Is he Their Man Flint?
Associate Coach their heir apparent to take over
By Joe Burris, Boston Globe Staff, 6/7/1996
AMHERST – Sources close to the University of Massachusetts say associate coach Bruiser Flint is the leading candidate for the head basketball job vacated yesterday when John Calipari left for the New Jersey Nets.
“He will be taken care of,” said one source, requesting anonymity.
Flint, contacted in his office yesterday, would say only that he is one of the leading candidates.
“I think I've been ready [to be a head coach] for the past two years or so, to be honest,” he said. “The thing I wanted to do was find the right situation because I had a great situation here. I didn't want to just go and be a head coach at just any old school. I wanted to go somewhere where I could win and do some things, and look at it and know that this was the right place for me and my family.”
Since being named assistant coach at UMass eight years ago, Flint has interviewed for two head posts, at Northeastern a couple of years ago and St. Joseph's last year. Following this season, he received calls regarding vacancies at Wichita State, Drake, Southern Mississippi and Middle Tennessee State, but he did not interview.
Asked if he wondered whether the school would look for a high-profile, experienced coach, Flint said, “You have to ask [athletic director] Bob Marcum about that.
“I think this is one of the best jobs in the country. But what they're going to do, I really don't know. Everything is happening so fast. I have to sit down and talk to Bob Marcum. But I feel good about my situation, I'll put it to you that way.”
Marcum said, “I think if Bruiser were not a candidate for the job, I'd be surprised. [Former UMass associate and current Nevada Las-Vegas head] coach Bill Bayno has fulfilled his desire to be a head coach at a major college level, and Coach Flint has made no secret he would like to be the next. At the same time, he has passed up a few opportunities to remain at UMass because of the commitment to the program and he didn't think the other jobs were right.
“If Bruiser is a candidate for this job, I welcome that and I hope he is a candidate and wants to be the basketball coach at UMass.”
Asked if Calipari's departure on the heels of star Marcus Camby's decision to turn pro and the recent allegations that Camby received money from an agent in violation of NCAA rules gives the impression that the coach has left a sinking ship, Marcum said, “I'll tell you one thing. If this ship is sinking, there's an awful lot of people calling to see if they can get on it. And believe me, I'm not the captain of the Titanic.”
Asked if he would give the next coach a deal equivalent to Calipari's (10 years, $5 million), Marcum said, “I think we have a better job and are in a better position [than years past] to do some things.”
Flint, a standout player at St. Joseph's, was promoted from assistant to associate head coach last season after Bayno's departure. He has focused on the development of the UMass guards. Under his tutelage, UMass has annually had one of the most consistent backcourts in the Northeast. This past season, Flint helped elevate point guard Edgar Padilla and shooting guard Carmelo Travieso from preseason question marks to arguably the best backcourt in the land.
Flint has taken over as head coach during games twice. He guided UMass to a 65-52 win over St. Bonaventure Jan. 14 after Camby collapsed and was accompanied to the hospital by Calipari. On Feb. 24, Flint led the Minutemen in their 86-76 loss to George Washington after Calipari was ejected early in the first half.
“The St. Bonnie's game was different because I coached the entire game,” said Flint. “We were without Marcus, but everything happened so fast, I was just thrust into it. But at that point in time, I had confidence in myself that I could coach a major college team. I said right then and there, `I can do it.' If I had any doubts, I felt any doubts were answered during that game.”
Flint spoke with the players before Calipari talked with them about his decision. “I think they were happy for Coach,” said Flint. “All they talk about is, `If you do it, are you going to draft me or not?' That's all they care about at this point. We've had a lot of success here. [Calipari's departure] is like breaking up the family, so it is a little sad. John has meant a lot to them.”
Flint has spoken with a couple of recruits and added, “This is not the first time this has come up. We've dealt with this every year since he's been here, so that's nothing different.”
Asked if any recruits expressed concerns about the program in the wake of Calipari's departure, Flint said, “Not really. We pretty much addressed that stuff during the recruiting. John never promised anybody anything.
“We also tell a player, `Hey, you have an opportunity.' It would be unfair for him to promise them he would be there for their career, just like it's unfair for him to ask them to be there for all four years if they had an opportunity to go pro. If they can be one of the top picks, they would have to go.”
Flint is getting the reins in Amherst
By Joe Burris, Boston Globe Staff, 6/8/1996
The University of Massachusetts will hold a press conference this morning to announce it has named associate coach James (Bruiser) Flint as its head coach, sources close to the program said yesterday.
Flint, 31, served under John Calipari for seven years before Calipari left to become coach of the NBA New Jersey Nets yesterday. A source said the school is expected to sign Flint to a four-year deal.
Flint did not return calls to his home yesterday. Athletic director Bob Marcum declined to comment.
Yet when Calipari was asked at his press conference yesterday about the identity of his successor at UMass, he said, “I don't think there is any question that James Flint will follow me. He is uniquely qualified for that job.
“He's going to do an absolutely fabulous job. He's a beautiful person. The campus loves him. The players love him. He's tough with them. There have been times where I put him in the locker room before me, he walked in and went crazy and I walked in and told him, `What's going on? Relax. Calm down.' I didn't always want to be the bad guy, so I told him to step in there and shake it up a bit.
“He's capable of doing that. He's a guy that can say no. A lot of times, you have an assistant to follow you who can't say no. But you have to be able to say no because you want to be a leader and a head coach, and he will be.”
A Philadelphia native and standout guard at St. Joseph's who helped lead the Hawks to the Atlantic 10 title in 1987, Flint joined Calipari's staff in 1989.
He interviewed for head posts at Northeastern and St. Joseph's and got feelers from Middle Tennessee, Wichita State and Southern Mississippi. Now he'll get his chance to run a program without leaving Amherst.
On Thursday afternoon in the wake of Calipari's departure, when Marcum was asked when the search process would begin for a successor, he said, “It began about 8:30 this morning.” He added that he had already spoken to several coaches interested in the post. That's not surprising; once considered a dead-end job, the UMass post is now one of the best in college basketball – and it's based at the Mullins Center, the largest on-campus facility in New England.
Marcum added that he wanted a coach in place as quickly as possible, so the logical candidate was Flint.
Although some players were disappointed that Calipari departed – particularly the recruits – they are familiar with Flint. After losing three starters from the 1995-96 team – including consensus national player of the year Marcus Camby – as well as its head coach, UMass needs to keep Flint to make sure it reloads rather than rebuilds.
One thing Flint must do quickly is find a couple of assistants. Ed Schilling, an assistant under Calipari, followed the coach to New Jersey. According to a highly placed source, former UMass player Tony Barbee, a restricted earning's coach at St. John's, will fill one of those positions.
Flint takes command
Patience pays off for Calipari's former right-hand man
By Joe Burris, Boston Globe Staff, 6/9/1996
AMHERST – The University of Massachusetts men's basketball program ended one of its most turbulent weeks on an upbeat note yesterday. The school named associate coach James (Bruiser) Flint to succeed John Calipari, who on Friday was named coach, executive vice president and director of basketball operations of the New Jersey Nets.
“This is a dream come true for myself and my family,” said Flint, who worked under Calipari for seven years. “I was here from the beginning, and I hope to be here to the end.”
Flint agreed to a four-year contract that, like Calipari's deal at UMass, has a base salary of $132,000 and several guaranteed incentives.
UMass athletic director Bob Marcum said both sides must finalize such items as television/radio deals and shoe contracts. He added that Flint and Calipari will operate the school's basketball camp this summer, with Flint taking sole control of the program thereafter.
Flint's appointment capped a week in which the program was tarnished with reports that former star center Marcus Camby accepted cash and jewelry from agents prior to his junior season. Thursday, word came out of Calipari going to the Nets, ending two weeks of speculation.
The two events overshadowed the school's announcement on Thursday that it will resume its long-awaited series against the University of Connecticut next season.
The hiring of Flint, 30, should stabilize a program whose image has taken quite a blow. A native of Philadelphia, Flint is well liked by school officials and players. School officials present at yesterday's press conference gave him a standing ovation. Before yesterday, many returning players stated publicly they wanted Flint to follow Calipari.
“The players are all happy for me,” said Flint. “Of course, it was disappointing because Cal meant a lot to them. But they all came in and said, `You're going to be the coach, you're going to be the coach,' and the recruits, that made them more comfortable. They said if I wasn't going to be the coach and everyone was leaving, they didn't know what they were going to do.”
With Calipari's departure, any penalties the NCAA might impose because of the Camby situation would fall into Flint's lap. But he and the school appear confident that sanctions won't be imposed.
“I think a lot of things were said, but I don't think I would be the head coach if there was going to be a problem with the Camby situation,” said Flint. “I think John would have stayed. I think our university and Bob Marcum have gone through the right channels to look over the situation and handle it the best way they can.
“I'm very comfortable with it. I think that was one of the big decisions with John – that played a big part in his decision to leave – that he was comfortable with it and the university was going to handle it.”
A 1987 graduate of St. Joseph's, Flint led the Hawks to an Atlantic 10 championship and NCAA tournament berth as a senior, averaging 14.6 points and 6.1 assists. He spent two seasons as an assistant coach and assistant athletic director at Coppin State and joined Calipari's staff in 1989.
Flint would not comment on possible assistants, but did say he had spoken with former UMass guard Tony Barbee, who is now a restricted earnings coach at St. John's.
“He's definitely tops on my priorities,” said Flint.
Flint names Arnold and Barbee assistants
By Joe Burris, Boston Globe Staff, 6/13/1996
University of Massachusetts head coach Bruiser Flint, named to replace John Calipari Saturday, selected Geoff Arnold – his former college teammate at St. Joseph's – as a full-time assistant and former UMass player Tony Barbee as a restricted earnings coach yesterday.
Barbee was a radio color commentator for UMass games last season, then accepted a restricted earnings position at St. John's.
The appointments mean Flint now has a full coaching staff. Assistant coach John Robic retained the position he held under Calipari.
Now Flint must replace assistant to the athletic director/academics David Glover, who sources say has joined Calipari with the New Jersey Nets.