On the big-screen television in the lounge leading into the Massachusetts men's basketball offices on the third floor of the William D. Mullins Center, Syracuse and Oklahoma State were playing hoops.
On the leather couch facing the set was UMass coach Bruiser Flint, finishing the slice of pizza that was his lunch for the day.
"This is the first I've really seen of the [NCAA] tournament, to be honest," Flint said, gazing at the first- round matchup on the television. "I haven't had a chance to look at the brackets or anything. I've been out recruiting so much lately."
It is the first time in eight years that the University of Massachusetts is not represented amongst the elite group of 64 teams selected to fight for the national championship. UMass ended the year with a disappointing 14-16 record after being picked by Sports Illustrated and Athlon magazines as a preseason Top 10 team.
Once the season ended for the Minutemen, with a 72-68 loss to Xavier last Thursday in the Atlantic 10 tournament, Flint wasted no time taking steps to ensure that next year he wouldn't be just watching the tournament.
The UMass skipper has spent much of the past week speaking to high school coaches and players to try to convince them to take the court for the Maroon and White when the time comes for them to enroll in college.
"We've got two scholarships [to give]," Flint said. "We've been recruiting [potential players] all along, really. We've just got to get them on campus."
Flint will be working with much of the same lineup in the 1999-2000 season as he did for the '98-'99 one, as the team retains three starters and nearly the entire bench.
Between glances at the Syracuse-Oklahoma St. matchup, the coach grimaced at the mention of several rumors around campus that the team would look dramatically different next year.
University hearsay is that UMass might be welcoming a transfer from North Carolina State, while also losing forward Ronnell Blizzard and guard Jonathan DePina to the same medium.
"That's just Internet chatboard stuff," Flint said of the NC State player. "That's not really a story."
As for Blizzard and DePina, he said, "[They're not transferring] from what they tell me. I told them that there are no guarantees [for playing time] here. If they want to leave, then that's their decision. I'm definitely not pushing them out the door."
When the third-year coach thinks ahead to next year's lineup, he sees the biggest hole in the paint, where senior Lari Ketner stood during the course of the last three seasons. Flint foresees that the trio of Kitwana Rhymer, Anthony Oates and incoming freshman Micah Brand will step into the void.
"We need someone as an inside presence," Flint claimed, stating later, "Kit is a better rebounder than Lari was. Offensively is where he needs to learn."
In the backcourt, Flint is looking forward to seeing Shannon Crooks play, a transfer from St. John's who will be eligible to compete next season.
Flint left the television on as he got up to return to his rigorous off-season workload. Next year there might not be anyone in the office to turn it on in the first place.