Flint is leading Minutemen downhill quickly
By Michael Muldoon, The Lawrence Eagle-Tribune Writer, 2/1/1999

Do you think if University of Massachusetts Athletic Director Bob Marcum had it to do all over again, he would have given Bruiser Flint that two-year extension in December?

UMass, the preseason No. 22 pick in the country by Blue Ribbon magazine, was ranked 79th a few weeks ago by Harry Devold in Basketball Times.

It has only gotten worse since then. Shortly after upsetting Kansas, Flint's team lost three of its last four including yesterday's 76-65 setback to Texas.

Only an overtime win against Dayton prevented the Minutemen, now 9-11, from losing four straight.

Nobody was asking him to duplicate the extraordinary accomplishments of his predecessor John Calipari, but UMass is only three years removed from a Final 4 season.

This year they'll have to win the league tourney just to make the NCAAs. They may not even (gulp) get an NIT bid.

UMass is a shell of its former take-no-prisoners self and this year's club's lackadaisical play has to make Minuteman fans quiver over the future. Chris Kirkland and Mike Babul are the only ''old-fashioned'' Minutemen.

The talent is there. The experience is there. Everything is there except the woefully lacking results.

Lari Ketner, an athletic man-mountain, had the potential to be drafted in the top 10 of the NBA draft. Ajmal Basit also has NBA potential. Yet both these big men have been horrible all season. Monty Mack is a bigtime guard.

After every one of his rare buckets, Basit goes though a prolonged celebration. The woofing and taunting may be acceptable on a quality club, but when you are sub-.500, zip your lip and get back on defense.

He wouldn't be making a fool of himself if Calipari were patrolling the sidelines, that's for sure.

Calipari and All-American center Marcus Camby brought UMass to unprecedented heights.

Yet, it's position among basketball's elite has always been a tenuous one. The school isn't a traditional power and the Atlantic-10 certainly doesn't rank up with the ACC, SEC, Big 10, Big 12, Pac 10 and probably not Conference USA, the WAC or the Big East, either.

Was it just a glorious eight-year run or is UMass here to stay as a top 25 team?

Those in the know aren't stunned by UMass' reversal of fortunes.

Three years ago, Mike Sheridan of Basketball Times wrote the following about UMass.

''This program is very reminiscent of Marquette in late '70s (after legendary coach Al Maguire). In a sense, Flint is a younger Hank Raymonds, the loyal assistant being asked to take over for one of the sports' most charismatic figures.''

At a certain point, you have to cut your losses. That point is arriving quickly.

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