Coverage from: - 3/19
The Boston Herald - 3/20
The Springfield Union-News - 3/20
The Daily Hampshire Gazette - 3/20
The Boston Herald - 3/21 column
The Springfield Union-News - 3/21 column

Flint to Continue as UMass Basketball Coach
From, 3/19/2000

James "Bruiser" Flint will continue as the head basketball coach at the University of Massachusetts, it was announced tonight by Director of Athletics Bob Marcum. Flint has two years remaining on a contract extension agreed upon in 1998.

"Bruiser, Chancellor David Scott, and I met today to conclude our evaluation of the season and talk about the direction of the program," said Marcum. "It was a very positive meeting, and I think we all left feeling very excited about our prospects for the 2000-2001 season."

"I had a very good meeting with Bob and the Chancellor," said Flint. "We talked about the expectation level of our program, and what I expect for next season. I think we have a great nucleus coming back and some very good recruits. I really believe we have an excellent chance of competing for the Atlantic 10 championship and going to the NCAA Tournament next year."

Flint has compiled a 71-56 record at UMass, with two trips to the NCAA Tournament and one to the NIT.

Chancellor Scott said "There are many factors that go into deciding what is a successful program. All of these issues have been discussed and reviewed. The basketball program at UMass projects a positive image, and that is a tribute to Coach Flint, his players and his staff. His players are graduating and performing well academically, and we are seeing progress on the basketball court as well. We have high hopes and great expectations for this program, and I am pleased to have Coach Flint leading the charge."

Flint to remain at UMass: Meeting brings positive result
By Mark Murphy, The Boston Herald, 3/20/2000

Four days of anxiety came to a merciful end for Bruiser Flint last night, when the UMass administration decided to retain the popular coach in a job he has held for four seasons.

Flint, who has two years left on a contract that was extended last spring, was subjected to a review this weekend by athletic director Bob Marcum and chancellor David Scott, stemming from declining revenues and attendance. Though the basketball program's fiscal state has become a concern for UMass officials, Scott stressed yesterday that he considered the academic and on-court successes of Flint's athletes to be at least as important as the program's ability to earn money.

And the news couldn't have been more of a relief for Flint, who had gone from hoping UMass' success in the Atlantic 10 tournament was enough to save his job, to fresh worries about his future when Marcum didn't come forth with an endorsement after the team had received a NIT berth.

``I feel good about it and I just want to thank everyone for the support that they've shown me,'' Flint said last night, referring to the many people who phoned in with encouragement and entreaties to Scott. ``The thing I really liked is that we had a good meeting tonight. It was about a lot of positives - all about the team and what we want to do in the future.

``I think we have a great nucleus coming back and some very good recruits. I really think we have an excellent chance of competing for the Atlantic 10 championship, and going to the NCAA tournament next year.''

Flint guided the Minutemen to a 17-16 record and an appearance in the NIT this season after UMass failed to make the postseason for the first time in 10 years last season.

The decision was made after Marcum filed a favorable recommendation with Scott last night. The meeting apparently laid a lot of fears to rest.

``Yeah, I felt a little bit of (trepidation). But I also felt we did enough for this to happen,'' said Flint, who, contrary to some early worries, will be allowed to keep his assistant coaches.

The decision also concluded a dialogue between Marcum and Scott that had been triggered by a noticeable slip in season ticket sales this year.

Approximately 1,200 season-ticket holders did not renew their accounts for this past season after last year's performance. A decline in revenue attached to the basketball team - considered the UMass athletic program's only viable money earner - also had been called into question.

As a result, Flint was being questioned as much on financial matters as for his coaching ability.

But Marcum, who came under pressure from a growing legion of Flint supporters in the UMass community, chose last night to stay with the coach he awarded with a two-year contract extension last winter.

``It was a very positive meeting, and I think we all left feeling very excited about our prospects for the 2000-2001 season,'' Marcum said in a prepared statement.

Scott, who was never critical of Flint's on-court performance, also walked away satisfied last night.

``There are many factors that go into deciding what is a successful program,'' he said. ``The basketball program at UMass projects a positive image, and that is a tribute to coach Flint, his players and his staff.

``His players are graduating and performing well academically, and we're seeing progress on the basketball court as well. We have high hopes and great expectations for this program, and I'm pleased to have coach Flint leading the charge.''

This relatively quick announcement solves a recruiting problem for Flint, who is expecting the largest recruiting class in his tenure in Amherst next fall.

Jackie Rogers, a 6-foot-8 forward from Barton Community College in Kansas, who visited the campus with his father this weekend, was said to be delaying his decision to attend UMass until Flint's position was secured.

Flint will meet with Rogers' father and grandmother on Tuesday in an attempt to receive a commitment from the West Virginia native, who reportedly has passed up scholarship offers from Kentucky and St. Bonaventure in favor of UMass.

A Flint dismissal would have certainly destroyed any chance the program had for Rogers, in addition to the impressive class Flint has lined up. The class includes Boston English senior Raheim Lamb, a transfer from West Virginia in former All-Big East rookie Jarret Kearse, Lynn English senior Anthony Anderson and junior college forward Jameel Pugh.

Lamb and his coach, Barry Robinson, never wavered in their belief that Flint would return.

``It doesn't affect Raheim,'' Robinson said Saturday night following English's loss to St. John's of Shrewsbury in the Div. 1 state final. We haven't even discussed it. As far as we're concerned, Bruiser Flint is the coach at UMass.''

UMass sticks with Flint
By Ron Chimelis, The Springfield Union-News, 3/20/2000

AMHERST By midday yesterday, Bruiser Flint said he had heard nothing official. But by last night, the deed was done.

Flint will remain as University of Massachusetts men's basketball coach, ending speculation that has surrounded the coach and his program for much of the season.

Flint could not be reached last night, but said in a statement he was happy for the chance to build on this year's 17-16 season, which ended with a first-round loss to Siena in the National Invitation Tournament.

"I had a very good meeting with Bob (athletic director Bob Marcum) and the chancellor (David Scott)," said Flint, who had met with both officials Friday and again yesterday. "We talked about the expectation level of the program, and what I expect for next season.

"I really believe we have an excellent chance of competing for the Atlantic 10 championship and going to the NCAA tournament next year."

Those close to the program believe returning to the NCAA tournament after a two-year lapse may be imperative next year. By staying with Flint, UMass is gambling that a promising recruiting class and this year's strong Atlantic 10 tournament showing will translate into continued improvement.

"We try to give people a chance to develop personally and professionally," Scott said yesterday. "And we do try to give them some slack."

Yesterday afternoon, before announcing the decision, the chancellor said flagging revenue and attendance could not be ignored.

"It has to be a factor (in reviewing Flint's status)," Scott said. "But it's not the only factor."

Flint, 34, has a 71-57 career record in four seasons, and two years left on his contract. A buyout would have cost UMass $350,000, a high expense considering reports the athletic department is plagued by financial problems.

Athletic director Bob Marcum could not be reached yesterday, but said in a statement that meetings with Flint and Scott have left a feeling of excitement about the prospects in the 2000-01 season.

But in the past, Marcum has expressed concern about lagging attendance, and has said that a winning team is the best way to maintain a strong gate.

Men's basketball is the primary source of revenue to the department, and keeping Flint will mean dealing with donors and season ticket-holders who disagree with the program's direction.

But keeping him also solidifies the recruiting picture. Over the weekend, Flint hosted a campus visit by 6-foot-8 power forward Jackie Rogers of Barton Community College in Great Bend, Kan.

Rogers has been cautious about making a commitment, partly because he felt misled by some schools (but not UMass) during his high school recruitment process.

He has shown serious interest in UMass, but has been waiting for the coaching situation to clear up.

Scott said yesterday it would be wrong to prolong the issue.

"We've got to be responsible to people's lives the recruits and also our own staff," he said.

Saturday night, one signed recruit said he avoided worrying about the situation's uncertainty.

"I've been trying to wait until our season was over to think about UMass," said Boston English High School senior Raheim Lamb, a 6-6 forward who scored 10 points with four rebounds in the Division I state final at Worcester.

"Bruiser was the one who recruited Raheim, and we've been planning all along for Bruiser to be back," Boston English coach Barry Robinson said after Saturday night's 63-61 loss to St. John's of Shrewsbury. "I think if he wasn't going to be back, he'd have called me."

Calls supporting Flint were made to UMass administrators by famed alumni Bill Cosby and Julius Erving. One issue in the debate was whether a coach who would ordinarily be retained should be dismissed because the program is not making money.

"It still generates money," Scott said. "It just doesn't generate as much as before."

Flint conceded he's no showman, but said he'd help market the team in any way he could.

"It's not like I have no personality," he said yesterday.

Race also entered the debate last week with reports that support for Flint was strong among UMass faculty, especially minority members who did not want the athletic department's most visible African American to be used as a scapegoat for its overall financial problems especially after guiding the Minutemen to their third postseason in four years.

Flint said that while he appreciates support, he didn't want the issue to become racially divisive.

"I haven't wanted this to be a racial issue," he said yesterday before last night's statement. "We've had those issues on this campus before. I just want everybody to be happy and to let me coach my team."

Flint remains as UMass coach
By Matt Vautour, The Daily Hampshire Gazette Staff Writer, 3/20/2000

AMHERST - The Bruiser Flint job watch ended on Day 3 and the University of Massachusetts men's basketball coach still has his job.

Three days of rampant speculation followed UMass' 66-65 loss to Siena in the first round of the National Invitation Tournament, but UMass Athletic Director Bob Marcum announced Sunday that Flint, who has two years remaining on his contract, will not be fired.

Flint said he's pleased to be staying on.

"I'm excited about the team next year and the things I think we can do," Flint said late Sunday night. "I think the team can be pretty good and I'm excited to be the coach of it."

Flint, Marcum and Chancellor David K. Scott expressed optimism about the program's future during a meeting Sunday to finalized the decision.

"Bruiser, Chancellor Scott and I met today to conclude our evaluation of the season and talk about the direction of the program," Marcum said. "It was a very positive meeting, and I think we all left feeling very excited about our prospects for the 2000-2001 season."

Scott echoed Marcum's statement.

"There are many factors that go into deciding what is a successful program. All of those have been discussed and reviewed," Scott said in the release. "The basketball program at UMass projects a positive image and that is a tribute to Coach Flint, his players and his staff.

"His players are graduating and performing well academically and we are seeing progress on the basketball court as well. We have high hopes and great expectations for this program and I am pleased to have Coach Flint leading the charge."

Flint was pleased at the sense of unity that came out of the meeting.

"It was good just to talk to people and to get everyone on the same page," he said.

Flint, who has a 71-57 career record as a head coach, is coming off a 17-16 campaign in which his team advanced to the semifinals of the Atlantic 10 Tournament and received a bid to the NIT.

According to administration sources, several prominent UMass alumni voiced their support for Flint over the weekend, including Bill Cosby, Julius Erving, Rick Pitino, and Boston College coach Al Skinner.

"I really appreciate the support I received," Flint said. "It meant a lot to me."

Flint's incoming recruiting class is believed to be a reason he was allowed to stay on.

Small forward Raheim Lamb and shooting guard Jameel Pugh both signed letters of intent in the fall, while point guard Anthony Anderson and versatile Jarrett Kearse have given the Minutemen verbal commitments.

Kearse played two season at West Virginia, where he made the All-Big East Rookie Team. He sat out this year at Philadelphia Junior College and will be eligible to play at UMass next year.

Kearse's former Mountaineer teammate Jackie Rogers, a 6-foot-8 power forward, was at UMass on an official visit this weekend. Rogers, who has listed UMass as his leader, was believed to be waiting for Flint's job to be resolved before making a decision, and could decide this week.

With the job questions behind him, Flint will begin the off-season routine.

"We'll finish up recruiting," Flint said. "Well give the players some time off to catch up on some things and then begin workouts."

The coach added that he'll meet with graduating seniors Mike Babul, Chris Kirkland and Anthony Oates to see if he can help them further any professional aspirations.

* * *

While Flint will be back, his staff is unlikely to remain intact. Assistant coach Tony Barbee has been heavily rumored to be joining former UMass coach John Calipari at Memphis. Barbee played for Calipari at UMass. Fellow assistant Geoff Arnold's name has popped up as a potential candidate to fill the vacant head coaching position at the University of Hartford.

Flint shouldn't pay for UMass' mistakes
By Mark Murphy, The Boston Herald, 3/21/2000

David Scott sees himself in Bruiser Flint in one particularly vital way.

The UMass chancellor presides over a diverse campus and faculty who demand a thick-skinned peacemaker. The UMass basketball coach has attempted to maintain a basketball program that hit its pinnacle - as well as its most notorious hour - the season before he was asked to make the program whole again.

Scott noticed Flint's visible frustration upon visiting the UMass locker room after a numbing loss to Dayton on Jan. 20, and responded thusly:

``I think you and I must have the two hardest jobs that there are up here.''

If Flint didn't know what to say back then, he certainly would now, after a week in which the coach was asked to pitch himself, admit his mistakes and somehow convince a standout group of recruits that he would still be standing when the process ended.

That conclusion mercifully came on Sunday night following a job-saving meeting with Scott and athletic director Bob Marcum - the man whose fleeting dream of UMass as a Division 1 football community apparently triggered a frantic need for the basketball program to pay more of the department's bills.

The administration should be delighted by the fact that Flint has said he's willing to get more involved in the P.T. Barnum side of the business - such as it is at UMass.

And that's the ludicrous aspect of last week's drama, triggered by Marcum's reluctance to give his coach a public vote of confidence despite the fact that UMass qualified for its third postseason tournament in four years under Flint.

True, the NIT is a consolation tournament for teams scorned by the NCAA. And as a result of last week's first-round loss to Siena, Flint has yet to coach a team that has won an NCAA or NIT game.

But he also goaded this year's team - a far less talented group than last season's turmoil-laden 14-16 crew - to 17 wins. Fellow coaches have called it his finest coaching job to date, considering the material.

Marcum, clearly shaken by this season's drop in attendance, put his own views on the line in early January when he said, ``People don't come to watch you play, they come to watch you win. If I want to see someone play, I'll go watch my grandchildren at the playground.''

Marcum's intentions were obvious enough. Attendance was connected to the up-and-down performance of the basketball team - a group that also happened to be under-promoted.

Never mind that Flint is being asked to help in that side of the business now. Game night in the Mullins Center has all of the imagination of the ball rack they used to roll onto the Boston Garden floor during halftime of Celtics games.

Beyond the nightly halfcourt shot, UMass has no basketball promotion. Tickets cost the same whether you buy them individually - never a problem - or as a season ticket package.

Youth groups, group discounts and special promotions - the lifeblood of the New England Revolution, which has one of the most loyal fan bases despite having the worst record of any team in Major League Soccer's short history - are a foreign concept under Marcum's post-John Calipari watch.

But the athletic director, while attempting to portray himself as a Flint supporter, did little of his own accord to help increase the nightly take.

Marcum's Don Quixote heart was instead tied to football, and the small-scale magic UMass' Div. 1-AA team has managed to create. The problem started when Marcum began dreaming about football stadiums and the millions that are needed to build them.

The athletic director was happy to pay Chuck Neinas, an old friend and former NCAA official, a lavish $10,000 consulting fee for five days of work. The result was a report that told Marcum something he already knew - Div. 1 football is a crapshoot in the Pioneer Valley.

Neinas' study amounted to a pricey book report.

In the meantime, Flint's teams have won 71 games over the last four seasons. Recruiting, his weakest point up to now, is expected to produce its first bumper crop next fall. Most athletes are on track to graduate. The program has developed a particularly high success rate with Proposition 48 athletes, with Tyrone Weeks and now Monty Mack prime examples of what an open-minded academic environment can produce.

These are just a few of Flint's concerns, though. He still has to win back fans, from all across the Valley, sell popcorn and earn, baby, earn.

No disrespect to David Scott intended, but he was only half right.

After this season, the chancellor has the second toughest job in Amherst.

Bruiser deserves this shot
By Ron Chimelis, The Springfield Union-News, 3/21/2000

When all was said and done, the right decision was made

University of Massachusetts men's basketball coach Bruiser Flint will get a chance to finish what he says was started this year, with a team he can call his own.

This issue threatened to divide the entire university. Is a 17-16 record, and an NIT spot, really a statement of failure?

Do you fire a coach because you're not making money? Or do you keep him because you don't want to buy out his contract, at a cost of $350,000 over two years?

The issue of race even came up, though it wasn't applicable at all. You may think Flint should play more zone, recruit better players, or add some new plays.

He was not hired because he was black, though, and he would not have been fired for that reason, either.

But UMass kept him, which brings us to the present, and something very subtle but very interesting happened in the last two weeks. The potshotters and know-it-alls were aced out of the discussion by more reasonable minds.

Some of them did not want Flint back, and some did. But when it finally came time to fire the coach for not meeting expectations, people finally started asking what those expectations should be.

Flint doesn't deserve a lifetime contract. He does deserve to know what's expected of him. From the moment he took the job on the heels of a Final Four season, this has never been done.

If you think Flint is a failure because every blue-chip recruit doesn't yearn to come here, and because the top 10 is no longer our permanent residency, you will never be satisfied with him. Or for that matter, with his successor.

On the other hand, if you think Flint should stay only because his kids try really hard, your goals in Division I may be too low.

The answer for this Atlantic 10 program is somewhere in the middle. Defining it helps define whether the coach is succeeding, and actually, the clearest and fairest goals are the ones Flint mapped out Sunday night.

Compete for the Atlantic 10 championship. Return to the NCAA tournament. These goals may not be reached every year, but they are reasonable.

Not everyone will be satisfied, but the days of a nonconference schedule filled with Kentuckys and North Carolinas are over, unless we don't mind losing to them.

As for recruiting, this has been Flint's real weakness, and I'm not even waving the banner of next year's highly acclaimed group yet. Not until I see A) verbal commitments become signed ones, and B) anyone who can hit a jump shot.

But giving him the benefit of the doubt, his early recruiting efforts were clouded by fear of sanctions over the Marcus Camby mess, and recent efforts have been dogged by questions about his own future.

Yet when you looked at the Minutemen bench, you could find several recruited players who were too risky to play. And Flint's junior college haul to date has included a center who rarely played, and a guard who quit.

It is fair to expect him to do better, and it is fair to expect UMass to raise its goals beyond third place in the Atlantic 10 East, where the Minutemen have finished in every one of Flint's years. Given the school's conference, facilities, donor base and budget, it is not fair to expect top 10 teams on an annual basis.

Firing Flint would have been done partly as a reaction to the loss of those dreams, and that wouldn't have been fair, either. Instead, UMass has given him a chance to reach goals that make sense. He says he can.

Nothing can be more fair than that. Maybe next year, the review of UMass basketball will be based not on the magic that John Calipari captured in a bottle, but on the reasonable projections that Flint himself says the program can reach.

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