AMHERST - The University of Massachusetts has signed basketball coach Bruiser Flint to a two-year extension on his original four-year contract, and it will now run through June 2002, school officials said yesterday.
Flint guided UMass to the NCAA tournament in each of his first two seasons. He was an associate coach under John Calipari when the Minutemen went from an obscure program in the late 1980s to national prominence, culminating with an NCAA Final Four berth in 1996.
''It is a reflection of the fact that Bruiser has kept the program at an NCAA tournament-caliber level, and he was rewarded for that, and we anticipate the same in the future,'' said associate athletic director Bill Strickland, who added that in terms of salary and incentives, Flint's contract remains the same.
AMHERST - Bruiser Flint said his two-year contract extension wasn't a show of his administration's support after his team's slow start, but the University of Massachusetts men's basketball coach was happy to finalize the new deal, anyway.
"We had talked about it after last year's NCAA tournament," said Flint, whose contract was extended this week and will now run until June 2002. Flint's original four-year deal was signed in June of 1996, after John Calipari left to take over the New Jersey Nets.
"I had known it was coming," he said. "It didn't happen all of a sudden. It was just a matter of getting the deal done."
But the deal does serve as the university's answer to mounting questions from Minutemen fans, who have wondered if UMass (1- 4) was losing its place as a Top 25 program. The new contract involves the same terms as the previous deal, according to UMass athletic director Bob Marcum.
Flint's annual salary, including incentives and income from his radio and television shows, is estimated at between $350,000 and $400,000 per year. His base salary at the time of his hiring was $132,060, a figure that has risen slightly through state employee raises of about 3 percent.
The rest of his income is derived from incentive clauses. The contract also includes a $125,000 buyout clause if Flint wants to leave.
Flint said that with this season representing the third year of his contract, it was important from a recruiting standpoint to clarify his future.
"Bob and I had talked about me being able to go into people's homes, and tell them the coaching situation was solid," the coach said.
Since taking over the program in 1996, Flint has met with both success and the weight of high expectations. He has extended the school's number of consecutive NCAA tournament appearances, begun under Calipari in 1992, to seven.
But in both of Flint's seasons, the Minutemen lost first-round NCAA games to Louisville and Saint Louis, respectively, and Marcum conceded that fans will be reluctant to accept Flint's overall success until the postseason record improves.
"You look at a coach like Tubby Smith taking over at Kentucky, and winning the national championship," Marcum said. "That allows people to put Rick Pitino behind them. And I suppose until we advance in the tournament, that's the benchmark people will use.
"But it's tough to stay on top, and we always seem to be knocking on the door. Not many schools can say that."
Flint, 33, is one of the youngest Division I coaches in the country, and he reached the 40-victory mark faster than any coach in UMass history. His 41-29 record includes this year's 1-4 mark.
His hiring in 1996 came after seven years as a UMass assistant. In the 1996 Final Four season, he was the team's associate coach - Calipari's chief aide - and received good reviews when he took over on two emergency occasions when Calipari was unavailable.
Calipari's surprise departure in June of 1996 had left the recruiting situation in doubt. Winston Smith and Ajmal Basit, who entered UMass that fall, said they probably would not have come had Flint not been the replacement.
Marcum said that while the timing of the extension was not a show of support for this season's slow start, he didn't mind if people interpreted it that way.
"Certainly it shows our support of Bruiser," he said. "Why shouldn't it?"
Marcum also said he hoped UMass would be able to reinvest in the basketball program, possibly including luxury suites at Mullins Center, during the length of Flint's current contract.
"We know that people don't come to watch you play, they come to watch you win," Marcum said. "But we support him, and all the work on this contract was done in the summer. It just took a little time to get all the signatures affixed."