MHERST — At least two signed University of Massachusetts men's basketball recruits are reconsidering their decisions to join the program.
According to Notre Dame Prep of Fitchburg coach Bill Barton, 6-foot-8 senior Mauricio Branwell was so upset over UMass coach Bruiser Flint's departure that he is looking to go elsewhere. Barton said that might change, though, once the shock of the news subsides.
And shooting guard Eddie Basden of Greenbelt, Md., the prize of the 2001-02 crop, is no longer sure he wants to be a Minuteman, either.
Flint resigned Monday, though it was evident that he was forced out upon a recommendation by athletic director Bob Marcum. He may not be unemployed for long, though — sources said there is already definite interest in exploring his candidacy at La Salle, and Northeastern is expected to consider him after firing Rudy Keeling yesterday.
"I don't know," Flint said with a chuckle last night. "I'm just sitting home, being unemployed."
Signed UMass recruits Branwell and Basden, meanwhile, are not sure they want to come if Flint is not here. Reaction from the other UMass recruit, guard Jeremiah King of Philadelphia Christian Academy, remains unknown, since neither King nor his coaches could be reached yesterday.
King is considered the least likely of the three recruits to make an immediate impact. But Basden is a top-50 prospect who signed with UMass largely because of his affinity for Flint and associate coach Geoff Arnold, who is also out of work.
"We're going to explore all of Eddie's options," said his coach, Glenn Farello of Eleanor Roosevelt High School. "It's too early to say what he'll do right now. But he's extremely disappointed Bruiser is gone — Eddie really liked Bruiser and Geoff."
Marcum said Monday he would release recruits from their signed letters of intent, if that was their preference. He refused to do so in 1996 with Ajmal Basit, a John Calipari recruit who wound up played for Flint until being kicked off the team in 1999. He later transferred to Delaware.
Once a letter of intent is signed, a recruit cannot switch to another school unless the first school releases him. If that doesn't happen, he cannot play for another Division I school that year.
"Maybe Mauricio will calm down," Barton said. "He wants to weigh his options, and a lot of kids find out the options aren't as good as they think they are.
"I know one Big East school that would take him right now, though," Barton said. "For UMass, Mauricio is an outright steal.
"I knew he was really fond of the UMass staff," Barton said. "A lot of these kids don't have parental support at home, so they're looking for that. I know he really liked those UMass guys."
he father of University of Massachusetts men's basketball player Micah Brand said he expects the 6-foot-11 forward to talk with his family next week about whether he should transfer.
Brand, who shared the Atlantic 10 Most Improved Player of the Year award with teammate Kit Rhymer, was visibly upset when Flint was relieved of his duties Monday. But his father said last night that it's too early to predict what the 6-foot-11 sophomore will do.
"Let's give it some time," Tracy Brand said. "We really haven't talked about it. I'm sure we'll all sit down together during spring break (next week)."
Meanwhile, Northeastern athletic director Ian McCaw has received numerous calls supporting Flint for the Huskies' job, and Flint appears to be on the school's short list.
"We hope to identify the top six to eight candidates by the end of this week," McCaw said. Flint is undoubtedly in that group, based on his strong rapport within the Boston recruiting community and his 86-72 record at UMass.
"This is an important hire for us," McCaw said. "We haven't had any conversation with candidates yet. We're just getting rolling."
In the UMass search, North Carolina-Greensboro coach Fran McCaffery has expressed interest, and P.J. Carlesimo's name has surfaced. But Providence coach Tim Welsh does not appear interested, and New Mexico's Fran Fraschilla also reportedly has reservations, despite his desire to move back East.
St. Bonaventure coach Jim Baron's name has also been floated.
MHERST - Whoever is chosen as the next University of Massachusetts men's basketball coach is going to have some recruiting to do.
After Bruiser Flint was dismissed as the school's head men's basketball coach Monday, Jeremiah King, a combo guard who signed a letter of intent, decided not to attend UMass, according to his AAU coach, Jim Salmon.
"He will not attend UMass. He's upset, as am I," Salmon said. "I intend to call the school and find out if he can be released from the letter of intent. He came there to play for James Flint. He doesn't wish to attend a school that makes decisions that way."
Edward Basden and Maurecio Branwell, who signed letters of intent to attend UMass, have also expressed reluctance about whether or not to honor their commitments with Flint gone.
Some of the current players are having reservations as well.
Freshman forward Raheim Lamb, who sat out this season as a partial qualifier, hasn't decided his next move.
"As of right now I want to wait and weigh my options," he said. "I want to wait and see who the coach is."
Freshman Willie Jenkins and junior Jackie Rogers had similar thoughts.
"I came here to play for Bru, but I can't take that out on the new coach," Jenkins said. "I'd have to play for a new coach if I transferred anyway. I'm going to wait and see. I'm going to go home for spring break (next week) and think about it. All I can do is work hard and see what happens."
"I only have one year left so I'm going to wait and see who they hire and then I'll decide what I'm going to do," Rogers said.
Anthony Anderson, a freshman point guard who also sat out the year, is planning on staying. "I'm disappointed because he was the one that recruited me," Anderson said. "But for right now, I'm planning on staying."
Freshman Jameel Pugh said he was leaning toward staying if certain standards were upheld.
"With Bru you always knew he was on you to go to class and to graduate and stay out of trouble," Pugh said. "I came here more than 50 percent because of Bru. If a new coach can present something similar to that, I think I'm going to stay. But I have to do what's best for me, not what's best for (Athletic Director) Bob Marcum."
Pugh said he was upset that the players weren't consulted before a decision was made.
"If he asked us what we thought, this decision wouldn't have happened," said Pugh, who added that he thought the players should be consulted in the search for a new coach.
Of the players eligible to return, Micah Brand, Eric Williams, Kitwana Rhymer and Ronell Blizzard could not be reached for comment.
CALIPARI WEIGHS IN - Former UMass coach John Calipari, who is now the head coach at Memphis, weighed in on Flint's firing on ESPN's "Up Close" Wednesday.
"I don't agree with the firing," Calipari told host Gary Miller. "But I understand. Bob Marcum hired him and extended him. It wasn't about wins and losses. The bar was set so high and attendance started to leak out and contributions started to go down. It was a financial decision.
"He did some great things. I mean, he beat John Chaney more than I did," Calipari said. "It's a hard job up there, a hard job. I hope if there is a chancellor or an athletic director looking for a coach, they'll give him a call. Bruiser is a great coach. He deserves a great job. I'll help him in any way I can."
BLACK COMMUNITY UPSET - In the wake of Flint's dismissal, UMass African American Studies Professor John Bracey was angry at Marcum.
"I think they made a mistake," he said. "They should have fired Marcum and kept Bruiser. "This was one of the dumbest things the university has ever done. They've alienated all the major recruiting people in Boston, New York and Philadelphia for the next 30 years."
Bracey, who has been critical of Marcum in the past, said he didn't expect a black coach to be considered for the vacancy.
"We have one black assistant and no black head coaches in 29 programs," Bracey said. "They haven't even mentioned any black candidates. Marcum should go back to Charlotte Motor Speedway where he's had some success."
After Flint's dismissal, assistant football coach Gerard Wilcher is the school's only black coach.
Marcum said a search committee hasn't been created yet to find the next coach, but he said that there would be fair minority representation on the committee and in the candidate pool.
"We've always had proper representation and we've made sure various constituencies are involved," Marcum said. "I think our record speaks for itself."
Marcum has a Friday morning meeting set up with Chancellor David K. Scott to begin forming the committee.
NO CONTACT FROM CHRIS FORD - Former Boston Celtics coach Chris Ford announced publicly Tuesday that he was interested in the coaching vacancies at Northeastern and UMass, and planned to have his agent contact both schools.
Marcum said that as of Wednesday morning, he hadn't heard from Ford yet.
"No one has contacted me yet," said Marcum, who was in Boston Wednesday afternoon. "I haven't talked to him, but I'd certainly be willing to listen to whatever they have to say."
Marcum said since Flint was dismissed, he's had plenty of suggestions for candidates.
"I've gotten all kinds of phone calls from people recommending people," Marcum said.
The Boston Globe reported Tuesday that Marcum was trying to put together a package that would be worth $600,000 for a new coach, a figure the athletic director disputed.
"I have no idea where they got that figure," said Marcum, who said the Flint earned between $350,000-$400,000 including base salary, summer camp, radio and TV show contracts, speaking engagements and the sneaker contract.
ARE THEY INTERESTED? - Two names that have popped up as potential candidates for the UMass opening haven't given clear indication whether they're interested in the opening.
Providence coach Tim Welsh dodged the question.
"Why comment on speculation? That just feeds speculation," Welsh told the Providence Journal. "There's nothing to deny. I have no intention of talking to anyone else. My mind-set is to be here. To have to answer every rumor about every coaching job... My God, 20 jobs are open."
Hofstra coach Jay Wright hasn't commented, but national college basketball experts have. ESPN's Andy Katz said Wright's not interested, while CBS Sportsline's Dan Wetzel says he is.
f any of the University of Massachusetts men's basketball players plan on transferring, they haven't indicated as much to Athletic Director Bob Marcum.
At a meeting with the players Thursday, Marcum said he encouraged them to bring any concerns they had with the coaching situation to him. Former UMass coach Bruiser Flint was forced to resign on Monday after five years.
"It went fine," Marcum said. "No one indicated to me that they had any intention of transferring and they weren't sure how those stories got started."
Marcum met with Chancellor David K. Scott on Friday and they discussed what UMass officials wanted in prospective candidates.
Two former college coaches - P.J. Carlesimo and Bobby Cremins - have both indicated a desire to return to college coaching, but Marcum said there has been no contact between UMass and either of them.
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Flint will meet will Drexel officials next week and Northeastern administrators the following week to explore the head coaching vacancies at both schools.
"I'm going to visit with them and see what they have to say," said Flint, who added that nothing had been set up yet with La Salle, which also expressed interest in him.
After Darelle Porter resigned at Duquesne Friday, the Atlantic 10 has four openings - UMass, La Salle, Rhode Island and Duquesne.
Flint had yet to hear anything from Duquesne, but would listen to officials there.
"Hey, when you're unemployed, you'll listen to anybody," Flint said.
Former UMass assistant John Robic, a Pittsburgh native who is currently the head coach at Youngstown State, could be a candidate at Duquesne as well.
Flint leaves for Memphis Saturday for a mini-vacation and a visit with former UMass coach John Calipari. Flint will attend Memphis' Monday night NIT game against UTEP.
MHERST — The University of Massachusetts has apparently lost a recruit in the aftermath of the dismissal of Bruiser Flint as men's basketball coach.
Jeremiah King, a guard who transferred from Winchendon School to Philadelphia Christian Academy in the middle of this academic year, will apparently seek to be released from his letter of intent. In published reports, AAU coach Jim Salmon said King had changed his mind.
The high school coaches of guard Eddie Basden and forward Mauricio Branwell, the other two signed recruits for 2001-02, told the Union-News the players were also re-evaluating their plans. Branwell is leaning toward attending another school at this time.
Most players already in the program have indicated they're staying, though a handful — including Micah Brand, Jackie Rogers and Willie Jenkins — are taking a wait-and-see attitude.
Meanwhile, a search committee is being formed to find a new UMass coach. NCAA tournament losses by Hofstra, North Carolina Greensboro and and Holy Cross are expected to lead to consideration by UMass of coaches Jay Wright, Fran McCaffery and Ralph Willard, respectively.
Wright is considered the hottest mid-major prospect, and he hasn't commented about the UMass situation. National media reports offer conflicting interpretations of whether he'd be interested.
McCaffery has expressed interest, but many sources make Willard the early frontrunner, unless Wright is interested. Holy Cross athletic director Dick Regan was enroute to Gainseville, Fla., for last night's Holy Cross-Florida NCAA women's tournament game, and could not be reached on whether his school has been asked permission to talk to Willard.
Providence coach Tim Welsh has refused comment on his own potential candidacy. Former Boston Celtics coach Chris Ford has said he'd be interested in UMass or Northeastern, an intriguing comment because his primary rival at Northeastern might be Flint.
MHERST, Mass. – Three high school basketball players who committed early to the University of Massachusetts have changed their minds in the wake of coach Bruiser Flint's forced resignation.
UMass athletics director Bob Marcum said he would release them from their commitments.
According to Monday's Boston Herald, 6-foot-6 Eddie Basden of Greenbelt, Md., 6-1 Jeremiah King of Patterson, N.J., and 6-9 Mauricio Branwell of Notre Dame of Fitchburg all have formalized decisions to seek other options.
"We have a process for release," Marcum said.
Marcum noted that until each of the three meet the NCAA's academic requirement for incoming freshmen, university-issued releases are not necessary.
All three still need a qualifying SAT score. Athletes also can attend a year of prep school to void a letter of intent.
"We're trying to weigh his options at this point," said Deborah Dawson, Basden's mother. "The coaching staff was really a big part of him wanting to go there. I know UMass is an excellent college, but I really don't think he'll want to go there now. We'd want to know who is replacing Bruiser. I just hope it all works out."
Marcum has contacted UNC-Greensboro coach Fran McCaffery about replacing Flint.
"I'm looking forward to it," McCaffery told the Boston Sunday Globe, referring to an interview for the UMass job. "I'm anxious to go up there and see some things, and talk to people."
Others reportedly on Marcum's list are Holy Cross coach Ralph Willard, Iona coach Jeff Ruland, former Boston Celtics player and coach Chris Ford, Hofstra coach Jay Wright, former Georgia Tech coach Bobby Cremins, St. Bonaventure coach Jim Baron, Tennessee Tech coach Jeff Lebo and New Mexico coach Fran Fraschilla.
Flint, who resigned under pressure one week ago, plans to meet this week with officials from Northeastern and Drexel about their openings, and plans to set an appointment date with officials from La Salle.
The Herald said Rick Pitino, former Celtics coach, has contacted Flint about an assistant's role with him if he accepts the coaching job at Louisville.
"I'd have to see what's up with that, but I'd rather be a head coach," Flint said.