MHERST — For the first time since he became University of Massachusetts men's basketball coach in 1996, Bruiser Flint's name has been linked with a job at another school — but it doesn't appear he'll get it.
Flint's name has come up at the University of Miami, now that Leonard Hamilton has left to coach the NBA's Washington Wizards. Yesterday, Flint declined to discuss the situation.
"There's nothing to be said," he said. Asked if that amounted to no-comment, he said "pretty much."
But he didn't deny the reports, which have circulated on the Internet. "What can I say?" he said. "I'm flattered."
Miami officials could not be reached for comment, and the search process has barely begun. But sources close to the program, speaking on anonymity, say that while Flint's name is part of a long list of possible candidates, a shorter and more likely list probably does not include his name — at least not right now.
Flint's contract runs for two more seasons, but his 31-32 mark in the last two years has put him on precarious ground at UMass.
The most commonly mentioned names in the Miami search include Perry Clark (Tulane), Mike Brey (Delaware), Gary Waters (Kent) and Dana Altman (Creighton). Former Miami great and Hall of Famer Rick Barry is openly lobbying for the job, but his provocative nature is not considered popular with many members of the administration and alumni.
Flint's assets include a reputation for running a clean program with high standards, as Hamilton did. And Flint could make a shorter list if the Hurricanes choose to replace Hamilton with another African-American coach.
inally, the warring camps of University of Massachusetts men's basketball are in agreement about Bruiser Flint.
Told that Flint was at least a long shot for the vacant job at Miami, his supporters no doubt saw this as a chance for a fine man to escape his current no-win situation. They'd say "Take it."
Told the same thing, his detractors no doubt saw it as a chance to be rid of him. They'd say "Take it," too. At last, a consensus on Flint.
This is another of those rumors that flourish on ESPN or the Internet and wind up being treated as hard fact. It's journalism of the new millennium: if it hits cyberspace or cable, it's credible.
It's pretty clear Flint's name has come up, though, and the episode reminds us how uncomfortable both sides feel about the current, uneasy arrangement between Flint and a UMass world that is sharply divided over him.
The critics think Flint isn't good for UMass, and they say so freely. Flint must wonder if anything he does will be good enough, but he can't say so freely.
The Miami job offers everyone an escape hatch, which seemed so appealing to both sides that it gave legs to a shaky story.
When Leonard Hamilton left the Hurricanes for the Washington Wizards, Flint's name was thrown into the mix, the first time it's been linked with another school. Of course, one credible published list mentioned 14 candidates, but not Flint.
Still, Flint appreciates what interest he has received. Why not? It's the first form of flattery he's heard in years.
His detractors think he's been given a big favor, being allowed to stay and get ridiculed some more. Now the Big East regular-season co-champion thinks he's OK. Who expected that?
Flint does have a few positives Miami might like. Having cleaned up its football program and admired Hamilton's standards, Miami likes coaches with values. Hamilton, who will reportedly have input in the choice, likes Flint. It's also believed Miami would prefer another African American.
He also has a better chance than Rick Barry, who is pleading so hard for the job that you'd think he was trying to rescue the Lindbergh baby and not his own career. But Barry has antagonized his old school, and if Flint finishes 99th on a list of 100, you can bet Barry was No. 100.
This story also reminds us that the farther one travels from Amherst, the higher the regard for Flint. He's our version of the candidate with a better chance of winning the general election than his own precinct.
But his precinct is UMass, where he'll probably never please the masses. And if John Calipari wins big at Memphis with the help of Tony Barbee, an assistant he hired away from Flint, it may get worse by making UMass look like a Memphis farm team.
No matter what, though, Flint can't win at UMass. If his team makes the NCAA tournament, it would save Flint's job but wouldn't stop all the criticism, especially if he loses in the first round. If UMass doesn't make it, is that Northampton High job still open?
And you have to wonder if next year, for all its promise, may wind up in another desperate dash for a postseason spot, leaving Flint's future swaying in the breeze.
His contract runs out in 2002, and no one has been more true to his school. But Flint must wonder if his loyalty will wind up hurting his career rather than helping it.
Apparently, though, somebody out there likes him. That has to be reassuring to a coach who has learned to live without praise.
Even if Flint wins at UMass, he can't win the battle of public opinion. If you're offered the job, Bruiser, take it.
Everybody will be happy for you. And I mean everybody — those who respect you and wish you the best, and those who don't.