On Thursday, Cincinnati announced that coach Brian Cleary would be relieved of his duties at the end of the season. The Bearcats sent Cleary out by playing spoiler against Notre Dame, taking two out of three games to end the season.
But the Bearcats went just 24-32 overall and 6-18 in the Big East. In 17 years at the helm, Cleary is 436-529-1 (.453), making him the winningest coach in program history. The Bearcats made the Big East tournament in four straight years before this season’s struggles, but they haven’t been to the NCAA tournament since 1974.
“Coach Cleary has been a great representative on many fronts for many years,” UC director of athletics Whit Babcock said in a release. “He has been a tremendous ambassador for the University and the athletic department, however, we feel it is time to take the program in a new direction. It is never an easy decision to make a change, especially for a coach with the character and integrity of Coach Cleary, but in the end I felt that the program has not achieved at the level on the field we expect.”
The Cincinnati job could attract plenty of interest. The Bearcats play in a very nice on-campus facility that opened in 2004 (the 3,085-seat Marge Schott Stadium), and there is a strong base of talent in the region, although Kentucky, Louisville, Ohio State and Indiana are formidable regional competitors.
An assistant at one of those schools could be a good fit for Cincinnati—perhaps Louisville’s Chris Lemonis or Roger Williams, Kentucky’s Brad Bohanon or Brian Green, or Indiana’s Ty Neal. Other potential targets include Purdue’s Jeff Duncan, Kent State’s Scott Daeley and Pittsburgh’s Danny Lopaze.