The University of Cincinnati found its 27th head men’s basketball coach in Northern Kentucky University’s John Brannen Sunday afternoon. An introductory press conference was held Monday morning at Fifth Third Arena.
“This is a dream job for me,” Brannen said. “It is a dream come true.”
Now that the Brannen era is officially underway, it’s time to learn a bit more background about Mick Cronin’s replacement.
“Cincinnati through and through”
Brannen was born just over the Ohio River in Alexandria, Kentucky, and was a standout high school basketball player at Newport Central Catholic High School in Newport, Kentucky. His father is originally from St. Bernard in Cincinnati, while his mother is from Newport.
“You always told me that the cream rises to the top,” Brannen said, motioning to his father in attendance Monday. “You’re St. Bernard born and bred … Cincinnati through and through. I’m certainly not here without the lessons you’ve taught me.”
Longtime UC basketball fans may be familiar with the last name. John is the cousin of Bobby Brannen, who played for the Bearcats from 1994-98.
He was a Rhodes scholarship finalist
After high school, Brannen played two years of collegiate basketball at Morehead State University before transferring to Marshall University for his final two years.
While earning a bachelor’s degree in business management, he was named a finalist for the Rhodes scholarship as a senior at Marshall. The nomination gave Brannen a chance to study at the prestigious University of Oxford.
“I think I was toward the bottom of the finalist group,” Brannen said, laughing. “At that point, I wanted to play professional basketball and had the opportunity to.”
The same year he was nominated (1996-97), Brannen averaged 20.9 points and five rebounds for the Thundering Herd. He then played professionally for two years in Belgium.
He wants to recruit locally
Brannen hinted at a stronger presence in recruiting local talent Monday.
“To the recruits out there in Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana and beyond — we’re coming, we’re coming,” he said. “To the fans, make no mistake about it, I grew up in this area, and this is Cincinnati’s team. I’ve learned that.”
There are currently three Ohio natives on UC’s roster (Jarron Cumberland, Sam Martin and John Koz) and no players from Kentucky or Indiana.
UC’s top incoming recruit is Samari Curtis from Xenia, Ohio. Mike Bohn, UC’s director of athletics, drove to Xenia to visit with Curtis following Cronin’s departure last week to discuss the future of the team. It was also reported that Brannen has been in contact with Curtis following his hire.
“I don’t mean to sound rude but once again please don’t ask to interview me about college right now,” Curtis tweeted Sunday after Brannen was hired. “I’m not answering any questions. Thank you.”
After posting an 81-51 record during his four-year tenure at NKU, Brannen explained what will make his approach translate to UC.
“We will divorce ourselves from outcomes and live in the process,” he said. “We’ll do it together. It’ll be fun, it’ll be competitive and it’ll be a group of young men that you will be honored to call ‘Cincinnati’s team.’”