The coach, his princess and his city

It's reasonable to question how a Division I coach manages his duties as a single parent -- Cronin is a bachelor -- and leader of a nationally ranked program. But Cronin is deliberate about prioritizing his relationship with his daughter.

On the days he has her, he turns off the phone and the TV from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. No texting recruits or monitoring the big game. Just Sammi.

She has a segment on his weekly TV show, so he has to make sure those curls are prim. He gets her to school on time. And when it's not feasible to keep her next to him, he calls on his father or sister for some assistance.

But Cronin is not the occasional father. He'll quit before that happens.

He's met too many coaches who ruined bonds with their children because they were so obsessed with the game as they sought the next promotion. Cronin has tried to erect a wall between father and coach.

Sammi goes home with him even after tough losses. Cronin said he doesn't want her to think that his commitment to her is based on the outcome of a game.

Hours after his program participated in the infamous brawl with Xavier two years ago, Cronin was at home playing Chutes and Ladders with Sammi.

"I just never was going to let that happen, because I hear too many stories about these guys that get out of coaching to meet their kids," Cronin said. "That's never going to be me. My daughter's never going to have to write a letter; I'm never going to sign a contract that says, 'I'm going to be there for you.'"

In recent years, he's fielded calls from schools that have offered multimillion-dollar contracts for supposedly greener pastures. But he always reflects on Pitino's words as he considers his future.

Cronin, Pitino's associate head coach from 2001-03, would ask his mentor for advice about his career -- and, judging by his tailored suits, fashion as well -- while the two smoked Cuban cigars on hotel balconies during memorable recruiting trips. Pitino would always express his regrets about leaving Kentucky for a lucrative deal to coach the Boston Celtics. He took the cash, but he abandoned his happiness.

"He told me, 'I didn't enjoy Kentucky,'" Cronin said, "'I was so driven, I never stopped to enjoy it. You've got a chance to have a great run. Don't make the mistake I did. Enjoy it.'"

Why jeopardize bliss?

The opportunities haven't been worth the risk of squandering the contentment he's found in his hometown. It's a rare situation that allows him to guide his alma mater, be a committed father and stay close to those he loves.

Plus, the 5-foot-7 Cronin likes the idea of extending a grand legacy that began with Oscar Robertson and grew under Bob Huggins, who led the program to the Final Four in 1992 and hired Cronin as a video coordinator in 1996.

Cronin is not constructing this vision on foreign land. His mother, Peggy, lived in a building that once sat on the university's new baseball fields. His father attended high school across the street.

His family of five (Cronin has a brother, too) attended St. Ann Church of Groesbeck, just eight miles from campus, and would gather for Sunday afternoon dinners at the home of Cronin's grandparents.

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