UC basketball is a white-hot mess now, for the foreseeable future
John Cunningham fired John Brannen Friday afternoon. The apparent athletic director bid the erstwhile basketball coach a not-fond adieu. Not many people know precisely what Brannen did to get fired. Not many know what set everything in motion. What we do know is that UC basketball is a white-hot mess now and for the foreseeable future.
Remember the first few years of Mick Cronin?
Does John Williamson have any eligibility left? Jamual Warren was pretty good in a pinch. Someone give him a call.
What did John Brannen do?
Not what unnamed former players presumably in the transfer portal claimed he did. Not what every UC fan with a laptop and an Internet connection said he heard Brannen did. What did John Brannen actually do to get fired after two seasons, the second spent in the purgatory known as Coronaville?
This is important, not just to nosy media heathens. It’s important to you. Fans, boosters, alumni, ticket buyers, sponsors, AAU and high school coaches, players, families and friends. Anyone who has even the slightest stake in the basketball program has a right to know how one bad year that was bad all over got a young, talented coach canned.
Until the air is cleared, rumors will fill the space. Kids talk, parents talk, coaches talk. Brannen’s lawyer, Tom Mars, isn’t shy in front of cameras and microphones. The college basketball industry is not large, certainly not at the level UC aspires to inhabit. Once you’ve created an image, it’s not easy to shake.
What’s UC’s image?
Maybe we should ask the “independent fact-finders’’ Cunningham assigned to investigate his former coach.
I’ve heard stuff that would curl your toes. I’m sure you have, too. But that’s all it is. Stuff. I tried confirming the worst Stuff, with no luck. Meantime, the only players willing to put their names to their words had nice things to say about Brannen and the program.
Throughout, the athletic director has had nothing to say, save two squishy press releases.
Cunningham “announced’’ the firing from behind a computer screen. He used nothing language: “A new direction comes after a thorough review. . . acting in the best interests of our student-athletes’’ to maintain “our values that we hold dear.’’
This is what you say when you mean to say nothing. Or when you’re out of your league and you don’t really know what else to say. The lawyers are fully involved now, so don’t expect any revelations anytime soon. In the meantime, the new coach will have to fill nearly an entire roster on the fly, dealing with rumors and perceptions every pained step of the way.
“I don’t know anything,’’ said Steve Boymel, a huge UC basketball fan and substantial donor, Friday. “ On the record or off, I have no idea how it got to this. I’m worried about the program. I love this program. I live for basketball season. We’re missing an opportunity right now. Right now, it doesn’t seem like we have a team.’’
Boymel has even spent considerable time surfing the portal for players he thinks would be a fit at UC. “I started going through the alphabet, looked up stats for each kid, I put them in an Excel spreadsheet,’’ he said. “We’re missing opportunities on skilled players.’’
Limbo never looked this bad. Andy Kennedy coached a year and never got the “interim’’ tag removed from his title. Remember? He couldn’t recruit. That left Cronin with nothing. It was five years before he turned things around.
There is no Mick this time, no Cincinnati kid looking at this dire situation and seeing the opportunity of a lifetime. There is only an athletic director saying nothing, and players either gone or thinking about going.
What did John Brannen do?
Look, we can all understand the need for silence, especially when the lawyers take over. But apparently, the discussions about Brannen’s future have been ongoing for several weeks, since well before the season ended. Why hasn’t it been resolved by now? Why was a team of independent sleuths hired only a few weeks ago?
The man was owed a $5 million buyout that UC couldn’t or wouldn’t afford. The school sought to fire him “for cause,’’ hoping to avoid paying him another dime. Now?
“Thank you for your patience’’ was how John Cunningham concluded his e-mail missive announcing Brannen’s departure. Patience? We don’t even know what to be patient about.