Bill Lyon: Bruiser Flint lives up to name

James "Bruiser" Flint may just have the best college team in town. And he'd agree.
James "Bruiser" Flint may just have the best college team in town. And he'd agree. (YONG KIM / Staff Photographer)
Posted: February 05, 2012

Bruiser Flint.

From Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary:

Bruiser: bru-zer noun: a big husky man.

Flint flintn 1: a hard quartz that produces a spark when struck by steel.

Flinty adj: harsh and unyielding.

 So maybe he's not so much the big and husky part of that definition, although he is a long way from being frail, but made of flint? Bruiser Flint? Unyielding? Oh yes. You bet.

And if you're going to coach basketball at Drexel University, you'd better be flinty, because you're going to spend your days and nights beating your head against the unpadded walls trying to earn the 3 Rs: Recognition, regard, respect. And none of it comes easy.

So it was that his grandfather peered down at the newborn, who seemed so small, and proclaimed, confidently and reassuringly: "Don't worry, he's going to be a Bruiser."

So it was that James Flint became, now and forever, Bruiser Flint, the quintessential Philly baller, and now into his 11th season in the Dragons lair leading the unending crusade to achieve the reputation they so covet.

This, of course, means taking on, and taking down, those inhabitants of the Big Five, who are, by the way, not especially keen on that competition because Bruiser's teams tend to remind you of those old John Chaney Temple Owls teams, and how playing them was about as enjoyable as taking a ball peen hammer on the testicles. You'd wobble away declining all invitations to a future rematch, thank you very much, and please pass the ice bags.

"Yeah, his teams, they'd just grind you down," said Bruiser of Chaney, and the admiration was thick in his voice. "They'd impose their will on you. They'd play the kind of game he wanted to play, not you."

Bruiser knew first hand exactly what it was like facing the Old Man. He was the point guard for St. Joe's (graduated in 1987) and while the Hawk, as promised in lore and legend, never died, it took a couple of serious kidney shots along the way.

Now, in Bruiser, you swear you see the shadows and hear the echoes of the Old Man.

John Junior?

He explodes in laughter at such a suggestion.

"I'm so far away from him. . . . He'd go crazy. I mean, he'd have fun with that, wouldn't he?"

Very probably.

Like most coaches when they get their first solo and can't wait to stamp their own imprimatur on the program, when Bruiser became head man at UMass, Bruiser became your basic raving lunatic, and in so doing joined the ranks of the Mad Men of March.

He'd run a marathon in the course of one game, barreling up and down the sidelines, the restraining box little more than a traffic cone. But then his last apprenticeship was served under John Calipari at UMass, and the very mention of that name will arch an eyebrow.

"I know what they say about Coach Cal," Bruiser said, "but everything else aside, the way he treats his players, the way he watches out for them . . . " The finish is left unsaid but understood.

On occasion, while running end to end, a referee will find himself passing behind Bruiser.

"A lot of people think I'm crazy," he says, genially, "but my guys who come back from playing overseas, they say, 'Yo, Coach, you're mellowing. For real. You're not the same. Not even close.' So I guess you change with the times. It happens to everybody."

Perhaps, but you have a hard time envisioning Bruiser with pipe and slippers in front of the fire place. His notion of mellowing is more along the lines of shifting from Mach 3 to Mach 2.

His current team presents difficult matchups, as it is composed of interchangeable parts and not in the conventional alignment - three guards (6-foot-4 Frantz Masserat, 6-6 Damien Lee and 6-4 Derrick Thomas - and two forwards - 6-9 Daryl McCoy and 6-5 Sammie Givens, who is the only senior in the starting lineup. Of the other nine players, all are underclassmen.

So they are good - 20-win good, maybe 25-win good - and with all those young 'uns they should be good for quite a spell. As for now, they are the best team, amateur division, in Philadelphia.

That's what Bruiser proclaimed last week. The Big Five boys spluttered and choked, much to Bruiser's delight.

"I am a rabble rouser," he said. "But I wouldn't say something like that if I didn't believe it. If you think you're the best, why hide it?"

It would help the Dragons' cause if their brethren in the Colonial Athletic Association could enhance their reputation, prove their worthiness.

"I think we already have," Bruiser said. "We sent three teams to the NCAA tournament last year. We're a lot stronger than people realize."

And as for that eternal Big-Five-and-oh-yes-almost-forgot-Drexel relationship, Bruiser throws no bricks. Not respect the Big Five? He played in the Big Five. He honors the history and venerates it. It's just that he thinks, and rightly so, that Drexel deserves some of that r-e-s-p-e-c-t it has been pursuing for lo, these many years.

And he knows the one sure way to get it.



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