John Calipari’s coaching staff is getting a makeover. Longtime associate head coach Kenny Payne is taking a stab at the NBA as an assistant for the New York Knicks. Although it is not yet official, multiple reports indicate that Bruiser Flint will fill the vacancy. What do we know about Bruiser other than he has an incredible name? Let’s take a dive into his career as a college basketball coach and his lengthy relationship with Calipari.
1. Flint and Calipari go WAY back
In 1989, just a year after John Calipari became the head coach at UMass, Flint joined Coach Cal’s staff as an assistant, coaching alongside another name Kentucky fans are familiar with, John Robic. Considered the lead man on the staff, Flint was handed the reins to UMass’ program once Calipari bolted for the Nets following the 1996 season.
Tony Barbee joined Robic on Flint’s staff and the Minutemen went to consecutive NCAA Tournaments as an at-large bid. Unable to live up to the lofty standards set by Calipari, Flint was let go following the 2000-01 season after compiling a 86–72 record.
2. Philadelphia, Born and Raised
Flint is a product of the Big Five. A Philly native, he played collegiately for St. Joe’s in the mid-80s. As a junior he propelled there Hawks to an A-10 Tournament Championship and an NCAA Tournament bid. The following year he was a first team All-Atlantic 10 selection.
Following his time at UMass, Bruiser returned to Philadelphia to coach the Drexel Dragons. His 245 career victories are the most in school history. Four times he was named Colonial Athletic Association Coach of the Year, including in 2012 when the Dragons won the regular season title. That historic season ended with the Dragons coming up four points short at VCU, a team one year removed from a Final Four, in the CAA Championship Game.
3. The First Opposing Coach to Win at the Yum! Center
Bruiser Flint is the first coach not named Rick Pitino to win a men’s basketball game at the Yum! Center. The Dragons limited the Cards to just 31% shooting from the field to upset the country’s 20th-ranked team 52-46 in December of 2010.
4. Flint’s Historic Loss to Calipari
Bruiser is also in history books at the University of Kentucky. In John Calipari’s first season at Kentucky, he scheduled the Dragons to play at Rupp Arena. Of course, Flint’s Drexel team fell 88-44. The blowout was not insignificant, it was Kentucky’s 2,000th win. Rupp Arena celebrated “UK2K” as the first men’s college basketball program to surpass the milestone.
5. Louisville Controversy
After the Dragons went just 5-26 in 2016, Flint was fired by Drexel, ending a 15-year relationship with the school. The decision prompted John Calipari to blast the NCAA’s grad transfer rule. After all, the season might have looked different had Flint’s star player, Damion Lee, returned to Drexel for his senior year. Instead, he became a grad transfer at Louisville.
“But what happened was, the NCAA has a rule that a kid can leave a program like Drexel after being coached and molded for three years and go to another school without having to sit out. If (Damion) Lee is there, they’re in the NCAA Tournament. We’re not even talking in these terms, but that happened. It’s not about the school (Louisville) that took him. It’s about we let it happen.
“Understand, I’ve been in a dogfight to say this is ridiculous. We took a kid because I saw Duke did it. Even then, I was like it disgusts me that we’re doing this. The kid was going to go somewhere, so why don’t we take him.
“This is not only hurting there. It’s just bad for the business, bad for kids. It’s another thing the NCAA will say whatever they want to say. It’s not good for the game. It’s not good for these kids. And it caught Bru. Thanks.”
I think it’s safe to say that Calipari’s stance on transfers has shifted since Flint was let go in 2016.
6. Bruiser is not his Christian name
Bruiser was born James Flint Jr. in 1965. As he explained to The Athletic that he got the nickname as a kid from his grandfather.
“I was in the hospital for six weeks with some intestinal type of disease,” Flint says. “My grandfather said, ‘Don’t worry. He’s going to grow up to be a bruiser.’”
The name stuck because Bruiser had to live up to it to play rec basketball for his father. In that same story one St. Joe’s assistant and long-time family friend described the gruff James Flint Sr. as “the first person I ever met that whole sentences were curse words.”
7. Outspoken at Indiana
He may not have been outspoken publicly, but he did not shy away from Archie Miller on the bench. In his third season at Indiana, Flint and Miller had a heated exchange on the bench this spring as the Hoosiers trailed to rival Purdue.
— Alex Walker (@AlexWalkerTV) August 11, 2020
8. A Short List of Commits at Indiana
During his short tenure Indiana rose up in the recruiting ranks by bringing Romeo Langford and Trayce Jackson-Davis to Bloomington. However, Flint was not considered the primary recruiter in either of those high profile additions. The 247 Sports database only credits Flint for four signees, most notably Robert Phinesee, none of which were ranked in the top 100 nationally.