A chat with Bruiser Flint
From MassLive, 10/22/1998

Bruiser Flint spent seven years as an assistant coach at UMass. When head coach John Calipari left for the New Jersey Nets, Flint was the natural choice as his successor. And succeed he did; Flint became the winningest first-year coach in UMass history in 1996-97, leading the Minutemen to a 19-14 record and a sixth- straight NCAA appearance.

Last season UMass finished 21-11 and earned an NCAA bid. Flint's achievements didn't go unnoticed -- he was named District I Coach of the Year by the National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC). MassLive senior correspondent Robin Deutsch talked with coach Flint about his experiences as a college head coach and the impact Calipari had on his career.

Can you compare your first two seasons as a head coach?
I think I got a little more organized my second year. My first year was really a learning experience, learning how to respond to different things and all the demands on my time. Since then, Iíve learned how to respond better.

FUN FLINT FACTS
Whatís your pre-game ritual?
When we're at home, I try to get to the Mullins Center about 1 hour and 15 minutes before a game. I have a grape juice before every game. I always put something from our pre-game press notes on the chalk board for the team to read. Then, I like to be by myself.

Whatís your favorite pre-game meal?
When weíre home, I always eat the Lunch Abruzzi at Bertucciís in Amherst. When weíre on the road, I eat whatever the team is eating.

Outside of Amherst, whatís your favorite Atlantic 10 city?
Philadelphia. Because itís home!

Outside of the Mullins Center, whatís your favorite Atlantic 10 Arena?
The Providence Civic Center.

Whatís your most memorable UMass moment?
Winning our third straight Atlantic 10 title (70-59 over Temple) because no one thought we could win it given how many players we had lost from the previous year's team.

What basketball coach has been your biggest basketball influence?
John Calipari and Dan Dougherty, my coach at Episcopal Academy in Philadelphia. As a young coach, I learned a lot from coach John. We grew up together as a staff and went through a lot both on and off the court.Coach Dougherty taught me about being disciplined as a person and being fair and honest.

What player do you think best represents what college basketball is all about?
Tyrone Weeks. Tyrone is the epitome of what college basketball is all about, taking every opportunity and being able to do something positive with your life.

Whatís your favorite hobby outside of basketball?
Reading. Any type of autobiography.

Who are your favorite actor and actress?
Harrison Ford and Whoopi Goldberg.

Whatís your favorite sports movie?
The Natural.

Whereís your favorite place to vacation?
St. Marteen.

Who are your favorite broadcasters?
Marv Albert and Doug Collins.

Whatís your favorite food?
Chicken and apple pie ala mode.

I have my schedule and I know what I have to do. I do have my priorities. If my wife wants me to come home after my television show, I come home. I spend a lot of time with my family, I donít do a lot of things that other coaches do; I am not a golfer so I am not out on the range hitting balls. When the season is over, I spend time with my family and we do a lot of things together. My wife goes to a lot of road games, and although it may not give us quantity time, it does give us quality time.

There are more demands on my time in my third year. People know who I am more now, but itís not like I canít go out to dinner with my family and eat peacefully. For me, itís all about priorities, and finding a comfort level. You have to have very good time management.

How much influence has John Calipari had on you?
Itís gone beyond coaching, weíre best friends. Our relationship is going to last a lifetime and itís more than just basketball. We talk to each other twice a day. We call each other when we get up in the morning and before we go to bed we probably call one another (laughing). We talk about everything -- money, life, you name it. Iíve learned so much about dealing with the off-court demands from John. Weíre different in a lot of ways, but off-the-court John was very accommodating and gave people a lot of time. I accommodate in a different way, but Iíve learned how to deal with the non-coaching part of the job from him.

People always ask me whatís the biggest difference between John and myself. The difference is more the situation we inherited than personalities. John built the job and made it entertaining; the job became him. I am keeping what he built alive and trying to take it to the next level.

How much is your coaching system similar to his?
Itís very similar. A lot of it has to do with personnel, but as a coach you have to have your own ideas. Iíve learned a lot of basketball from John Calipari; heís one of the best at any level. I think personnel dictates how a team plays a lot of times. As coaches, we should be willing to change to reflect the makeup of the team. My teams walk the ball up the court a little bit more than we did when John was here, but I donít have the same types of players we had during Calís tenure. My teams are bigger and stronger, probably not as fast or as quick as Johnís teams. Weíre much more of a muscle and inside team whereas we used to have a lot of perimeter players and good athletes. We were a lot smaller when John was here.

But the core of UMass basketball is the same. We want to attack, we want to play great half-court defense, we want to pressure our opponents at times, so the philosophy is the same. We want to have an attacking, aggressive offense and we always want to rebound the ball both offensively and defensively. So, when we talk UMass basketball philosophy, no matter who the coach is, weíre going to rebound and weíre going to be an aggressive offensive and defensive team.

Are you still going to play anyone, anywhere, anytime?
We want to take up the challenge against anybody. Thatís never going to change.

How much has college basketball, and more specifically the Atlantic 10, changed from when you were playing?
When I first started coaching, a lot of the coaches in the Atlantic 10 were the same as when I played. Thatís not the case today.

I remember going to the awards ceremony -- when I played we didnít have an awards dinner like we do now -- and you got your trophy at your team banquet. Weíve come a long way. I remember my All-Conference trophy; it was a piece of wood with ďAtlantic 10Ē on it and the metal piece fell off (laughing). Now, if a team wins the championship, the league hands out extravagant trophys and leather jackets. Where was that stuff when I was coming up?

The Atlantic 10 has really grown as a conference. We sent five teams to the NCAA tournament the last two years. We had seven teams in post-season play last year. When I played, we probably had four good teams that were happy to get into the NCAA or NIT. You have to give a lot of credit to the coaches and to (commissioner) Linda Bruno. I think sheís done a great job of getting us a lot of television coverage with ESPN, ESPN2 and Fox Network New England. Thatís the kind of thing that starts to get people to respect the league. People can see the quality of basketball being played.

What have you learned about Western Massachusetts?
Dress warmer (laughing). Thatís one thing ... these winters are cold! Amherst is a great town. I do miss the city a little bit because city people like myself miss the action, being able to go out and do things in a city atmosphere everyday. But when I go home for long periods of time -- three, four, five days -- I am always ready to come back here because of the peacefulness. I am able to relax and I donít have the strain that goes with city life. I donít miss the stress that goes with city life -- just driving takes a toll on people. Hey, I am already in a stressful business, so I need to be able to relax once in a while. You can do that in Western Massachusetts.

What do you enjoy most about being in a university atmosphere?
The family atmosphere. As a coach, I interact with so many people. As a coach you have a direct effect on a lot of kids -- from managers to the players on your team to your playersí friends. I spend a lot of time with my managers, just talking about things, asking them how theyíre doing in school, how their family is doing. I want them to get the same things from me in terms of helping them with their lives and with going on to become mature young men as I do with my players. A lot of students come to my office to talk with me, one because I am still young, and second, because I look their age! (laughing). I think they believe they can relate to me. The greatest thing about coaching is seeing a kid mature into an adult and becoming successful beyond basketball. You say to yourself, ĎI had a hand in that.í Wins and losses come but you see a kid become a successful adult only once. Thatís the greatest thing about college.


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