Mick Cronin offers support, discipline for UCLA’s Mac Etienne after spitting incident
In the week since a spitting incident resulted in a misdemeanor assault charge, UCLA redshirt freshman forward Mac Etienne has undergone counseling while also feeling the warm embrace of his coach.
“Look, it’s easy to just sit there and say obviously how disappointed I was,” Bruins coach Mick Cronin said Thursday of the ordeal that occurred after his team’s loss to Arizona last week at the McKale Center, “but at the same time, it’s my job to care about him and love him.”
Cronin compared his role to that of a parent for Etienne, a New York native who enrolled in the middle of last season and contributed mostly off the bench before suffering a torn knee ligament in fall workouts that will keep him out of every game this season.
Arizona’s McKale Center was a cauldron of obscene, extreme hostility directed at UCLA when Mac Etienne allegedly spit on students after the game.
Etienne accompanied the team on every trip until last week, when he flew home after he was accused of spitting on taunting Arizona students following the Bruins’ 76-66 defeat. Police cited Etienne, who faces a charge of assault with intent to injure, insult or provoke.
Cronin said his support of Etienne did not equate to excusing his behavior.
“I take seriously our program’s need to be a shining light for our university,” Cronin said. “When people look at the four letters and when they’re looking through the lens of men’s basketball, I want it to all be positive, so that hurt.
“Right now, that’s what I’m trying to do with him and by the time he’s back on our bench, he’ll full know the responsibility that goes with that, that goes with being on our team, being a part of it, the way you gotta represent our university.”
Cronin said he was waiting for Pac-12 officials to respond to two issues that hurt his team’s bid for a comeback last weekend at the end of an 87-84 loss to Arizona State in triple overtime.
After UCLA’s Jaime Jaquez Jr. intentionally missed the last of two free throws with 2.2 seconds left in the third overtime with hopes of allowing his teammates to grab the rebound, Cronin said the clock started before Bruins guard Peyton Watson chased down the ball in one corner.
Jaime Jaquez Jr. had 27 points and Johnny Juzang added 20, but No. 3 UCLA lost 87-84 at Arizona State in three overtimes and was swept in the desert.
According to Cronin, Bobby Dibler, a veteran coordinator of basketball officials for the Pac-12 and other conferences on the West Coast, confirmed that the clock started prematurely, preventing Watson from passing the ball to nearby sharpshooter Jake Kyman for a shot at the buzzer.
There was also the matter of a T-shirt thrown from the crowd that Cronin said struck Watson on the play as he collected the ball and rushed a shot that was well off the mark.
“It was unfortunate,” Cronin said of the sequence, “but we move on and get ready for USC.”
Cody Riley’s recent struggles transcend a cold stretch in which he’s shot only 30.8% over his last four games. The UCLA forward’s rebounding is also down significantly since his return from the knee injury that sidelined him for two months; Riley is averaging 3.4 rebounds per game, down from 5.4 last season, while searching for his old form. “Just his general explosiveness and being able to get to the ball on the glass and stuff, conditioning and stuff of that nature,” Cronin said, “it does seem to me that he’s still trying to get there.” … Cronin said Watson remained day to day with the lower leg bruise that kept him out of the team’s victory over Stanford on Tuesday.
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