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Father Hep: Cronin’s dad relishes UCLA’s run to Final Four

Father’s Day has come early for Hep Cronin this year. It has been more like Father’s Month. The 79-year-old dad of UCLA coach Mick Cronin has become an unlikely celebrity during the Bruins’ run to the Final Four. CBS and Turner’s cameras have been focused on the elder Cronin as much as his son during the games.

The cameras will be pointed at Hep Cronin again Saturday when UCLA faces Gonzaga for a chance to play in the national title game. “I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for him,” Mick Cronin said after Tuesday’s 51-49 win over Michigan, which propelled UCLA into its first Final Four since 2008. “It’s been tough because I would love to hug him or say hi to him or friends, but I can’t, but that means we are winning.”

The cameras first zoomed in on Hep Cronin during UCLA‘s First Four game against Michigan State and after the 86-80 overtime victory when father and son saw each other in person – albeit separated by a railing – for the first time in over a year. Since that game, Hep’s celebrations, fist pumps, or him tossing his face mask after Alabama made a 3-pointer to force overtime during the East Regional semifinals have been must-see moments.

“Everyone has said it has gone from Sister Jean (of Loyola Chicago) to Father Hep. I didn’t expect it,” he said. “I’ve been walking up aisles, and people I don’t know ask me to take pictures. I’m wondering why do they want me?” Dan Cronin, Mick‘s older brother, said he has seen his dad get more of a kick out of being in the spotlight as the tournament has progressed.


“When people start calling him Father Hep, he just starts giggling. He loves it because everyone keeps walking straight to him, shaking his hand, and introducing themselves,” Dan Cronin said.

Dan Hoard, who announces University of Cincinnati football and basketball games, remains a close friend of the Cronin family. He says he was also amused to see Hep become popular among the UCLA faithful.

“He has become a rock star,” said Hoard, who was at Tuesday’s game. “These young UCLA students were like, ‘There he is. There’s Mick’s dad.’ Getting that was cool at this stage of his life.”

Most people might not realize that Hep Cronin is also very accomplished. He played baseball at Cincinnati before winning over 400 games as a high school basketball coach. Some of those wins were with Mick and Dan at Cincinnati LaSalle. Cronin was also a scout for the Atlanta Braves. His evaluations of David Justice and Hall of Famer Chipper Jones were the primary reasons they were drafted. Cronin said he had received calls from Kansas City general manager Dayton Moore and former Atlanta GM John Schuerholz during the Bruins’ tournament run.

He was also there when Mick got his first coaching opportunity. The two were scouting a high school game when one of the coaches saw Mick and offered him a varsity assistant and freshman coach. From that opportunity, Cronin would ascend the ranks to video coordinator and later an assistant at Cincinnati, Rick Pitino’s top assistant at Louisville, and then the head coach at Murray State, Cincinnati, and UCLA.

“You just feel good for your dad because, in these COVID times, so many people have lost their dads and grandpas. Getting to the Final Four this year and sharing it with him has meant a lot to our family,” Dan Cronin said. After Hep Cronin retired from coaching, he was a mainstay around Cincinnati’s program, watching his son’s practices and games while offering advice. He went to LA for 12 exercises and 14 games during Mick‘s first season at UCLA last year but couldn’t this season due to the pandemic.

Molly Aronson

I'm an award-winning blogger who enjoys all things creative but is especially passionate about lifestyle design. I blog over at mehlogy.com I love that I get to share my passion for healthy living, fashion, fitness, and travel with readers from all over the world.

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