LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – You won’t find many coaches closer with former University of Louisville basketball coach Rick Pitino than Cincinnati’s Mick Cronin.

Cronin was an assistant to Pitino at Louisville from 2001 to 2003, then went on to success as a head coach at Murray State and now Cincinnati, where he has the No. 12-ranked team in this year’s Associated Press preseason poll.

But he still has close ties with Louisville. Kenny Klein and others from U of L were in attendance Wednesday night to watch Cincinnati’s game against Bellarmine.

When asked about events at Louisville, which included the firing of Pitino, Cronin got a little emotional.

“It’s just sad,” Cronin said. “Just very, very said. Obviously, I wouldn’t be standing here if it weren’t for Rick Pitino. So . . . “

Cronin said he has spoken to Pitino often, and that it’s tough to watch him go through what he’s going through. An FBI complaint alleges he helped arrange, through phone calls to an adidas executive, payments to a recruit to attend the University of Louisville. Pitino strongly disputes that allegation.

“He’s hurting,” Cronin said. “The guy’s the Terminator, though. For people that don’t realize that, he’s the Terminator. Nobody’s overcome adversity in their life the way he has, let’s be honest. I’ve seen him handle things since 2001 when we became close, it’s just been amazing to see him handle things that have gone on, with his family or professionally, so he’ll be OK.

“I can tell everybody this,” Cronin went on. “He’s upset for two reasons. He’s not coaching his team. That kills him. But he loves Louisville. You’ve got to realize, Coach was a vagabond. But he planted his flag here and this was going to be his legacy. So, I’m telling you, he wanted to leave here, whenever he left, he wanted everything to be perfect, even better, and leave it on those terms. You’ve got better dorms, you’ve got better arena, you’ve got better practice facility. He wanted to fix everything that had gone on with the current probation and go on another run, because he feels an obligation. He’s not going to say it, but I’m going to tell you, the guy feels an obligation to Louisville. He loves the community. It gave him a home that he really never had. He moved Billy Minardi’s family here. Louisville is home. For him, that would be the second thing. He cares. He loves the city. So that’s a hard thing. So when you see him, you saw him in that interview, that’s the facts. And it’s just hard for me to see him that way.”

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