Brannen replaces Mick Cronin, who left the Bearcats last week for the vacancy at UCLA. Cronin was Cincinnati's head coach for 13 seasons, leading the Bearcats to the NCAA tournament in each of his past nine seasons in charge.
"We are thrilled to welcome John, his wife Lisa and their daughters, Jaylee and Katelyn, to the Bearcats family," athletic director Mike Bohn said in a statement. "He has a proven record as a head coach, longtime ties to the local community and coaches an exciting style of basketball. We were impressed with his passion, drive, determination and basketball acumen during the interview process where he truly emerged as the best coach to lead the Cincinnati basketball program with a bright future."
Brannen has been at Northern Kentucky for four seasons, leading the Norse to two NCAA tournament appearances and two regular-season Horizon League titles over the past three seasons. The Norse went to the NCAA tournament this season, falling to Texas Tech in the first round.
"It's truly an honor to take over such a storied program at the University of Cincinnati," Brannen said in the statement. "The Cincinnati-Northern Kentucky community is special to my family and we are happy to remain at home. I want to thank President [Neville] Pinto, Mike Bohn and the search committee for this opportunity. We are thrilled to join a world-class University and continue to build on the historic success of Bearcats basketball and the incredible lineage of former coaches."
Prior to taking over at Northern Kentucky in 2015, Brannen was an assistant coach at Alabama under Anthony Grant for six seasons. The Kentucky native also coached under Grant at VCU for three seasons.