Designated Hitter: Bruiser Flint excited to be back in coaching ranks
"Listen, I was here for a week and they were talking about a tornado watch," Bruiser Flint said with his trademark chuckle. "I was like, 'uh oh. I'm not used to that.'"
Going from Philadelphia to Bloomington, Indiana, will do that for you.
Flint, still one of the most popular figures associated with the "golden years" of UMass basketball, will be back on the sidelines this winter as an assistant coach for Archie Miller at Indiana University. Miller, the former University of Dayton coach, replaced Tom Crean in the off-season.
Flint, who was let go at Drexel prior to the 2016-17 season, spent the last year visiting college campuses to watch games and practices, and he also did a little bit of broadcasting on the side.
Nothing, he told me, was like coaching. And after a little break to recharge his batteries, Flint said it was time to return to the battles.
"This year was a year I was taking to see whether I really wanted to continue to do it or not," Flint said. "This is an unbelievable opportunity. I wasn't going to come back just for any old job. I knew I wanted to get back in it. The year being out let me know that I still wanted to coach some more. I wasn't going to take any old position."
Flint was a member of John Calipari's UMass staff for seven seasons, a tenure that coincided with trips to the NCAA Division I Elite Eight and Final Four in consecutive year. When Calipari left for the New Jersey Nets, Flint took over as the UMass head coach. After five years, Flint was relieved of his UMass duties. The Philadelphia native and Saint Joseph's University graduate then went home, where he coached at Drexel from 2001-2016.
"I had talked to a couple of people, but not many, and I knew it was going to be kind of tough" to return to the head coaching ranks, Flint told me. "I just didn't want to go to any school and be an assistant. This is big-time basketball, the Big Ten, Indiana, a storied program. I knew Archie was a good coach. I've known his family for a long time.
"I watched him and followed him at Dayton, so I knew he was going to be a good coach. For me, it was a good opportunity."
Archie Miller is the third member of the Miller family to be a head coach. Dad John was a high school legend in Western Pennsylvania, while older brother Sean has built the program at Arizona into one of the best in the nation.
Archie Miller didn't have to recruit Bruiser Flint hard to get him on staff. This time, the recruitment worked better.
"Sean was already in college when I got into [coaching]. We tried to recruit Archie at UMass because Cal was still there," Flint said. "That was one of the things. We laugh about it now."
Obviously, Archie Miller did not join Calipari at UMass, playing instead at North Carolina State.
Calipari's UMass band is basically split in three these days. Calipari's UMass assistant John Robic works at Kentucky. Bill Bayno, an original assistant at UMass, is now an assistant coach with the NBA's Indiana Pacers. Flint, meanwhile, will be on the bench at Indiana with former UMass assistant Ed Schilling. Schilling spent one year on Calipari's staff at UMass, before accompanying the boss to the New Jersey Nets.
"I got Ed here. He's like an Indiana legend here," Flint said. "All the coaches, and half the players from this area when he was a high school coach here, worked out with him. He's a big timer in Indiana."
Flint said he can't wait to coach his first game in Indiana's legendary Assembly Hall. I can tell you, having been there myself, it truly is one of the cathedrals of the college game.
But it won't be the first time Bruiser Flint has been there.
"Chuck Martin, who actually worked for me at UMass, was an assistant here last year. I was in Kentucky, and I called Chuck up and said 'Hey, how far are you guys from Lexington?' He said about two and a half hours. Actually, myself and Larry Brown, we drove up here and watched practice," said Flint.
Wouldn't you have loved to be sitting in the back seat of that car listening to Larry Brown talk basketball? I would.
"They actually practiced in Assembly Hall that day," Flint said. "They just did all new renovations. It's a great place. Everybody tells me, all the coaches in the league I've know for a long time, tell me 'Bru, it's probably the best place to play in the entire league.'"
Best place to play. One of the best guys in basketball. Bruiser Flint and Indiana sounds like a perfect match.
Reach sports columnist Howard Herman at 413-496-6253 or @howardherman.
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