CINCINNATI (AP) — The Bearcats are warming up in their auxiliary gym. Coach Mick Cronin gets on a treadmill behind one of the courts and starts walking at a steady, but reserved pace.
Assistant coach Larry Davis walks over, holding a rolled paper in his left hand, and starts chatting about what the team needs to accomplish in practice for an upcoming game against Memphis.
Cronin walks, they talk.
It's as close as the 43-year-old coach is allowed to get to running practice. Last month, he developed headaches that prompted tests. A flap was detected in a blood vessel in the back of his head.
Cronin is taking medication and has to keep his blood pressure down. That means no coaching practices or games for the rest of the season. Doctors say he should be able to return to coaching fully next season.
"The whole thing's been kind of like 'The Twilight Zone,' to be really honest," Cronin told The Associated Press on Tuesday. "You sit here and say well, hey, there's people that have worse things happen to them in life, so you stay positive.
"But that don't mean it's easy, especially when you're here every day and you feel great. I'm counting the days."
It's been a big adjustment for everyone.
"It's different, but the same methods are relayed," sophomore guard Troy Caupain said before practice. "Not having coach here is different, but he still makes the final call. His point of view is the main point of view, and (the assistant coaches) do a good job of telling us what he says in their own words."
The Bearcats found out about Cronin's condition shortly before a game against VCU on Dec. 20, a 68-47 loss that showed how much they were distracted. They've gotten more comfortable with the coaching situation and have won four of their five games since then, improving to 11-4 and 2-1 in the American Athletic Conference.
Davis' role has changed the most. He was an assistant at Delaware, Wake Forest, Ball State and Minnesota before becoming the head coach at Furman for nine years. He's been Cronin's top assistant since the 2006-07 season.
"When you're an assistant, you make suggestions," Davis said. "When you're the head coach, you make decisions."
Davis said head coaches have to quickly analyze situations, adjust and make decisions.
Davis also runs the practices. Cronin wants him leading the team through film study so it hears his voice and knows he's in charge on game day.
These Bearcats are very young and need more direction than some of Cronin's other teams, which adds to the challenge. Cronin works closely with the assistants and has been meeting individually with players each day, trying to figure out ways to help them grow more quickly.
"I talk to them before each practice, watch film with them, point out mistakes to them," Cronin said.
Cronin watches games at home on television, then re-watches them and breaks them down for study.
The headaches that prompted the initial tests last December have gone away completely. Cronin feels good, which makes everything a bit surreal.
"You never know what's going to happen in life," he said. "Thank God I'm OK, didn't need any surgery. As far as the outcome of the situation, mine's pretty benign. So I try to stay focused on that.
"But it's extremely weird. I'm like, 'Is this really happening?'"
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