MHERST, Mass. - University of Massachusetts Athletic Director Bob Marcum announced today that James "Bruiser" Flint has resigned his position as head men's basketball coach, effective immediately.
"Coach Flint tendered his resignation to me this afternoon," Marcum said. "I appreciate coach Flint's 12 years of service to the University. He played a key role in one of the great turnarounds in college basketball.
"But, I believe it is time for our program to move in a new direction," Marcum added.
Flint compiled an 86-72 record during his career at UMass, including a 52-28 record in Atlantic 10 Conference play. He took three of his five teams to postseason play.
University of Massachusetts Chancellor David K. Scott said, "Coach Flint, the staff and players have much to be proud of, and I would rather focus our attention on those accomplishments. I am grateful for their contributions to the University."
The 35-year-old Flint spent seven seasons (1989-96) as an assistant coach to Calipari on the Massachusetts bench, then was tabbed as the school's 17th head basketball coach on June 8, 1996, just two days after Calipari left to become head coach of the NBA's New Jersey Nets. A 1987 graduate of St. Joseph's University, where he earned All-Atlantic 10 honors as a senior, Flint spent two seasons (1987-89) as an assistant coach at Coppin State before joining the UMass staff.
ess than 48 hours after coaching his last game of the season, James “Bruiser” Flint resigned from his position as head basketball coach for the University of Massachusetts.
A statement from the University’s media relations department announced Flint’s decision yesterday afternoon, after the coach met with Chancellor David K. Scott and Athletic Director Bob Marcum in the chancellor’s office.
“We sat down, and they just wanted to pretty much go in a different direction,” Flint said. “I said I’d resign the position. They wanted to get somebody else in there, and that was it.”
Flint followed the announcement with a final appearance on his weekly radio show, in which he expressed optimism toward both his 12 years at UMass and his future.
“I’m not going out of here bitter; I think I’m going out of here better,” Flint said. “I’ll be able to go down my road and do my thing… I’ll land on my feet.”
The Minutemen compiled a 15-15 overall record in this, Flint’s fifth season as head coach. After a 3-9 non-conference start over the first six weeks, the team won 11 of 16 conference games to finish the regular season in fourth place in the A-10. The Atlantic 10 tournament saw UMass upset top-seeded St. Joseph’s en route to the championship game, where the team fell 76-65 to defending champion Temple.
Flint leaves behind an 86-72 overall record as head coach of the Minutemen, including a 52-28 mark within the A-10. Three of his five teams saw postseason action, twice in the NCAA tournament (in 1997 and ’98) and three times in the National Invitational Tournament (NIT). His win total ranks third in school history, behind his predecessor John Calipari (193 wins) and UMass Hall of Famer Jack Leaman (217).
Flint acknowledged that he was under additional pressure having taken the reins immediately following Calipari’s 1996 Final Four season.
The Bruiser-Ball era came to a close after five seasons.
Last night after his show, Flint defended his winning percentage by emphasizing both the academic and personal development of his players. He estimated that this year’s graduation would give him a 13 out of 14 success rate in terms of helping his athletes earn their degrees.
“Good programs sustain, good teams come and go,” said Flint, “Once you get a good sense of that, your program will be at the kind of level you want it to be at.”
Reports that Flint’s term as coach was ending began surfacing Sunday night, after this year’s NIT field was announced without UMass’ inclusion. CBSsportsline.com quoted a source close to the team as saying that the coach would either resign or be dismissed yesterday, and that possible candidates for the job included Providence’s Tim Welsh and former Indiana coach Bob Knight. Subsequent reports also named Flint as a lead candidate for the head-coaching job at La Salle, but the Philadelphia native insisted that such speculation is premature.
“Hey, I just got fired today; let me get my feet on the ground first,” Flint said, adding that he does foresee himself pursuing a comparable position at a later juncture. “I don’t know where, but I think I’m going to have my opportunities. As long as I can get a head coaching job, I think that’s the most important thing.”
Prior to his appointment as the University’s 17th head basketball coach on June 8, 1996, Flint spent seven years as an assistant to Calipari. He recalled on his show last night how he and fellow-assistant Bill Bayno used to share beds on recruiting trips back near the beginning of his time at UMass.
“I’m the last of the guys,” Flint said, referring to the Calipari-era staff. Bayno also went on to assume a head coaching position, though his contract at Nevada-Las Vegas was terminated earlier this year.
Flint also enjoyed a standout career playing college basketball, as a four-year letterwinner for fellow A-10 program St. Joseph’s. He led the conference in assists per game (6.1) during his senior year, and was inducted into the SJU Athletic Hall of Fame in 1998.
He followed his playing career with two seasons as an assistant coach and assistant athletic director at Coppin State College in Maryland.
Flint is the nineteenth Division I head coach to either resign or be terminated this season, and the third in the Atlantic 10. Rhode Island coach Jerry DeGregorio announced in January that this would be his last season at URI, while La Salle’s William “Speedy” Morris was dismissed Friday after his eighth consecutive losing season.
Both Flint and Morris had one year left on their contracts at the time that they relinquished their positions.
“One day they’re patting you on your back, the next day they’re kicking you in your butt. That’s sports nowadays in the 21st century,” Flint said.
ruiser Flint is no longer the head coach of the Massachusetts men's basketball team. This resignation ends months of speculation, media attention, and fan ire. The team can now get a fresh start.
The fact that the hoops team garnered so much attention because it was so bad is an insult to the rest of the sports teams on this campus who do so very well, yet receive little or no support or attention from the student body.
Bruiser Flint is gone because his team was terrible. The fact that the student body cares more about basketball when it is bad than it does about lacrosse when it's ranked No. 9 (which, by the way, it is) does not speak well to our school spirit or athletic appreciation.
Our field hockey team this past season was phenomenal. It not only made it to the Final 8, but it hosted, here on this campus, the Atlantic-10 Tournament. Where were you?
The attendance at the tournament was pathetic. A nationally attended event with the best teams in the conference and a UMass team that was doing well on campus was virtually ignored. And yet the basketball team losing is big news.
The UMass softball team regularly flirts with, enters and exits, the top 25. But Bruiser Flint quit - and that's big news.
Minuteman lacrosse is ranked No. 9. Of all the schools in the United States of America, we have the one which is better than all but eight of the teams in existence, and has the potential to climb even higher. Garber Field, on its best day, cannot even hold the crowd which saw the hoops team get squashed by Temple at the Mullins Center.
Women's water polo is, in the words of one fan consulted for this editorial, "absolutely nasty." Can you name a position played in this sport?
Women's crew. Men and women's gym. Track. Tennis. Skiing. Can you name the same amount of players on these teams that you can on the basketball team that consistently fails to make the postseason?
The time has come for the students of this campus to reevaluate their priorities and broaden their horizons. UMass was made famous athletically by the basketball and, recently, the football programs, but they are not the be all and end all of University athletics.
In crying or rejoicing in Bruiser's demise, perhaps you should realize that there are other sporting options right here at home. Go to Garber and watch lacrosse, head to the Boyden for water polo and make a mental note to check out field hockey next season.
It's time for us all to wise up to the athletic superiority all around us, and stop paying so much attention to a mediocre basketball team.
Unsigned editorials represent the majority opinion of the Collegian editorial board.
MHERST — As he left the University of Massachusetts men's basketball office after hearing the news, sophomore forward Micah Brand was crying.
Bruiser and company at Midnight Madness 2000.
Flint has been the head coach for the past five years, and yesterday, the university announced the change as a resignation.
But it was clear that Flint, 35, had been removed at the recommendation of athletic director Bob Marcum with one year left on his contract.
"I appreciate coach Flint's 12 years of service to the university," Marcum said. "But I believe it is time for our program to move in a new direction."
Flint said he left with no hard feelings.
"I always thought that if we didn't make the NCAA tournament this year, I wouldn't be the coach," he said.
"I'm not leaving bitter. I'm leaving better.
"And don't worry — I'll be fine," he added. "I'll land on my feet somewhere."
Flint will receive his base pay of approximately $150,000 next year — whether he finds another job or not. His assistant coaches also will receive severance pay, Marcum said.
Meetings between Marcum, UMass chancellor David K. Scott, deputy chancellor Marcellette G. Williams and Flint lasted well into the afternoon yesterday.
Scott and Williams have been supportive of Flint, especially his work in encouraging his players to graduate.
But falling attendance and a 46-47 record in his last three seasons had greatly increased the pressure on Flint, especially since the men's basketball program is expected to create revenue to support the rest of the university's athletic department.
Flint's 86-72 record, including this season's 15-15 mark, ranks third in coaching victories in UMass history.
His first two teams reached the NCAA tournament, but the only postseason appearance since then was a National Invitation Tournament bid in 2000.
This year's team would have qualified for the NCAA tournament with a win over Temple on Saturday. After the 76-65 loss in the Atlantic 10 Conference championship game, UMass was bypassed for the NIT.
Campus reaction yesterday reflected sadness at the removal of one of the most popular members of the athletic department.
"You hear you're supposed to graduate players and bring in good kids," UMass women's basketball coach Joanie M. O'Brien said.
"But (college sports) has also become about keeping up with the Joneses."
Marcum said "the target" of UMass sports was the University of Connecticut — though he also admitted that UMass does not have the resources, in terms of either money or facilities, that UConn does.
But Flint has said that unless UMass puts together a less difficult nonconference schedule for its team, it will continue fighting an uphill battle in terms of building an impressive won-lost record.
This year, the Minutemen's schedule ranked among the nation's 12 toughest for most of the season.
Marcum disputes the argument that UMass plays too many difficult road games against nationally recognized teams.
"I don't buy the idea that Bob Marcum overscheduled," he said.
Marcum must now begin the search for a replacement, and Bob Knight's name remains in the mix, he said.
"Certainly, I would talk to him," Marcum said of Knight, who was fired last year by Indiana for unacceptable personal behavior. "I just don't know how serious he'd be (about UMass)."
In many respects, Flint's departure signals the end of the John Calipari era at UMass. Flint was Calipari's assistant coach for seven years before assuming the head coaching job on June 8, 1996, after Calipari had signed a five-year deal with the NBA's New Jersey Nets.
"I'm the last of the guys," said Flint, noting that Calipari and former UMass assistant coaches Bill Bayno and John Robic all moved on before he did.
What happens to the players is not clear. Some may consider transferring to other schools, though freshman guard Jameel Pugh said he'd probably return.
"As much as I respect Bruiser as a person and a coach, I don't think it would affect my decision of staying or leaving," Pugh said.
"But nobody wanted to see this happen," Pugh said. "We wish there could have been some sort of compromise, instead of just getting rid of him."
Junior guard Shannon Crooks of Everett, who credited Flint with providing a father figure for him after Crooks' own father died in 1998, agreed that the team may try to stick together, even without Flint at the helm.
"You can't run away from things," Crooks said. "I thought they'd give Bruiser another year, though."
UMass has also signed three high school seniors to letters of intent for 2001-02.
Marcum said he would release the players to seek other schools, if the coaching switch causes them to change their minds about UMass.
MHERST — Even though yesterday's resignation of University of Massachusetts head basketball coach James "Bruiser" Flint wasn't unexpected, it caught many members of the UMass community by surprise.
"This is the first I've heard of it. Coaching is very tough. I'm disappointed and upset," UMass lacrosse coach Greg J. Cannella said as he stepped off Garber Field after practice. "He's a good man and a very good coach and I'm sorry (to hear about it). I didn't really know that it happened."
Several students and athletes expressed surprise to hear word of the resignation, which was slow to circulate the sprawling campus.
"Was I surprised? I'd say I was a little. I think he brought a lot of people to the school," said junior Kerri Brown of Montague. "This is just my first semester here, but following the program and watching the news I thought he did a pretty good job."
Many others questioned by the Union-News also said they thought Flint did a creditable job.
"I'm slightly disappointed. This is a team that has been improving for the last couple of years and grown," said senior Paul D. Coleman of San Diego. "He has drawn some good players in Jackie Rogers, and Kit Rhymer is going to be in his last year and he's a fantastic player, and with a new coaching staff coming in it's kind of wasting that talent because now they're going to rebuild."
Some said Flint was doomed to fail because he had to fill a post held previously by the popular and successful John Calipari.
"I've been following UMass for three or four years and when Calipari left, he took the credentials of UMass basketball with him," said freshman Andre O. Jordan of Boston. "Once (Marcus) Camby and that Final Four team was gone, (Flint) had to build it all from scratch and that's very difficult to live up to the expectations (of succeeding) Calipari."
Calipari endeared himself to students by doing such things as delivering pizza to fans lined up on game nights outside the Mullins Center and being seen at other events around campus. Flint wasn't as outgoing as Calipari, but did reach out to students in his own way.
"I just know that he sent out a few e-mails to students and he sounded excited to have students go see the games, but I haven't gone to any games," said junior Katherine M. Schmitt of Barrington, Ill.
"I never saw him come to any of our games and I never had any experiences with him, but he's pretty animated on the court," said junior Katelyn Jones of Albany, N.Y., a member of the women's soccer team. "But, I'd always get e-mails from Bruiser Flint saying 'Come to the UMass basketball games' and I went to a bunch of them."
Some wondered what took so long for Flint and the university to part ways.
"Well, at first I thought he should have been fired at the beginning of the year. When he took over from Calipari he didn't really take (the program) anywhere from that," said freshman David A. Falvey of Billerica, who is on the UMass track and field team.
"He started pretty bad this year (2-9), but I thought he was starting to turn it around. I really thought he would make the (NCAA or NIT) tournament. Maybe it's time to find somebody new though."
Several speculated on Flint's replacement.
"I think it's time to find somebody new. Maybe they can look along the lines of the UNLV (and former UMass assistant Bill) Bayno. It's time to find somebody else because we didn't go anywhere," Falvey said. "There is a lot of word that we're going to get Bobby Knight too."
From a coaching point of view, Flint did what he's supposed to do.
"His players' graduate and that's what made him standout," Cannella said.
MHERST — Bruiser Flint is out as the University of Massachusetts men's basketball coach. Now the question is who will be next.
The General is in the picture, if not in the forefront.
"I know about the controversy with Bob Knight," said UMass athletic director Bob Marcum, who said the former Indiana coach would be considered if Knight showed true interest.
Marcum is undaunted by the furor a possible Knight hiring might cause among administrators.
"I don't know how serious he'd be (about UMass), but if he were interested, certainly I'd talk to him," Marcum said yesterday. Knight will visit Texas Tech this week.
Marcum also said he's been told UMass graduate Rick Pitino is not interested, but would also pursue Pitino if a chance existed.
Marcum said he was unworried that the unusual situation at UMass, which is attempting to sustain a national image while playing outside the power conferences, will scare away good candidates.
"I think we have a good job," Marcum said. "Do I think we'll have a shortage of candidates? I don't think so."
Flint was paid a base salary of about $150,000 per year, which grew with perks to about $350,000. There is some flexibility in the new coach's salary, depending on who is hired, Marcum said.
The search will be delayed somewhat because many potential candidates are involved with teams in the NCAA tournament or NIT, and can't be contacted yet.
One may be Holy Cross coach Ralph Willard. Not only did Holy Cross beat UMass this year and reach the NCAA tournament, but Williard has major-college coaching experience at Pittsburgh, though his recruiting skills are in question.
Another name to emerge is Providence's Tim Welsh, and sources say there is interest in him at UMass. Whether Welsh returns the interest is questionable, since that would mean leaving the Big East for the Atlantic 10.
He has also been mentioned as a possible candidate if an Atlantic Coast Conference job opens up.
Also available are Eddie Fogler, who left South Carolina yesterday, and former Georgia Tech coach Bobby Cremins. But Marcum also said assistant coaches would be considered.
He didn't name names, but Tim O'Shea (Boston College) and Johnny Dawkins (Duke) are prominent assistants who might be ready for head coaching jobs. Former North Carolina star Phil Ford's name also comes up occasionally in coaching rumors.
Head coaches from smaller programs who might be considered include Jay Lebo (Tennessee Tech), Jeff Ruland (Iona) and Fran McCaffery (North Carolina-Greensboro).
The hottest coaching name from the mid-major category may not be available. Hofstra coach Jay Wright has taken himself out of the Rhode Island search, and is believed to be waiting for a Big East opening, possibly at Seton Hall if Tommy Amaker goes to Michigan.
Another name that has been circulated is that of Marshall coach Greg White. Marcum is a Marshall graduate, but White is without postseason experience, and has also expressed satisfaction with his current job.
New Mexico coach Fran Fraschilla, who is considered to have good rapport with Marcum, is also possible. In the Boston area, even former NBA coach Chris Ford's name is being floated.
Marcum said minority candidates would be considered, but that a specific attempt to hire a minority coach was unnecessary.
"I don't think we've ever excluded minorities, and we won't this time," he said. "We know where the good coaches are."
As new candidates surface, Flint said he wants to be a head coach next year. If the Northeastern job opens up, sources say Flint is the probable front-runner.
His name is also expected to surface at La Salle, partly because Philadelphia is Flint's hometown. Drexel's job is also open, but Flint has fewer contacts there.
Marcum, who says the UMass search will be national, downplayed reports that his relationship with Flint deteriorated dramatically. He said if another school inquired about Flint, he'd speak in positive terms.
"Of course, I'd recommend him," Marcum said. "Why should I want to hold him back?"
MHERST — A short memory always makes life easier than a conscience does, so it's easy to forget how for the past five years, Bruiser Flint restored national respect to a program that had dipped its big toe in sleaze.
No matter what the press release says about resigning, Flint was fired as University of Massachusetts men's basketball coach yesterday. UMass is big-time, baby, so forget that Flint was 52-28 in the Atlantic 10 Conference.
And never mind that athletic director Bob Marcum says he'd certainly entertain the idea of hiring Bob Knight to represent the state university and by extension, us. The notion of Knight being a better representative of our state than Flint is unbelievable, but welcome to the world in which we live.
Knight is suing his former school for emotional distress, which at least means he's admitting he has some — the first step toward recovery. But whoever we get will find it almost impossible to replace what we've discarded, a man of integrity and competence who took the reins when the John Calipari-Marcus Camby tango had people snickering about what UMass basketball really stood for.
In 1996, UMass was flirting with probation. In 2001, it dismissed a coach that everyone uses as proof that a competitive sports program can also be an honorable one.
Yesterday might have been Flint's finest hour, a remarkable achievement given all the fine hours he's given us previously — graduating his players, encouraging Monty Mack to face the music after Mack's big mistake at the K-Mart, and suspending himself for using a naughty word on the radio, to name just three.
"The support I've received here has been unbelievable," Flint said. "I can't complain."
Of course he can, he just won't. Yesterday, Flint dwelled on the support of those whose values matched his, rather than on how many UMass fans were rooting against him in the A-10 final, for fear a win might bring him back.
The UMass media guide placed the slogan "Just Bring It" on its 2000-01 cover. It should have also said, "Or Else." Flint knew that nothing less than an NCAA tournament appearance might save his job.
And who knows, if referee Donnee Gray not slapped a hasty, ill-time technical on Kitwana Rhymer for getting mad at himself, UMass might have beaten Temple Saturday and gone to the Big Dance after all.
Even now, Flint is incapable of being disloyal. "I want to do what's best for the university," he said. "If they want to go in another direction, that's fine."
In the final days, Mack practically slept at Flint's house, supporting the father figure Mack didn't have as a kid. And only when pressed did Flint say what everyone knows he feels, that all those tough road games won't be any easier on the next coach.
"What would I tell the new guy?" he said. "Good luck. Work hard. Change the schedule."
Instead, UMass changed the coach. We're in the spider's web now, just another state university whose image is based on power ratings, not the power of being on the right side of issues involving values and education — and winning 86 games in five years.
On his first night as a fired coach, Flint fulfilled a commitment to do his final radio show, as a way to thank his friends and wish everyone luck. I'm sure Knight would have done the same.
Now comes the search to see who wants the next chance to restore UMass' lost prominence.
"I don't think we can rule out anyone," Marcum said. You can rule out one guy, the one they had.
"I'm leaving here a better coach and a better person," Flint said with a smile. Maybe the new man will be a good coach and a good person, too. Our state university says that's important, but not as important as beating Marquette on the road.
hen Bruiser Flint woke up yesterday morning, he barely had time to rub out the sleep before Monty Mack appeared at his front door.
The senior UMass guard knew that his coach was about to start one of the most difficult days of his life, and he wanted to volunteer as the official hand-holder.
``Monty came over and just kind of sat there while I got ready,'' said Flint. ``And then when I got to the office, he sat with me here.''
This is how Flint's 12-year tenure at UMass - seven as an assistant and five as head coach - would end.
Five seasons, 86 wins, three postseason appearances and untold amounts of frustration later, Flint resigned under pressure as UMass men's basketball coach yesterday.
And so came an end to the reign of the man who followed John Calipari, and who was forced to live with the subsequent expectations of the Amherst community until that mix imploded last week.
Two days after taking the 15-15 Minutemen into the championship game of the Atlantic 10 tournament, Flint met with athletic director Bob Marcum, Chancellor David Scott and Vice Chancellor Marcie Williams yesterday. Three hours later, Marcum called with the news Flint had been bracing for most of the season.
Though Flint pitched his performance to the group, and debated the damage done by a Marcum-tailored schedule that left UMass on the road for most of its horrendous 2-9 start this season, Scott finally accepted Marcum's recommendation to find a new coach.
Flint, who made a base salary of approximately $150,000 annually, was allowed to leave with a buy-out reportedly worth $210,000, in addition to the remaining revenue from this season's radio and TV programming.
Flint thus ends what had become a cold, fractured relationship with Marcum - the same man who had extended the coach's contract two years ago but who also grew dissatisfied with Flint just as quickly.
``Bob didn't talk much in this meeting,'' said Flint. ``I said what I had to say, and then (Scott and Williams) actually asked me some pretty good questions. It was not a heated meeting.''
Though the 35-year-old Flint's options are sure to be numerous - people associated with the vacant position at La Salle have reportedly already been in contact with him - his thoughts yesterday weren't concerned with the future.
``I knew it was a tough situation, following John Calipari,'' he said. ``But I'll be a better coach in the next position I get because of it. That's what I told my team.''
Flint's players took the news hard.
Sophomore forward Micah Brand - co-winner of the A-10's Most Improved Player award this season and someone who's been considered an important part of the program's future - left the basketball office in a particularly morose state after Flint addressed the team.
Willie Jenkins, a freshman guard, said he would sit down with Flint to discuss his prospects, and whether to remain at UMass.
``It hit me kind of hard,'' said the Memphis native. ``He's like a father to me, like a family away from home for me. I'll sit down with him and see what my options are.''
Said freshman forward Jameel Pugh, one of the program's more talented youngsters: ``It was the hardest kind of news you have to hear. It was one thing to get the news that you weren't going to the tournament, or the NIT.
``But (yesterday) I felt like we were all in there as a family, and the doctor came in and told us that a family member had died,'' he said. ``It really upset a couple of the guys. I haven't given a lot of thought yet to how this affects my own situation. They'll bring in someone new, but when you choose a school to begin with, it's more because of the school than the coach. So I don't think the coaching change will influence that.
``But we were all expecting him to come back for his last year. It's a situation where you're powerless.''
cw-0The worst damage may be exacted on the incoming class. Eddie Basden, a 6-foot-6 guard and a top-75 recruit out of Greenbelt, Md., was expected to fill the void left by Mack's graduation. But he has reportedly decided to attend prep school next year. Basden would then be freed from his letter of intent to attend UMass and would be allowed to choose a new school.
Recruits Jeremiah King of Patterson, N.J., and Mauricio Branwell of Notre Dame of Fitchburg are also said to be seriously weighing similar options.
Not that this will be Flint's concern next season. Now that Marcum, who initially intended to fire Flint last March, has achieved his goal, Flint is free to collect his money and find a new position.
But he'll leave knowing that his players truly cared.
``They really do care, and I told them that we'll always be a family,'' Flint said. ``I told them that once you come with me, you'll be with me for life.''
ut there in the Happy Valley, where the real world ends and the UMass campus begins, some people still look back on the trip to the 1996 Final Four as if it really happened and could happen again.
They believe those few seasons in the fast lane under John Calipari marked the dawn of a new era in Amherst, and now that Bruiser Flint, coach Cal's overmatched assistant, has finally been pushed off the stage, the Minutemen will soon return to their rightful place on the national map.
It was a dream then, and it is a dream now.
That team created more crazy hallucinations at UMass than wild mushrooms ever did. The best of times for the Minutemen basketball program were bought and paid for with bags of cash and jewelry, delivered to the team's slimy star in dark parking lots. Marcus Camby never blamed the hooker who took the Polaroids and got him in trouble, but that was just a matter of professional courtesy.
The Final Four appearance was wiped out of the NCAA record books, and Camby went on to the NBA where he reportedly received a slight pay raise. Calipari went with him and cashed in, too. Flint was given the job and asked to do two very simple things by the UMass administration.
Get us out of trouble, and back into the Final Four.
He did one of the two. He got them out of trouble, and for that he can walk away with his head high and his eyes straight ahead. Flint resigned under fire yesterday after five seasons at UMass and just two NCAA tournament appearances. He never won a postseason game, but accomplished one thing that his predecessor never did - he left without a posse on his heels or the stench of scandal over the program.
Flint never got UMass to the Final Four, but then again, according to the NCAA, neither did Calipari.
``As much as that's my alma mater, let's face it, that Final Four was tarnished, and I'm not proud of that,'' said Boston College coach and former UMass star Al Skinner yesterday. ``I'd rather see a good program with guys out there playing hard and graduating. Bruiser had a lot of mess to clean up out there. That took a lot of work to get out from under that. That program was tarnished, and I kept hearing, `Well, if he doesn't get to the tournament, he's going to get fired.'
``Come on. How fair is that?''
Fair has got nothing to do with it. Just like the old days, it's all about chasing the hallucinations in Amherst now.
A lot of folks at UMass think they can have it both ways. It's kind of tradition in Happy Valley, where people try so hard to be open-minded that occasionally their brains fall out. They think they can have the Machiavellian drive of a Calipari, along with the decency and perspective of a Bruiser Flint. They think they can recruit the likes of Camby -- and keep him around long enough to have an impact -- without throwing in the bags of cash and the hookers. They think they play fast and play clean and bang out the Mullins Center every night, and do it all with the support of the weirdos and wackos who infest the place.
``Are we really that shortsighted to think that UMass is supposed to make it to the Final Four every year?'' asked Skinner. ``I mean, we're getting off the wall here.''
Bob Marcum, the 64-year-old athletic director who has been shoving Flint toward the door for a couple of seasons now, comes from West Virginia and has run departments at Kansas and South Carolina. He believes UMass can return to a place of prominence in Division 1 hoops and stay there, and for his unwavering faith and determination, Marcum deserves credit.
But he is relatively new on Planet Amherst -- he's only been there for eight years -- so he is probably still unaware of all the obstacles he faces. He did get a quick lesson in life at UMass when rumors of Flint's dismissal surfaced at the end of last season. John Bracey, a professor at the school, jumped in the fray and warned Marcum that he better be careful in choosing a replacement for Flint.
``If (Marcum) comes in with a white coach, then all hell will break loose,'' said Bracey.
In Amherst, all hell breaks loose for much less. Compared to the search for Flint's replacement, the search for the UMass president's big brother will look like hide and seek. Already the most notorious name in college basketball has been floated like a blimp over the campus. Bobby Knight has his supporters at the school, and Marcum, who would love nothing more than to bring a little taste of the Big Ten to western Mass., is probably among them. Curry Kirkpatrick of ESPN even claimed that Knight's good friend, Bill Parcells, is trying to persuade Knight to choose UMass over Texas Tech.
If Knight were even CONSIDERED for the job, it would be a scandal. But as Bruiser Flint learned yesterday, there are worse things than scandal at UMass. You can start with a .500 record, 3,000 empty seats and a whole bunch of wealthy friends of the program who just kind of lost interest. Flint got UMass out of trouble, but he couldn't get it back to the Final Four.
Sadly, he couldn't even win a tournament game. Now it's someone else's turn to follow the illusion to Happy Valley and learn what people have been learning at the school for generations. Life at UMass -- it's a trip.
MHERST - As they emerged from the closed meeting in Bruiser Flint's office, several University of Massachusetts basketball players tried to choke back tears, while others didn't waste the effort and wept openly.
Even after handing in his resignation, Bruiser was still good enough to do his weekly radio show.
The move was not unexpected. Flint said in February that he thought his team needed to make the NCAA Tournament for him to be retained. When the Minutemen fell short of that goal in the Atlantic 10 finals Saturday, he knew his days were numbered.
"I said all along that I thought we needed to make the NCAA Tournament," Flint said.
When Flint met with Chancellor David K. Scott and Deputy Chancellor Marcellette Williams Monday morning, he said he expected to be fired on the spot after Athletic Director Bob Marcum recommended to Scott and Williams that Flint be dismissed.
After a long conversation, however, the meeting ended with the two administrators promising to get back to Flint later in the afternoon.
The delay only prolonged the expected move as Flint was called into Marcum's office later that afternoon and was dismissed. While officially Flint resigned, he said he was forced to.
"I would have coached here another year if they let me," he said.
Flint, who was 85-72 in five seasons in Amherst, left with one year remaining on his contract. He will reportedly be paid $130,000 as a buyout for the remaining year.
Despite the circumstances, Flint was upbeat less than an hour after finding out that he'd been fired.
"I'm not leaving here bitter, I'm leaving here better," Flint said Monday in his office. "I had a great time here. I'm going to be OK. I'll land on my feet. The only bad thing is I'm not going to get to coach my guys anymore."
Marcum said it was time to make a change.
"I thought it was best that we try to go in a different direction with the men's basketball program," Marcum said.
The players were upset with the move.
"Guys were mad," said junior guard Shannon Crooks. "We were pretty shocked. I had a good feeling he was going to be back because of the way we played at the end of the year."
"Nobody wanted to see what happened," freshman Jameel Pugh said. "We wished there could have been some compromise instead of just getting rid of him. I'd hoped he'd at least get the last year of his contract."
The search commences
Marcum said the search for a new coach will begin immediately, but he did not have a timetable for when he expected to have a new coach in place.
"We will have a national search," Marcum said. "But the people that we're interested in are either in the NCAA Tournament of the NIT. So we certainly don't want to do any tampering with other people's programs."
Marcum expected a lot of interest in the position.
"I think we have a good job here. I don't think there's going to be a shortage of candidates," said Marcum, who was not confining his list to just people with previous head coaching experience. "There are some very good assistants out there."
There has been much speculation that controversial former Indiana Coach Bobby Knight might be a candidate at UMass.
Marcum said if Knight expressed interest, he'd be willing to listen.
"I'd talk to him," Marcum said. "I don't know how serious he'd really be, but would I talk to him? Certainly. Why wouldn't I?"
Marcum added that he didn't expect that UMass alum Rick Pitino would be interested in the position.
Whenever the new coach arrives, one of his first priorities will be to try to convince some of the current players not to transfer. Flint planned on meeting with some of the players in the next few days to help them make decisions based on academics.
"The guys that are in position to leave here with degrees should stay," Flint said. "That's the most important thing."
While some players still needed time to ponder their next moves, Pugh expressed a desire to stay.
"As much as I respect Bru as a coach and a person. I don't think it would affect my staying or leaving," he said.
Flint signed three high school seniors during the early signing period. Marcum said if any of those players wanted to be released from their letters of intent because of Flint's departure, he would be willing to let them out.
Flint's last official act as the head coach was to do his final radio show at the Monkey Bar in Amherst. The show drew record numbers of Flint supporters. He used the hour-long program as a chance to relive some good memories and to thank people for supporting him.
"I had a good time here," said Flint, who is reportedly already a candidate at La Salle and Northeastern. "I'm leaving here a better coach, a better person with a better of idea how to run a program."
udged off the basketball court, Bruiser Flint had the fans in his corner. But Flint's work was measured in wins and losses, and many fans say he simply didn't deliver enough Ws.
"When he was on a winning streak, they came and when he lost, they called for his removal. That's the way of Massachusetts fans: They want a winner," said Adam White, sports editor for the university's student newspaper, The Massachusetts Daily Collegian.
White, who is from Malden, said Flint had lost the support of fickle student fans, who of late came to games with anti-Bruiser signs and led chants calling for his ouster.
It was a view shared off campus as well on Monday, as word of Flint's departure spread. Fans who had watched John Calipari, Flint's predecessor and former boss, bring the team to the Final Four in 1996 said Flint simply didn't deliver. Flint's team finished the season at 15-15, leaving it out of any post-season play.
From behind the grill at Charlie's in Easthampton Roger Misner said it succinctly.
"It's about time. He should have gone last year," Misner said. "He's a hell of a recruiter but he's not a big program coach."
Nancy Torrey of Amherst is a season ticket holder since 1979 and serves on the Sport Luncheon Committee. Flint and other coaches have attended the luncheons.
"I'm sorry, but I'm not upset. I wish it didn't have to happen, but is has to do with wins and losses. The wins weren't there. He's a good coach and a great man. He cares for his players and the university, but that didn't translate to wins."
Another Amherst fan, Allan Carpenter, attended UMass basketball games off and on since 1942 and has season tickets.
"I have mixed feelings. He has talent. The thing I noticed is that he had trouble counteracting another coach's strategy. He could coach the guys and they did what he told them. But other coaches outcoached him. He's a man of high character."
Flint's defenders on campus said he was one of the most visible and likable coaches in the Atlantic 10 Conference who had done much to improve the overall image of the university's athletic program.
"I think he's been an advocate for the academic strength of the campus, particularly when it comes to his athletes and other student athletes on campus," said Bailey Jackson, dean of the School of Education.
"He's constantly called on to represent the university and to be a role model around the commonwealth and that can't be underplayed."
"He runs a good program, he really cares about the athletes. He's committed to a lot of different kinds of activities around the campus," said Ernest Washington, a curriculum studies professor who headed a university outreach project in which Flint regularly spoke to elementary school children about cultural identity and self-esteem.
People blame Flint for not living up to Calipari's record, he said, but forget that Calipari had a star like Marcus Canby to work with.
"People confuse Bruiser's tenure with Marcus Canby's tenure," he said. "We're not going to the Final Four without one player who's going to the NBA and we need two to win ... That's the kind of limitations we're facing. Let's not kid ourselves."
"We got extremely lucky with Marcus because nobody saw him coming," Washington said. "Nobody would have dreamed when he came to UMass that he was going to go to the NBA in five or six years."
After the team lost its star player and star coach, Flint confronted perhaps unrealistic expectations, Jackson said.
"I think the whole UMass system got thrown a curve in the Calipari years because we shot up so fast and assumed we were supposed to stay there," he said. "We didn't realize in some sense that we didn't pay our dues and didn't come up in that slow and steady way that those institutions did that are in front year after year."
Ultimately, Jackson said, Calipari left at just the right time and left behind a team in transition amid a set of high expectations that Flint was forced to shoulder.
"I think he did very well considering those limitations and he should be applauded for that rather than cast aside."
For some on campus, however, Flint and the basketball program barely register.
"It gives us this great ranking and makes us competitive but I think academics are most important. That's why I came here. I didn't come here for the basketball team," Yago Cura, a graduate poetry student, said over a muffin today in the Campus Center.
Gazette staffers Phyllis Lehrer and Barney Beal contributed to this report.
MHERST - As soon as Bruiser Flint's dismissal became official Monday afternoon, speculation began about who would be the next head men's basketball coach at the University of Massachusetts.
As an Atlantic 10 school in the midst of some financial troubles, UMass will be behind several bigger schools in the line for head coaches.
Current vacancies include UNLV, South Carolina, Louisville, Texas Tech, La Salle, Rhode Island and Drexel.
In the next several days there could be further movement as well, with a number of big name schools possibly in line to make a move. Michigan, North Carolina State and Florida State could all make announcements in the next few days.
Smaller schools like Duquesne and Northeastern dismissed their coaches early this week. Indiana and Wisconsin both have interim coaches at their respective helms who could be retained. If not, they would become significant names in the coaching carousel as well.
Athletic Director Bob Marcum declined to name any candidates who would interest him, but some of the names below are likely to be considered as candidates for UMass:
Bobby Knight, former head coach, Indiana - The Hall of Famer's resume and rap sheet are both well known. It appears likely now that he'll end up at Texas Tech. If not, expect Marcum to at least explore the possibility.
Ralph Willard, head coach, Holy Cross - The former coach at Pittsburgh would reportedly like to move back into a stronger league and would be interested in UMass. He led the Crusaders to a Patriot League Championship and a trip to the NCAA Tournament, where they will face Kentucky on Thursday.
Jay Wright, head coach, Hofstra - This coach has had the Flying Dutchmen in back-to-back NCAA Tournaments and is considered one of the top young coaches in the game. He turned down Rhode Island, and while he might be interested in UMass, he's reportedly hoping to land in the Big East.
Tim Welsh, head coach, Providence - On the surface it seems unlikely that he'd leave Providence for the Atlantic 10 after taking a Friar team that was predicted to land in the Big East cellar to the NCAA Tournament. But strained relations with Friar administrators after an incident last summer might tempt him to go. Still, with the opportunities out there, he might be unlikely to land in Amherst.
Tim O'Shea, assistant, Boston College - A well-regarded assistant with New England ties who many feel is ready to land a Division I job.
Phil Ford, former assistant, North Carolina - A DUI arrest may have cost this once rising star the chance to replace Bill Guthridge at Carolina. If someone is willing to forgive his past, he might be worth the risk.
Greg White, head coach, Marshall - He looked like a hot candidate at the beginning of the year, but when his Thundering Herd slowed and missed the postseason, his name has popped up a lot less regularly for vacancies.
Jeff Lebo, head coach, Tennessee Tech - The former North Carolina assistant's stock is on the rise. He led the Golden Eagles to a 20-9 record this year and appears primed to move to a more prestigious job.
Fran McCaffrey, head coach, UNC-Greensboro - The Philadelphia native has UNC-Greensboro in the NCAA Tournament after a 19-11 season. He also has Boston recruiting ties: his roster includes former Boston AAU player Courtney Eldridge, the son of former UMass star Alex Eldridge.
Johnny Dawkins, assistant, Duke - Status at one of the nation's premier programs combined with his name recognition as an ex-NBA player will make him a head coach somewhere soon. Previous Blue Devil assistants have landed with Delaware in the past, which would make UMass a viable possibility.
Karl Hobbs, assistant, Connecticut - He's expected to end up somewhere soon, but could UMass fans accept a Husky at the helm?
Fran Fraschilla, head coach, New Mexico - An East Coast guy who reportedly would like to return to the Northeast, where his recruiting contacts are far stronger than when he was a coach at St. John's and Manhattan. He and Marcum reportedly are acquainted with one another.
OTHER POSSIBILITIES: Gary Waters, head coach Kent; Max Good, interim head coach, UNLV; Dennis Felton, head coach, Western Kentucky; Jeff Ruland, head coach, Iona; Eddie Fogler, former head coach, South Carolina.
MHERST - In a lot of ways, Bruiser Flint never really had a chance.
The volumes of sports history are cluttered with the stories of assistant coaches who replaced legends and never quite lived up to their predecessor's success.
For every Tom Izzo (who won a national championship following Jud Heathcoate at Michigan State), there are several Les Robinsons, Brian Mahoneys and Joey Meyers, who followed Jim Valvano, Lou Carnesseca and Ray Meyer, respectively.
Even Bill Guthridge, who went to two Final Fours in his three years, could never quite escape Dean Smith's shadow at North Carolina.
Bruiser finished up his radio show in front of his wife Rene and daughter Jada (lower left), athletic trainer Ron Laham (standing left) and assistant coach Mike Connors (standing left-center).
For Flint, the shade was cast by John Calipari, the coach who took UMass from local embarrassment to national power in the early- to mid-1990s.
Flint was an assistant under him, and while Calipari is still on one Flint's closest friends, his existence was always hard for Flint to live up to in the eyes of the school's fans.
He wasn't the slick salesman Calipari was. His personality didn't beckon the national news media to spend long stretches in the 413 area code. For that brief stretch in the mid 1990s, it was Calipari's icon status that filled the new Mullins Center as much as a winning basketball team.
People from all over the state that didn't know a box-and-one from the penalty box came to Amherst because it was a place to be seen.
Flint didn't offer that. He is a genuinely nice man who cared about his players and the program, but under him, UMass became just a spot to watch basketball instead of a place to network.
This trend was encapsulated by the opening game of the 1998-99 season. The Minutemen were ranked No. 23 in the nation at the time and played Niagara in the first round of the prestigious Preseason NIT. The game drew just over 5,000 people, which at the time was smallest crowd ever in the building.
Flint was hurt, too, by the fact that the Minutemen were never just good or pretty good under Calipari. They went from horrible to among the nation's elite in a hurry. That status would have been nearly impossible to maintain even if Calipari had stayed. But he left, and many UMass fans blamed Flint for the drop-off during any rebuilding.
They assumed that in eight years, it had been possible for the Minutemen to catch up with the history and tradition enjoyed by Kentucky, Kansas, Duke and North Carolina for decades. It was irrational thinking, but Flint took the blame in their eyes when it turned out not to be true.
The ghost of Marcus Camby plagued Flint as well. It was a stroke of luck that allowed Camby to land in Amherst anyway. Six-foot-11 eventual national players of the year go to the Atlantic Coast Conference, the Big Ten or the Southeastern Conference, not the Atlantic 10. Overcoming that trend is a once-in-a-lifetime chance for a school. There would not have been a Final Four without Camby, and expecting UMass to be able to replace Camby was pipe-dreaming.
Making matters worse was the threat of NCAA sanctions or probation stemming from Camby's dealings with two agents, which made it difficult for Flint to recruit in his first two years. The lack of enough serviceable new talent partially led to the team's recent struggles.
When a team isn't winning enough to satisfy its fans, things like running a clean program and graduating players, both of which Flint did, get lost in the shuffle when the coach is forced to resign.
Bob Marcum (seated to Bruiser's right) built his case against Flint long before the 2000-01 season started.
If he doesn't hit a home run in this hiring process, the athletic department will be in further trouble financially. The first time things are unsatisfactory, the coach takes the fall. After that, the athletic director has to watch out.
Flint absorbed the responsibility not only for wins and losses, but for the fiscal state of the school's athletic department.
The lack of fans at Mullins was blamed solely on Flint. The fact that until this year UMass' method of selling tickets was archaic never came into play. Even now it costs the same price to buy season tickets as it does to purchase a ticket each game individually. A seat in the last row costs as much as the first.
Donations are down as well, but it's easier to blame Flint than to explore why a large number of boosters feel mistreated by chief fundraiser John Nitardy, another Marcum hire.
If replacing Flint doesn't immediately start a resurgence for the program on and off the field, Marcum could feel the heat.
Flint is well regarded in coaching circles and by the national media, which makes it likely that he will land another job someplace right away.
In the long run, this move may be beneficial for him. The animosity between Flint and Marcum made for an impossible relationship. The relief of the tension that came from that may have led to Flint's upbeat attitude Monday.
"I'll be all right," he said. "I'm going to land on my feet somewhere."
He probably will. Will the athletic department?
he end came as expected yesterday afternoon when Bruiser Flint resigned as the University of Massachusetts men's basketball coach after meeting with school officials all afternoon.
Athletic director Bob Marcum now will begin what he says will be a comprehensive search for a coach who can not only win games but also fill seats at Mullins Center.
''I had a good time; it was a great opportunity,'' said Flint. ''And I am leaving here not bitter but better, and that's the most important thing.''
Reportedly, Marcum's top choice for a successor is Providence's Tim Welsh, but that seems a long shot, since moving from the Big East to the Atlantic 10 is generally not considered a wise career decision.
When asked if he had any interest in UMass, Welsh laughed and said, ''I've got enough to handle worrying about Penn State [Providence's first-round opponent in the NCAA Tournament]. I don't even want to talk about it now.''
Flint, 35, ends a 12-year stint on the UMass basketball staff, the last five as head coach. He was an assistant on John Calipari's staff for seven years and took over the head job in 1996, going 86-72 and reaching the postseason three times (two NCAAs, one NIT).
But it was the Minutemen's failure to reach the postseason this year, after a 15-15 campaign, that doomed him.
''I knew if we didn't get to the NCAAs I wouldn't be here,'' said Flint. ''I never thought we would get off to the [2-9] start we did. We got off to a tough start. Maybe it was the schedule, maybe not.
''It's not wins and losses that determine how you did your job. It's the kids. And to have them checking up on me like they have been tells me I did a good job as a coach and they appreciate it. It's a family. The last two years, so many guys have called back to see if I'm OK.''
Flint rallied the Minutemen from that bad start and brought them to the Atlantic 10 championship game, which they lost Saturday to Temple. A win would have meant an automatic NCAA bid.
''I thought we showed a lot of character this weekend, showed we have a good future,'' said UMass guard Shannon Crooks. ''But other people didn't see it going that way. We should have played better in earlier games, but we just tried to put every game we lost behind us and move on to the next and try our hardest to win that one.''
Added guard Jameel Pugh, ''It's part of the business and it's the business he is in. He told us not to worry about him because he will coach again. It's just that he will not be coaching us.
''It's sad to see him go because he was a big part of why I came to UMass. And if the university is getting rid of him, I really hope they can get someone who does better. I am used to playing for him, and it's hard to see him with that pressure on him.''
Flint had one year remaining on his contract, at $155,000, for which he was paid.
Marcum indicated that the basketball program wasn't generating enough revenue under Flint. ''We exist on fees, gate receipts, support from the institution and the state. Or we don't make it,'' said Marcum. ''The programs that get in trouble are the ones whose goals are beyond their resources. They have unlimited expectations and limited resources.''
Said Flint, ''No hard feelings with those guys. Bob Marcum gave me the opportunity, and I thank him for that.
''I've been in the Atlantic 10 for 16 years as a player, assistant coach, head coach. We get caught up in a lot of stuff like filling the seats. I remember when they used to play in [Curry Hicks] Cage and they would say there were 1,000 people in attendance and there were really 200.
''I tell the story about when I was playing against UMass in the Cage and one time a full-court pass was thrown over my head and the ball bounced up into the stands. It got stuck between two seats. And because there were no fans up there, I had to run up into the stands to get the ball out from between the seats.
''So I know where UMass is coming from and I feel proud to have been a part of bringing the program to where it is now.''
With Marcum considering Welsh and other coaches whose teams are in the NCAA Tournament, a hiring isn't expected to be imminent.
Sources close to the situation say Marcum is willing to put together a package that could exceed $600,000, with incentives tied to attendance and television revenue. Whether that is enough to entice Welsh away from the Big East is questionable, but he probably will listen at the very least.
Any school that hires Welsh must also pay a buyout fee, worth a reported $100,000.
Welsh, who revived the Providence program much the way Al Skinner has returned Boston College to the heights, could be enticed by higher-profile openings. A job like Michigan, which reportedly is ready to part ways with Brian Ellerbe, would certainly interest Welsh. Another possibility could be North Carolina State, where Herb Sendek is feeling some heat after again missing postseason play.
If Welsh is out of the picture, UMass could turn to a head coach at a rising mid-major power such as UNC-Greensboro, where Fran McCaffery has done some major reconstruction; it plays No. 1 Stanford in the first round of the NCAA West Regional.
Another name reportedly of interest to Marcum is St. Bonaventure's Jim Baron.
Of course, there are a couple of very high-profile coaches available, but Marcum didn't sound especially hopeful about them.
Regarding Bobby Knight: ''I don't know how serious he would be about it. Would I talk to him? Why wouldn't I talk to him? If he's interested, and even if he isn't interested, I would talk to him. I know about the controversies, but I would talk to him.''
Regarding Rick Pitino, a UMass alumnus: ''I haven't talked to him directly, but from the people who are familiar with him, he supposedly is not interested. If he was, it would certainly be a plus. The packages he has been involved with have been worth more than we could offer here. But we have a good job here.''
Flint, meanwhile, has stated that he wants to continue his career as a head coach. The primary openings on his list are La Salle, a job that opened last week when Speedy Morris was fired, and Drexel, which fired Steve Seymour last week. Another opportunity will develop - perhaps as early as today - when Northeastern makes an announcement that Rudy Keeling will no longer be its head coach.
''I will have other opportunities,'' said Flint. ''People can see I did a good job. I can hold my head up. I won games, and how the kids did, they speak for themselves in how much they accomplished off the court, academically, and how hard they played.
''Your first job, you have to learn things, and some things I would probably do differently.''
The NU job could be the most intriguing for Flint, even though America East is a step below the Atlantic 10. First of all, it keeps Flint in Boston, an area he has grown to like and one in which he has recruited. It also offers what appears to be an opportunity to win quickly.
America East is losing four schools, including some of its stronger ones (league champion Hofstra, Drexel, Delaware, and Towson). Joining the league are Albany and Stony Brook, so it appears to be a wide-open league.
''I'm going to miss him a lot,'' said Crooks. ''When I decided to go to another school, St. John's, and things didn't work out, he with no hesitation took me back. I thank him for that. He's a good guy and good coach, and it's going to be hard to see him go. You have to move on and be strong.''
l Skinner said he was ''very disappointed'' to learn that his friend, Bruiser Flint, had resigned yesterday at UMass, Skinner's alma mater.
''I think he was put in a very difficult place,'' Skinner said. ''Over the last few years, you continually heard that if he didn't win, he would be fired, and that's a very difficult situation.
''The nonleague schedule he had made it extremely difficult for him to have the success he had. To be in the conference championship game is an indication of how good a coach he is.
''Given the proper support and a good opportunity, I think he would've been a lot more successful there. If I didn't get the support here at BC, there's no way this team could've accomplished what we did.''
ames "Bruiser" Flint was the toast of the college basketball world after a big game a couple of seasons ago, prompting calls from "The Today Show," "ABC World News Tonight" and more than a dozen other national media outlets.
Flint had used a four-letter word during a post-game radio interview so he suspended himself from the next game. It was, if you'll pardon the four-letter word, a slip. Flint apologized and sat out a game — triggering all the media attention.
If you're the parent of a young basketball player with hoop dreams, you knew then that you wanted your son to play for Bruiser Flint.
Flint resigned yesterday after taking the Minutemen to three post-season appearances (two NCAA and one National Invitation Tournament) with a career record of 86-72 in his five years as head coach. He's no Bobby Knight.
But then, Bobby Knight is no Bruiser Flint.
Flint used his high-profile position to do a lot of good things for the community, such as taking time to talk with inner-city kids in Springfield and emphasizing the importance of education.
It was clear to us during Saturday night's heartbreaking loss to Temple that the Minutemen were playing as much for Flint's job as they were for an NCAA tournament berth. They didn't want to lose — more important, they didn't want Flint to lose his job.
For them, and for us as well, Bruiser Flint represents all that's good about college basketball.
A winning team does wonders for the university, as the John Calipari era showed us. The Minutemen came oh-so-close in 1995-1996 when it reached the NCAA Final Four in a season that gave the university more national exposure than at at any time in its history. Since then, the program has been judged as much by the number of empty seats in the Mullins Center as by the number of victories.
The search for a successor should begin immediately, and we hope they will find someone cut from the same finely tailored cloth as Bruiser Flint.
As we've said before, what university president wouldn't trade a few department heads and a professor-to-be-named later for a coach who could lead the team to a trip to the Final Four.
Flint, however, has taught us that it takes more than an NCAA berth to be a winner.
hen James "Bruiser" Flint was forced to resign on Monday, it said more about the prevailing state of big-time college athletics than it did about his competence. After all, Flint had a winning - though not spectacular - record in five years as head men's basketball coach at the University of Massachusetts. From all appearances, he ran what is referred to as a clean program, meaning that he recruited within the rules and that his players went to class and stayed out of off-the-court trouble. In the highly competitive world of Division 1 basketball, that is no small thing.
On a personal level, even many of Flint's detractors say they admire his integrity and his commitment to his players.
None of these attributes was enough to save Flint because, above all, big-time men's basketball is a business. At UMass, it is the only team on campus that has a chance to generate revenue. As such, the team is under tremendous pressure to pull in gate receipts and money for television appearances. As the school's flagship team, men's basketball also is responsible for the lion's share of donations to the UMass Athletic Fund, which helps support all 29 intercollegiate teams.
That means that the entire athletic department to some degree relies on the success of men's basketball. While the team's record has been mediocre in recent seasons, it has taken a big hit at the box office. Fans spoiled by the astonishing success of the early 1990s lost interest in a team that had become just average. The empty seats have at times outnumbered the spectators at the Mullins Center. Ultimately, that was what sealed Flint's fate.
Flint chose to go out with dignity because he knows the rules at this level: Coaches are paid handsomely because they bring in money. If they don't produce enough to justify their compensation, they get fired.
Those rules are universally accepted in the realm of big-time college athletics, especially in football and men's basketball. Some say that this mentality shows how far college sports have strayed from their original intent. The inevitable corruption of money has taken hold. We think it's reasonable to question the role of some college sports as for-profit entertainment.
UMass, of course, is far from the worst offender. Its basketball arena, for instance, is not even half the size of those at truly big-time schools, and its football team receives far less emphasis than is found at schools in the Big Ten, for example.
However, Flint's departure is a reminder that the stakes have been raised for UMass basketball, and of what has been sacrificed in the deal.
he University of Massachusetts did not only lose its head men's basketball coach Monday - it lost a quality individual.
James "Bruiser" Flint was one of the most likeable sideline patrollers in college basketball. Flint spent 12 years at UMass, seven as an assistant to John Calipari and five as the main man for the Minutemen, and has developed great relationships in his time in Amherst.
"When you're here for 12 years you build a lot of friendships - true friendships," Flint said. "I'll always come back."
He will be back because the man is class personified.
But will he be welcomed? One would hope so. If his final public appearance is any indication then he will.
At his final radio show Flint spoke of the good times that he has had, never once mentioning the bad.
"I just remember the guys," Flint said. "The Will Herndons, the Jimmy McCoys, even the guys like Mike Williams. They were funny - they had their funny ways.
"The guys that I coached when I was the head coach, Monty [Mack], Kit [Rhymer], Charlton Clarke and Lari Ketner. You will never forget those guys."
Whether fans and critics of UMass basketball want to believe it or not, the bad did not only happen when he was in charge. Scandals happened when John Calipari was here - things were not as picture perfect as they are made out to be.
When Calipari was not making friends with the student body, he was having Final Four banners removed from the William D. Mullins Center. So the Final Four that UMass reached in 1996 actually did not happen - at least according to the NCAA - and in actuality that is all that counts.
So the fantasy world in which Massachusetts fans live was not as wonderful as legend has made them out to be. Nobody questioned Cal's character when he abruptly left for a job with the NBA's New Jersey Nets. Do not be fooled - Cal knew that there were problems in paradise.
Granted, Bruiser did not have his own clothing store downtown or five consecutive NCAA tournament appearances, but what the man did have was character.
At times his character was put into question because he was a players coach, but there are not very many critics of Duke's Mike Krzyzewski. After all, he is a players' coach too. But he is a coach that wins and unfortunately for Flint he was a victim of a program's prior successes.
But success is all too often measured by what is done on the court - in this case that is what happened. Bruiser's success extends from the home to the classroom.
"I told [the players] in the home when I recruit them, 'when you're with me, you're with me for life,'" Flint said. "No matter where I am, no matter what I'm doing, I'm going to be there for my guys."
The 35-year old Flint has also has a graduation rate that is unparalleled. In May the coach will have seen 13 of 14 players eligible for graduation depart with degrees. Where does that show up on the stat sheet?
Obviously that does not bring the kind of recognition that this university wants.
Apparently the amount of wins does not even matter. Is a career record 86-72 not enough? Fourteen games over .500 will usually be enough to bring praise to a coach, but not at UMass.
The 1990s brought national identification to a program that had been mired in mediocrity for most of its existence. Then, all of a sudden, a No. 1 ranking is obtained and everyone expects that the Maroon and White be a title contender year-in and year-out.
Come on people, you know this is a ridiculous. A decade of good teams does not allow the bar for success to be set so high that touches the ceiling of the sky. Twenty wins every year is not where this team is or ever was headed. Does anyone know the number of 20-win season that the Minutemen had before the 1990s?
Five - the exact number of years that the University gave Bruiser a chance to succeed. In this case his chance at success was opaque at best. He had to follow in the footsteps of a "legend" - a legend that abandoned ship when the seas became rough.
Flint came here in the midst of a crisis. His departure puts the University in a bit of a crisis as well. For most of the season, fans, or the lack thereof, were screaming for UMass alum Rick Pitino or former Indiana coach Bobby Knight.
These are two of the highest-profile men in all of basketball. Is UMass really ready for men like these? Absolutely not.
Although Pitino is a proven winner at the collegiate level, he is not known for having the best of relationships with his players - the same is true for Knight. Both have had their fair share of on the court problems that have been well documented.
Pitino was part of the reason in which Boston Celtics forward Antoine Walker left Kentucky. And who can forget the antics of the lovable Knight? This is the same guy that slapped his son in practice, has thrown chairs across the floor at IU's Assembly Hall and choked a player during a practice. Both would be a perfect fit in liberal Amherst - I think not?
UMass lost one of the true "good guys" when it forced Flint to resign. Perhaps women's basketball coach Joanie O'Brien said it best - "It's part of the business and you deal with it. It's just hard when bad things happen to good people - that's exactly what he is, a good person."
The two coaches have both had to endure harsh times in their tenures, but the two always waged on and never did any disrespect to the University. Through thick and thin the two helped each other.
"We spent more time sitting in those chair we have in front of our desk's, just talking - the good days and the bad days," O'Brien said. "[The women's coaching staff] understood what was happening.
"When [the men's team] struggled playing I understood, when [the women's team] struggled playing [Flint] understood. You're always there for each other."
It is just too bad that UMass could not be there for Bruiser.
"One week [the fans] were talking about me being fired," Flint said. "We go on a little run and they were talking 'yeah Bruiser lets go.'
"One day they're patting you on the back - the next day they're kicking you in the butt."
The foot was raised since the end of last season just waiting to kick. Bruiser knew that nothing short of an NCAA tournament berth would save his job. And his team almost did it. The Minutemen came within minutes of defeating arch rival Temple in the tournament final, eventually falling 76-65 in his final game at the helm.
So now that the proverbial butt has been kicked the former coach has to seek other opportunities. For someone with a resume like his it should not be difficult to find a program that fits.
"I think I'm going to have my opportunities. I don't know where, but I'm going to have my opportunities," Flint said.
Flint has been rumored as the replacement for William "Speedy" Morris at LaSalle. Morris was fired after the Explorers' loss to St. Joseph's in the A-10 tournament. This would seem to be the perfect fit for Flint, as he would return to his native Philadelphia as well as remain within the conference. He has also been mentioned as a candidate for the Northeastern job that is currently held by Rudy Keeling. Keeling is expected to removed from the position.
As for UMass: poor job with handling this one. You just made the age-old adage of "nice guys finish last" come true.