James “Bruiser” Flint remembered how successful those years (1989-96) were working with John Calipari at the University of Massachusetts. So, when Calipari who is now the head basketball coach at the University of Kentucky, had an opening on his staff, Flint, who spent the last three seasons as an assistant coach at Indiana under head coach Archie Miller, knew this would be a good opportunity for him.
“I’m excited,” Flint said. “I’m going back to family. That’s the big thing right there. I talk to Cal [John Calipari] all the time any way. I love Archie [Miller, Indiana head coach]. He treated me unbelievably well at Indiana. I enjoyed Indiana a lot. This was the only job that I would have probably left. But to come to Kentucky, you can’t get much better than that.”
Kentucky has one of the storied basketball programs in the history of college basketball. The Wildcats play in the Southeastern Conference. The school located in Lexington, Kentucky has sent a number of players to the NBA over the years.
Of course, Calipari and Flint had a lot of success at UMass. They were a big part of the Minutemen’s basketball program that soared under their guidance and direction. UMass developed into one of the best teams in the Atlantic 10 Conference and one of the top teams in college basketball. In 1996, UMass advanced to the NCAA Final Four, where they lost to Kentucky, who went onto win the national title that year. The reunion has brought a lot of excitement.
“They’re pulling out all these old pictures and everything,” Flint said. “It’s been good. He’s a Hall of Famer. He’s done some special things. He taught me a lot of things. I worked with him at the beginning.”
When Calipari left UMass for the NBA to become the head coach of the New Jersey Nets in 1996, Flint succeeded Calipari as head coach of the Minutemen. He spent five seasons as head coach putting together an 86-72 record that included two trips to the NCAA tournament.
Then, Flint, who grew up in West Philly and played in the Sonny Hill League and was a star point guard at Episcopal Academy and Saint Joseph’s University, was hired at Drexel University as head coach in 2001 where he worked for 15 years.
He had a 245-217 record, which included a 29-7 team in 2011-12 when Drexel won the Colonial Athletic Association championship. He was named CAA Coach of the Year four times (2002, 2004, 2009 and 2012). After leaving Drexel in 2016, Flint stepped away from coaching prior to becoming an assistant at Indiana.
Flint replaces associate head coach Kenny Payne who left to become an assistant coach with the New York Knicks. Calipari is looking forward to working with Flint again.
“It’s all about bring in people who create relationships that have relationships with players you are coaching,” Calipari said. “The families of the kids that you’re recruiting and Bru [Bruiser Flint] is that guy. Plus, he’s my brother. We’ve been together for so long. We were helping each other when he had his positions [his jobs].
“It’s an easy thing. I knew what we needed. That relationship building is absolutely a talent and a skill. if you think you’re here to convince kids and parents, then you’re missing what this is. It’s about building long term relationships.
“It’s about really having a strong enough relationship whether it’s players in the program or players and families that you’re recruiting that you have true information. So you’re not wasting your time and their time. It’s not just about being involved with players. It’s not what it is. Bru knows all that. Plus, he knows me.”
Flint stays in touch with a lot of his friends back in Philly who are coaching college basketball. They do zoom conference calls each week.
“We do a little zoom thing on the weekends,” Flint said. “We get together a little bit. All the guys, we keep in touch. I talked to Aaron [McKie, Temple head coach] a lot during the season. I talk to Ash [Ashley Howard, La Salle head coach] almost every day. I always thought he would be a good head coach. I’m happy for him. That’s my guy.”
The Philadelphia college basketball coaching fraternity stretches from Philly to Lexington, Kentucky with Flint being a part of the Wildcats’ basketball program.