Jensen: Bruiser Flint on his year off from hoops

James
Former Drexel basketball head coach James "Bruiser" Flint is in the stands during the Rhode Island at La Salle game on Feb. 21, 2017.

It's different. Bruiser Flint made that clear. After being let go by Drexel, still being paid for this season, Flint is kind of like a basketball tourist with inside access. If there's a game in town, there's a decent chance Flint is there unless he's on a road trip seeing other coaches, getting to their practices.

Still a basketball life, just a completely different one.

"Sitting in the stands, listening to people, it is unbelievable," Flint said with a laugh, sitting in Tom Gola Arena last week during a La Salle game, relating how he hears a lot of variations of 'Why are we doing this?' People will recognize him, locally or at a Kentucky game or wherever, and draw him into conversations. "What would you do?"

Flint was sitting across from La Salle's bench as the Explorers took on Rhode Island. A woman just behind yelled at an Explorers player, "Shoot the ball!" Flint nodded and started laughing again.

"It is not as easy as guys think," Flint said of his profession. After 20 years as a head coach at Massachusetts and Drexel, Flint sees the value in taking in the sport from another angle. His former UMass boss, John Calipari, had recommended it, saying it had really helped him after being fired by the Nets. Flint is most certainly not saying he's ready to retire at age 51.

"Doing something for over 30 years, you have a routine," Flint said, including his time as an assistant. "It's different than 9 to 5."

He's found maybe most of all that he misses being around a group of young people. Keeps you young. Calipari also told him that getting all around to practices, including UK practices, wouldn't so much offer new ways to do things as much as confirm that "a lot of people do the same stuff."

In the preseason, Flint got out to Kentucky, and Larry Brown was there, too. They ended up spending five days together, also getting to other practices, including at Cincinnati and Indiana.

What's it like being in a car with Larry Brown? Any non-hoops talk?

"No, no, no," Flint said as he watched the La Salle game. "You're going to talk basketball all the time. He has been so many places. You forget."

So the stories are like a history of the sport, going back to when Brown played for Dean Smith at North Carolina, then all the coaching stops along the way.

Best practice they saw?

"Indiana," Flint said, talking about the attention to detail offered by Tom Crean, which is interesting given Indiana's struggles this season. "Never saw anything like it."

Flint noted that even Brown, who is a detail fanatic, was impressed. "He was like, 'Wow.' "

Another coach who impressed Flint with the level of detail was his former Drexel player, Bashir Mason, now head coach at Wagner.

As for Flint's own future, obviously he can't know. It's clear that if he's coaching, he'd prefer to be a head coach. Asked about the NBA, Flint mentioned that friends have talked to him about the D-League. TV possibilities didn't come through this season since there are only so many chairs, even with all the games on all the networks. But if he's not coaching next season, people have told him they'd talk to the bosses about that.

He's clearly keeping tabs on the entire scene, though, including high schools and AAU. He still watches his former school, doesn't suggest he holds ill will. If there's one thing that was always true about Flint, he knew the lay of the land, including when it was over. He can't show up at Drexel for games this year. That's against hoops etiquette. "I've talked to Spiker," Flint said of his replacement, Zach Spiker.

He also was just back from a trip to London to visit his daughter studying there. Could he have done that as a coach?

"Hell, no," Flint said, then he got his phone out to show a photo of another adventure: "I did a lot of stuff . . . salmon fishing in Vancouver."

Sure enough, there's Bruiser Flint in a boat with a fishing pole and a salmon. He'd never been fishing before, and as much fun as Flint claimed to have, it doesn't sound as if he plans to make a habit of it. Being a tourist is fun for a while, then it's time to get back to work.

"Oh yeah, without question," Flint said. "I'm a person who likes to learn things all the time. I think I went out and learned some things I needed to learn, got a different perspective on how to do things. It was relaxing. I'm not going to lie about that. People say you'll get your batteries recharged. I do believe that."

mjensen@phillynews.com

@jensenoffcampus