here aren't many coaches whose graduation rate is still improving 22 years after they've left the sidelines, but former University of Massachusetts coach Jack Leaman can add one more to his long list of former players with degrees.
Mark Haymore, who finished his UMass playing career in 1979, will graduate Sunday.
Haymore, 44, has a basketball resume that spans four continents, and now a successful local painting business. On Sunday he'll have a bachelor's degree in sports management, an achievement he began working on 27 years ago.
Haymore's academic career has been a long one. A native of Cleveland, Ohio, the 6-foot-8 Haymore began his career at Indiana, where he played for two years and picked up a national championship ring in the process.
But tired of Knight's approach to basketball, Haymore decided to head elsewhere. Coming out of high school, Haymore was a high-profile recruit with an abundance of college offers, but upon departing Hoosierland, he found interest in him lacking.
He met Ray Wilson, a former Leaman assistant who had just become the head coach at Davidson. Wilson contacted Leaman and thought Haymore might be a good fit at UMass.
"Coach Knight killed my love for the game," Haymore admitted. "Coach Leaman helped bring it back. Coming here, I couldn't imagine a coach that didn't scream and shout and throw water bottles. It really showed me you could get it done like that.
"What I got most from Coach Leaman is talking to people like they're people," Haymore continued. "I just liked the respect that he gives you automatically. He's a very fair person."
He played two years for the Minutemen under Leaman. He led UMass with 17.1 points and 10 rebounds per game as a senior. His 57 percent career shooting is the second best percentage in the school's history, behind only Will Herndon.
Haymore was drafted in the eighth round by the Cleveland Cavaliers, but was cut in the preseason, pushing him overseas. Haymore's travels bounced him all over Europe, and South American and Asia as well.
"It would be easier to list the places I didn't play," he said. "I didn't play in Spain, Luxembourg and Finland, but I played just about everywhere else."
When he came home, Haymore decided to complete his degree requirements and was on track to do so, before suffering a heart attack while playing in a pickup game at UMass' Boyden Gym.
"Coach Leaman was unbelievable coming over. Calling up, (asking) 'Hey, do you need anything?' Doing stuff that he didn't have to do," Haymore recalled.
He was divorced shortly afterward and between paying medical bills and lawyers. Haymore had to trade his books in for a paint roller to make some money.
"I went into business, painting seven days a week for about five years, so I could get everybody paid," Haymore said.
He got himself paid too. Roll-It Right, his interior painting company in Springfield, has been successful, but there is one problem.
"I have a flourishing business, but I'm sick of it," he said. "I have dreams of selling my spray equipment and driving my van off a cliff without me in it. It's a shame I don't want to do it anymore. I'm good at it. The business runs. I don't have to worry about clientele, but I never thought I'd hate it this much."
Haymore ran into Leaman on a regular basis and his now-retired former coach would keep pushing him to get back into the classroom.
"I was a nag," Leaman admitted, laughing a little. "He knew whose office to come to when he needed a little kick in the butt."
"I'd see him in town and he'd say, 'Hurry up and finish. Life's passing you by. You already lost a lot of time. Do it for your kids,'" said Haymore, who has two daughters in their 20s and a 14-year-old son.
Two years ago, with his health and finances in order, Haymore resumed his degree pursuits, fitting classes and studying in around a busy work schedule.
This month Haymore finished, completing Sociology 381 to earn his cap and gown.
Haymore is exploring the possibility of getting into college coaching, but he is aware of how difficult breaking in can be, and is considering other options as well.
"I'm so tired of smelling like paint. I'm capable of more. I want to wear a tie. I want to look nice. I want to drive a car, not a truck," Haymore said. "I lived in Europe for so long, ideally I'd like to get a job that forced me to travel. I'd like a job that not just anybody can get."
Leaman is proud. "He's a terrific guy," he said. "I'm very happy for him. Every kid that goes through your program is like a son. You're happy when they do well. Waiting that long makes it all the sweeter. It's something that should give him pride in himself. I'm very happy he did it. I'm very proud of him."
Haymore returned Leaman's warmth. "He's a great guy. He was a great coach," Haymore said. "I'm just glad to be one of his guys."
At 6-foot-8, Haymore will stand out above most of his fellow graduates who pile into McGuirk Stadium to hear Kelsey Grammer's commencement speech. But Haymore said his merry-making will be at a minimum.
"Partying and celebrating, that's nice if you're 22," he said. "But I'm 44. I want a job. Give me a job, then I'll celebrate."