AN DIEGO - They are going their separate ways now. The University of Massachusetts is conducting a full-court search for a new basketball coach to replace Bruiser Flint, who resigned Monday after a five-year reign.
And Flint is exploring a series of options that could result in work next year as a head coach.
UMass athletic director Bob Marcum spent most of yesterday in Boston in a series of university meetings, but made it clear that his search for a coach would accelerate once the first round of NCAA and NIT games were completed.
''We just have to let some games be played and then we can see what happens,'' said Marcum. ''I would think by next week we can start talking to people.''
Marcum won't be talking to Providence coach Tim Welsh, who said that his only focus now was on beating Penn State in tomorrow's NCAA South Regional first-round game in New Orleans. Welsh also let it be known that making the switch from the Big East to the Atlantic 10 would be something he probably would not consider seriously.
Marcum acknowledged that he had backed off Welsh but was intrigued by another coach with a Big East connection, former Seton Hall coach P.J. Carlesimo.
Carlesimo wants to return to coaching. Word had it yesterday that Carlesimo, who is also coming off an NBA coaching career that included stints at Portland and Golden State, might be in the mix at Nevada-Las Vegas.
In the NCAA field, UMass definitely has an interest in UNC-Greensboro coach Fran McCaffery, who has taken the Spartans to the NCAA Tournament in his second season.
The former Lehigh head coach and Notre Dame assistant figures his team's season will end this afternoon when the 16th-seeded Spartans face No. 1 seed Stanford in a West Regional game.
McCaffery said if UMass called, he would listen. ''I think it would be a great opportunity,'' he said.
McCaffery certainly has the pedigree UMass and Marcum seek. He grew up in Philadelphia and played at the University of Pennsylvania, graduating in 1982.
Marcum also is reported to have Holy Cross coach Ralph Williard, St. Bonaventure coach Jim Baron, and former Celtics coach Chris Ford on a list that should be completed by Sunday night.
''We've got people out all over the place, checking things out,'' said Marcum. ''We're still in the information-gathering process.''
Flint is studying openings at three schools - Northeastern, Drexel, and La Salle.
Each has merits and drawbacks, and Flint is gathering information and making calls.
''I've talked to some people at La Salle,'' said Flint, who made it clear there hasn't been any official contact with any school, but he expects that will come soon. ''I'm also trying to find out what the situation is at Northeastern. It could be good, but I want to make sure the commitment is there and I can work with people.''
There is some question whether La Salle is ready to make a winning commitment, although those familiar with the program say that after eight consecutive losing seasons under Speedy Morris, the hunger to compete with the other Philadelphia schools, such as Temple, St. Joseph's, and Villanova, is greater than ever.
Drexel remains a wild card. It would seem to be the least likely landing place of the three. The school is bolting the America East for the Colonial Athletic Association in two seasons, although there is reportedly a movement that could send Drexel and its other defectors (Delaware, Towson, and Hofstra) out of the America East as soon as next season.
But Drexel, which fired coach Steve Seymour last week in the anticipated move to the CAA, is reportedly ready to put together a package worth $200,000 a year, an impressive amount by America East and CAA standards.
The Northeastern job could prove the most attractive immediately, especially if the America East tosses out the four defecting schools before next season.
Like Marcum, Northeastern athletic director Ian McCaw is taking names. ''I'm just swamped,'' said McCaw yesterday from his office. ''We're getting a lot of positive feedback on this job. I'm going to have to sit down and sift through all of this.''
One of them most definitely will be Flint, who says he has had informal contact with people representing Northeastern. ''It's definitely a situation that I would be interested in,'' said Flint. ''I've talked to some people already and we'll see how that goes.''
Also reported to be on McCaw's list is Ohio State assistant coach Paul Biancardi and Ford, although Ford's lack of experience in recruiting will be an issue, both at Northeastern and UMass.
The stage seems to be set for the next round, which means that by the end of the weekend - when half the teams playing postseason basketball will be done for the season - both Flint and UMass will have a better idea of the path they want to follow.