Dragons make Flint their all-time winningest coach

Posted: November 20, 2013

PISCATAWAY, N.J. - When Bruiser Flint took the Drexel job in 2001, the Episcopal Academy and Saint Joseph's grad certainly knew the city scene. He was less certain about Drexel's place in it.

"I just wanted to put us in a situation where people look at us and say, 'OK, they can win against other teams in Philadelphia,' " he said.

Flint's Dragons have done that. After beating Elon, 71-64, at The RAC last night in the NIT Season Tip-Off, Flint's teams have done so much that he has won more games at Drexel than any coach in school history. Sam Cozen held the record for decades. Now, it is Flint with 214 wins at Drexel and an even 300 overall, starting with a very nice tenure at Massachusetts that has not come close to being duplicated since he was let go.

Flint's best friend in the business was following the score from Kentucky. Flint was with John Calipari during that glorious run at UMass that culminated in the 1996 Final Four.

"I said this at the time [when Flint left UMass]," the Kentucky coach said by phone. "His dad got sick and he gets the Drexel job so he could be with his dad in the last years of his life. Think about that. I told him, 'Why else would all this have happened?' At the time, he was the fifth-winningest coach in the history of the Atlantic 10. People forget that. You just wonder why. He ends up getting to spend time with his dad before he passes and ends up leading the program to the most wins in the history of their existence, which is great stuff."

It is indeed.

"One of the things that surprised me [about the job] was how good the CAA was," Flint said. "Then, when I realized I could be competitive in the CAA, then I knew I could do that in Philly, too."

Drexel won a school-record 29 games two seasons ago, including 19 straight before a heartbreaking loss in the CAA championship game. Nothing went right last season. This season, with what will be three 1,000-point scorers when Damion Lee scores another 61 points and the emerging offense of Tavon Allen, promises to be a lot closer to 2011-12.

Might even give Flint that elusive CAA championship.

"One of my big boosters said the thing he loves is that when he goes to his country club, he can sit at the table and talk about us, where before nobody ever did," Flint said. "I feel good about that."

So does his friend, Calipari.

"Aside from being friends, he's like a brother," Calipari said. "The year before last, we were, like, we got this figured out."

UK won that 2012 national championship as Flint and Drexel were winning those 29 games.

"At the end of last year, he said, 'What a difference a year makes,' " said Calipari, whose team lost in the 2013 NIT to Robert Morris. "We can say that to each other."

Calipari knows Flint's record quite well. He knows Drexel has won at Louisville and Syracuse and Villanova. Those schools lost Flint's number after that.

"Aside from all those wins, he's helping develop young people," Calipari said. "He's not afraid to coach them . . . As tough as he is and he's in their face, they love him, they come back, they know he's there for them. He's good at what he does."

The Dragons (2-1) led all the way against Elon (2-2), the preseason favorite to win the Southern Conference before moving to the CAA next season. The Phoenix had all five starters returning, but the Dragons held them scoreless for the first 6 minutes, opened up a 47-31 lead with 14 minutes to go before getting in foul trouble.

That let Elon use a triangle-and-two defense for a while, which helped it close to 52-50 with 5 1/2 minutes left. The Dragons then made enough plays late to win the game again.

"My thing was not to settle for bomb threes," Flint said. "We could just drive the ball to the basket. I didn't think those guys could guard us that way."

One of those 1,000-point scorers, Chris Fouch, had 22. Lee had 16 and Allen had 15 off the bench. Point guard Frantz Massenat, the other 1,000-point scorer, was in foul trouble most of the second half and shot only 3-for-8 from the foul line.

Drexel owned the glass, 39-24. Elon had only one offensive rebound.

"We did two things," Flint said. "We kept them off the glass and we kept them off the three-point line (2-for-16)."

Drexel play Rutgers, a 66-51 winner over Canisius, at the RAC tonight. If the Dragons win, they will get to Madison Square Garden for next week's NIT semifinals (Wednesday and Friday) against (probably) Arizona. Duke is atop the other side of the bracket.

"That's my hometown, man," Fouch said. "I've played in there a few times, but it's always good to play in the Garden."

Flint already gave his team the choice.

"You want to go to New York for Thanksgiving?" he asked his players. "We talked about it last week after the Illinois State game. Where you want to go for Thanksgiving? You all want to come over my house or you want to be in New York City?"

When asked about his legacy at Drexel, Flint demurred.

"If I can go and win 200 more games there, by that time I'll be done, then we can talk legacy," Flint said.

Right now, there is another game to win, a Thanksgiving Week trip to New York and the Garden on the line.

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