However, that was, thankfully, not the case.

Cronin’s diagnosis was ultimately a carotid artery dissection. According to Cincinnati Magazine, the Cleveland Clinic reports that this “is a tear to the tissue walls of the arteries in the neck that deliver blood from the heart to the brain, allowing blood to leak between the layers of tissue and separate them.” Sometimes, this can lead to a stroke. Cronin, though, just had to avoid strenuous activity, and his body would heal it on its own.

So, Cronin decided not to coach the rest of that season, and then-associate head coach Larry Davis took over. The Bearcats, of course, made it to the NCAA Tournament again that year. The team just followed the blueprint that Cronin laid out for them the entire way.

Then, in 2015-16, Cronin returned to the Cincinnati bench and continued leading one of the country’s most consistent programs. The Bearcats made it to the NCAA Tournament each of the next four seasons, which equaled nine straight trips to the tourney under Cronin. Cincinnati had one of the best teams in America in 2017-18, too, as the Bearcats secured a two-seed in the NCAA tourney.

However, in 2019-20, Cronin decided to leave the program that he worked so hard to build so that he could take over at UCLA.

Mick Cronin now looks to have success as UCLA’s head coach

In 2019-20, Cronin left his alma mater and became the head coach of the UCLA Bruins. In his first season at UCLA, Cronin went 19-12 before the season ended early due to COVID-19. During the 2020-21 season, though, Cronin led UCLA to the NCAA Tournament and eventually the Sweet 16.

So, why did Cronin choose to leave his alma mater and take over a program on the other side of the country? According to ESPN, when thinking about coaching basketball at a legendary program that is also pretty much on the beach, Cronin thought “C’mon, why not?”

He also said that it’s not the same when “you realize you’re not going to live forever.”

Mick Cronin overcame a health scare and continued becoming one of the most consistent coaches in college basketball. That same health scare, though, may have also played a role in him becoming the head coach at one of the most storied programs in college basketball: UCLA.

Stats courtesy of Sports Reference