I’ve been in a whole bunch of NCAA tournament locker rooms. I’ve never been in one as boisterous as what Cincinnati presented to the world on Wednesday afternoon.
This was obvious pretty much as soon as Larry Davis started imitating an angry Mick Cronin. See above. Before the afternoon, just about every player on the roster offered an enthusiastic impersonation of Cronin, although I didn’t have video running. So the stills, and these words, will have to do.
“You know what they say, little people have more power. Napoleon Syndrome, whatever you call it,” Davis told me. “[He's] a buff little stocky buff dude. We laugh at him when he get mad. He just goes Arrrrrrr. Just gets a rage. He just gets mad when we do something wrong, repeatedly. But he’s a good coach.”
“I call him Stuart Little,” Cashmere Wright added. “I think he reminds me of Stewart Little. But overall I love him as a person.”
Wright, though, didn’t like Davis’s impersonation. He said it needed more lip. See below.
“I call him everything under the sun,” Anthony McClain said. “Mickey Mouse. Little Dude From Across the Street. When we travel places we make him ride in the booster seat. Every time we go to eat we’ve got to have a child seat next to him, with a bib and everything, just to make sure he eats good. He’s a short dude. I’ll give him 5-2 in dress shoes.”
“Every time we look at him, we’re just like, ‘He’s a little dude.’ “ Anthony McBride said.
“Shortest guy with the biggest heart, that’s how I describe him,” Sean Kilpatrick added.
“We’re so much bigger, it’s like we’re looking down and he’s looking up,” Yancy Gates pointed out. “I mean, in the middle of the game it’s not funny, but when you’re in the locker room after a win, then it’s funny, just his facial expressions in the moment. But the funniest was in Providence: they called out coach’s name and they started doing the Lord of the Rings, the Sméagol thing.”
Ok. Let’s move on the the Bearcats’ opponent. That would be Missouri, whose press kit mentions how they play the “Fastest 40 Minutes in Basketball .” Media members, myself, included, converted this into “40 Minutes of Hell,” and off we went.
“Whose slogan is that, ours or theirs?” Kilpatrick asked me. “I like that slogan, because we have hell, too. So it’s cool. We can deal with that. I mean, throughout the whole year, you play Big East teams, and they bring 40 minutes of hell, so we’re used to that.”
“We’re from the Big East,” McClain said. “They ain’t seen no hell yet. We’re hungry. We’re hungry. People still don’t respect that we’re even here.”
“I mean, that’s what they say,” Wright added. “We’ve got to go off what they say. We’re gonna see tomorrow. We’re just gonna come to play, and if they give us 40 minutes of hell like they say, we’ve just got to control it and turn it into 40 minutes of heaven I guess. We’re in the Big East, man. You kind of get used to the pressure of playing hard teams.”
“We’re gonna put you through hell, too,” Davis said. “I mean, we can do the same.”
“Hey, we play in the Big East,” Gates concluded. “Every night’s 40 minutes of hell, so I think we’re prepared for it. We’ve seen teams that press and speed the game up just like them, so I think it’ll just be what we’re used to, night in and night out.”
As for Cashmere Wright, if you're wondering, legend has it that his grandmother brought a Cashmere sweater to the hospital before he was born. But everyone back home calls him Akeem. That’s his middle name.