By the time he returned to the office yesterday, UMass coach Bruiser Flint sounded like he might be ready to get some sleep.
The previous night, which featured a 59-54 loss to No. 1 UConn that found the Minutemen in their finest form of the season, didn't end easily.
Flint went from his ESPN main-event game to a local studio, where he went on line with a substantial portion of his television audience.
"There were over 600 questions to answer, and I was like, 'What is this? It's 1 in the morning,' " he said. "It was pretty good. There were people from UConn who wanted to know what I thought of their team."
There were also UMass fans, buoyed by the sight of their struggling team coming so close to the No. 1 team in the nation, who were quick to offer support.
Flint has been receiving a lot in the way of support lately.
Earlier on Wednesday, UMass officials finally resolved a two-year contract extension that reaches into 2002.
Flint started talking with his employers about this deal at the end of the 1997-98 season, and he signed the extension last week.
But, oh, for the chance to celebrate this moment with a win.
If Wednesday's performance against UConn was any indication, that moment probably isn't far behind for the 1-4 Minutemen, who have lost four straight for the first time since 1990.
And in the meantime, it helps someone like Flint know that the administration isn't stuck on short-term results.
"It shows that these people have confidence in me," Flint said. "It will help me in recruiting. I can go into people's homes knowing that I can say I will be (at UMass) in another four years.
"I'm a new head coach. I haven't been around that long, so you need something that you can bring to people," he said. "You start reading about those contract extensions that all of these coaches have been signing, and it makes you hope that you can finalize your own situation. Because I'm young, people want to know if I'm going to stay."
They also want to know when this UMass team will start living up to what it promises on paper.
In that respect, even Flint only recently had a true glimpse into this team's spirit -- dating to an emotional, teary meeting following the Minutemen's 22-point loss to Marshall.
"Yes, I was surprised by that," he said. "It surprised me a lot. Sometimes you wonder how your team really feels. Guys actually got up and said how they felt on the floor."
If Flint appears a bit calmer now in his court demeanor, it may be because he finally has a line on a team that had confounded everyone -- the coach included -- for the better part of two weeks.
"To be honest, I felt pretty good over the last couple of weeks," he said. "I never saw things slipping away. After the way the team responded after the loss to Marshall, I felt that we'd get ourselves together. . . . The good thing about what happened after the Marshall game is that certain things occurred to them. You're at the mercy of your players as a head coach, and if they can figure things out, it obviously helps."