With all that's happening at UMass, one would think Coach "Bruiser" Flint's head would be spinning.
Disciplinary problems lurk for his starting shooting guard, his program's somewhat unsavory past was dredged up earlier this week (November 2) by the New York Times in a front page story chronicling the travails of Marcus Camby and his 17th ranked (according to the preseason CHI Poll) Minutemen faces a typically brutal schedule.
He isn't very revealing about the UMass investigation over an incident in which Monty Mack was alleged to have assaulted a woman during suppertime in a campus dining hall. According to reports, Mack will be in court on November 20.
And Flint said he didn't read the Camby article.
He did say, however, that the Atlantic 10 "is stacked." Flint said Temple is the team to beat. "They're as good as you're going to get," he said.
Flint, who said he speaks to former coach John Calipari on a daily basis, showed a little bit of Cal's bravado. Flint said, "I want to put the pressure on my friend John Chaney."
The rest of the league, he said, is very balanced and most teams are returning three or four starters including Rhode Island which in last year's tournament reached the Elite Eight and played the spoiler in everybody's office pool. The Rams return three starters plus the controversial but very talented Lamar Odom.
UMass, though, has not been caught short. They return four starters, Mack, Lari Ketner, Charlton Clarke and Mike Babul and expect to add last year's sixth man, Ajmal Basit, to the starting lineup.
Flint is quick to point out that this is his first year in which he didn't have to rely heavily on first year players.
"The core group have grown up with me and they know what to expect," said Flint.
Reserve Chris Kirkland and junior college transfer Anthony Oates have played particularly well in practice, said Flint. In their first preseason game (November 5 versus the former Converse All-Stars) Rafael Cruz and Ronnell Blizzard shined.
Flint, who said his nickname has been with him "since day one," is going to need that toughness both on and off the court.
"My grandfather said I'd grow up to be a Bruiser," said Flint.
With the Monty Mack controversy lingering, a questionable past never too far away and a rugged Atlantic 10 conference nipping at their heels, UMass fans are hoping the 33-year-old coach can instill that same toughness in his players.
Officials at the school seem to think that will happen. Flint said he expects to sign a two-year extension to his current contract that will keep him at UMass until 2003.
|Dave Bartley covers UMass Minutemen basketball for College Hoops Insider (CHI). He is a UMass graduate and lives in Holyoke, MA. You can contact Dave through e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Archives of Dave's columns are available at http://www.collegeinsider.com/hoops/1bartley.htm.|