Harrick, Flint seek a cure
By Mark Blaudschun, The Boston Globe Staff, 1/8/1999

They might be different, but the problems at the University of Rhode Island and the University of Massachusetts are equally frustrating for coaches Jim Harrick and Bruiser Flint.

And both boil down to leadership - senior leadership.

At UMass, it's not so much what the Minutemen can do, it's what they can't do. It has become painfully obvious that the Minutemen cannot shoot with any consistency.

Add the Minutemen's softness - losing to Davidson and then by 19 to Iona at home? - and you have problems. People like Charlton Clarke can take on leadership roles on the court, but pep talks and player meetings can carry you only so far.

UMass athletic director Bob Marcum took a leap of faith when he gave Flint a two-year contract extension earlier this season. Already, the critics and cynics are moaning about that.

Was it a wise move? Probably not. Flint needs to prove himself more, especially in March. It could have waited.

Was it a bad move? Probably not. With the security of that extension, Flint can smile through losing streaks and streaky play. But he knows as much as anybody that eventually, he will be held accountable for what UMass does.

Right now there is a sense of panic in Amherst. We're not ready to join in - at least not yet. Seasons can get turned around quickly with a long winning streak. And there still is time, but the margin for error is rapidly diminishing.

As for URI, it seems simple. Last year the Rams had guards - senior guards - who could solve problems in close games. This season they don't. There also seems to be an underlying feeling of discontent. Is everybody happy?

Of course not. Nor should they be. URI had expectations of a Top 20 finish and an NCAA tournament bid. Now the goals may have to be scaled down to finishing above .500 and making the NIT.

Harrick now must prove he can coach on a different level, which means finding a way to put back together the psyche of a team that has had it rattled, if not shattered.

As the Atlantic 10 season moves into its showdown stage in the next few weeks, the Rams and the Minutemen will have to solve their problems quickly.

But can they? Various problems and transfers have cut the URI roster to 10, and Lamar Odom may be a good one, but he cannot carry a team on his back for an entire season, nor should he be asked to do so.

UMass? Who knows? The Minutemen are an enigma. Maybe it's time to make this assessment: They're just not that good.


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