Cincinnati fires Brannen after two seasons

UC coach ran into trouble when six players entered transfer portal in March

Credit: Kareem Elgazzar

Credit: Kareem Elgazzar

The University of Cincinnati fired head men’s basketball coach John Brannen on Friday and announced Tim Morris will serve as interim coach as it conducts a national search for a new head coach.

Brannen was 32-21 in two seasons with the Cincinnati Bearcats. The 12-11 record in 2020-21 was the program’s worst since it was 13-19 in 2007-08, Mick Cronin’s second season.

“The decision to move in a new direction comes after a thorough review of our program, which included conversations with student-athletes, coaches and staff, as well as with coach Brannen,” Athletic Director John Cunningham said in a statement. “Ultimately, the university is acting in the best interests of our student-athletes and of the institution, and this decision is reflective of our commitment to both, as well as to our values that we hold dear.

“As this is a personnel matter, we are unable to provide further details of the program review or the decision. We will work quickly but judiciously in finding a new head coach. With a passionate fan base, strong tradition and history, elite facilities, and a collective commitment to success, we are confident that we will have a deep pool of candidates. We will continue to engage with and support our student-athletes during this transition. Thank you for your patience. We look forward to cheering on the Bearcats together in Fifth Third Arena next season.”

Brannen released a statement about his dismissal Friday afternoon.

“Today I was notified that I have been relieved of my duties as the Head Basketball Coach at the University of Cincinnati,” Brannen wrote.. “The last three weeks have been an emotional roller coaster for my family, our staff and our players. I am disappointed with this decision for a long list of reasons, but mostly because it was made long before the university even commenced its ‘investigation’ into the basketball program. I look forward to the opportunity to bring the true facts to light.

“I am thankful to have had the opportunity to realize a lifelong dream of being the head coach of the Cincinnati men’s basketball team and am proud of what we’ve accomplished in the last two years. I wish the student-athletes and the basketball staff at Cincinnati nothing but the best. Lisa and I appreciate all of the kind words and support we have received from the many coaches, staff and stakeholders of the university.”

UC announced March 26 it would begin a review of allegations related to the program. That news came after six players entered the transfer portal in a three-day stretch in March after Cincinnati’s season ended with a 91-54 loss to Houston in the American Athletic Conference championship game.

UC’s decision also affects Brannen’s coaching staff. According to a report by Justin Williams, of The Athletic, Jayson Gee and Sean Dwyer are no longer with the program.

Gee is a Springfield native who was Clark County’s Mr. Basketball in 1984 as a senior at South High School when he helped lead the Wildcats to a 20-0 regular season. He previously was an assistant coach at Winthrop. He was a head coach at his alma mater, the University of Charleston, from 1996 to 2003 and at Longwood University from 2013 to 2018. He has a career coaching record of 202-175.


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