erhaps never did a job and a person seem so made for each other.
That's how it often seemed with the University of Nevada-Las Vegas men's basketball coaching job and Bill Bayno, who restored some continuity and success to the program, but was fired this week after UNLV landed on probation.
"I was never closer to anyone else," said Flint, who worked with Bayno from 1989-95, when both were assistants to John Calipari at UMass. "This hurts so much."
Bayno says the NCAA charged him with nothing in the recruitment of Lamar Odom, who allegedly received payments from a UNLV booster but never even played there. But UNLV, which was reeling from a 1993 probation when it hired Bayno in 1995, wasn't about to take the rap without making the coach pay.
But for those who know Bayno and Flint from the early 1990s, this year has been extraordinarily wrenching, and perhaps the final epilogue to the rise of the Minutemen.
These are difficult times for that old gang, which provided the most exciting basketball Western Massachusetts has ever seen. Calipari is 2-6 at Memphis, suspended two players last week and saw his top recruit, Dajuan Wagner — one of America's best prep players — arrested for assault. Flint is on a six-game losing streak at UMass. Bayno is out of a job. Only John Robic, 5-3 at Youngstown State, is having any success.
Because it interferes with our entertainment, we set aside that human beings hold these jobs. And while Bayno's and Flint's problems are far different in nature, their status make for doubly melancholy viewing.
They were coaching's Odd Couple, guys who seemed to have nothing in common except a love of basketball and respect for each other. It was easy to picture Bayno coming in at dawn after a night on the town, while Flint had spent the previous night making sure all the shoetrees were in the shoes.
Flint has always represented rock-hard integrity and values. This is validated at every game by his wife, 5-year-old daughter and father, still faithfully supporting their man while others bail out.
Bayno, on the other hand, has been the charming scamp. The Runnin' Rebels seemed perfect for him, since Bayno, in many ways, is a runnin' rebel, too.
Vegas is a town that never sleeps, and Bayno has given the impression that neither does he. And his impact on UMass basketball cannot be underestimated. It was Bayno who discovered Marcus Camby, which means that without Bayno, there would have been no Final Four.
But a man can go bust in Vegas, too. Now, with Flint and Bayno still in their 30s, one is out and the other hears the Grim Reaper whispering "You're 1-6" in his ear.
"My whole family is struggling," Flint said, "what with us losing, and Billy getting fired."
It figures that the first thing many fans wondered was whether Bayno might replace Flint, maybe even before this season is over. But basketball's Odd Couple are more concerned about each other, not as coaches but as friends.
"He was trying to cheer me up," Flint said.
However you feel about UNLV's mess, Bayno's firing should make any UMass fan feel sad. And even if the record doesn't improve and change appears unavoidable, the day Flint gets fired will be another sad one, to those who realize these jobs are still held by human — beings.
n Las Vegas, there is apparently no other way for the script to conclude.
Young assistant coach from promising program heads out to take over one of the most desecrated programs in college basketball, and immediately sweeps up the city's quirky community with his fresh optimism and youth.
Bill Bayno has always been good at exuding that winning outlook.
Five years later, with the program wallowing under the weight of new NCAA penalties for recruiting violations, he goes down in flames.
Bayno, formerly John Calipari's right hand at UMass, said last week he would sue the university to recoup the 2 remaining years of salary that UNLV is now attempting to withhold, now that the NCAA has proclaimed the program guilty.
Bayno says he was unaware that a local booster/dentist gave Lamar Odom - the cause of a million broken hearts - money on two separate occasions while Bayno was attempting to recruit the future Rhode Island star.
``It's tough, because this all happened during his tenure,'' said UMass coach Bruiser Flint, who counts Bayno as one of his closest friends. ``But the fact is that he wasn't even mentioned in the (NCAA) report. That's what makes this so tough.
``Vegas is just such a tough place to coach,'' he said. ``There are so many people, and so many places. Sometimes it's tough to monitor your kids. There are so many people who can get through to them. I don't want to say that there's a lot of shady people out there, but, well, that's pretty much how it is.''
Bayno now claims he is a scapegoat, though in truth, UNLV officials have been eyeing his performance for a while.
The Rebels snuck in - quite literally at the wire - with an NCAA tournament bid last March, though Bayno's job was said to be on unsteady footing in the period leading up to UNLV's unlikely triumph in the Mountain West tournament.
The coach didn't help himself at the start of this season, when he failed to show up for a Mountain West coaches conference, even though UNLV was the host school.
And so the curse continues, from Jerry Tarkanian's holy war with the NCAA to Rollie Massimino's disastrous two-year tenure to a one-year-and-out Tim Grgurich to Bayno.
``It's a tough coaching job - you will always be following Tark, and a lot of his people are still out there,'' Flint said. ``I think Billy will be fine. He just has to take his time, relax, and weigh his options.
``But I think that place can be very overwhelming for a coach,'' he said. ``You have so many things going on - it's Las Vegas.
``Billy wasn't the first coach who had problems out there. I don't think anyone could go out there and not have the sort of problems that Billy had. That problem is the result of history - because of that, you are always going to get looked at.''