Flynn loves life of coach at Mount St. Mary's

February 14, 1993|By Bill Free | Bill Free,Staff Writer

Ten years ago, Bob Flynn was flipping eggs at Gino's on Route 140 in Westminster, teaching part time and coaching a struggling North Carroll High School basketball program.

This was certainly not what Flynn dreamed about doing when he decided in high school at Cardinal Gibbons that he wanted to be a basketball coach.

It was long hours, low pay and few rewards.

But that all changed two years later when legendary Mount St. Mary's basketball coach Jim Phelan came calling and named Flynn his top assistant.

Now, the Westminster resident sits next to Phelan on the Mount bench and helps make a lot of important decisions throughout a game. Flynn comes armed to every game with a clipboard filled with a long list of last-minute inbounds plays.

"It was Bob's idea to come up with all those plays and have them there for us," said Phelan. "You can't always think of all of them off the top of your head. He likes innovations and change and is quite organized."

Flynn is also the top recruiter for the Mount, directs the tutorial program for the basketball players and spends endless hours drumming up support for the basketball program from the students and faculty.

"I can't believe how much fun it is," said the Mount graduate, who played lacrosse but not basketball at the school. "It's great when you're on the road and win and go out for a pizza with Coach Phelan and see how happy he is. He's enjoying the game of basketball again this season after a terrible season last year [6-22 record and no wins on the road]. And just think, I'm getting paid to watch high school basketball."

Flynn, 35, is in his ninth season at the Mount and has run the gamut of emotions over the past five months with Phelan.

The lows came before the season started when there were rumblings that Mount president Robert Wickenheiser wanted Phelan to retire at the end of the current season.

The highs came when Wickenheiser backed off and said that Phelan could decide when he wanted to step down, and last month when Phelan joined Clarence "Bighouse" Gaines and Dean Smith as the only active collegiate coaches with 700 or more victories.

"It was a terrible misunderstanding," said Flynn of the Phelan retire

ment talk. "The timing was terrible. It wasn't the right thing. It hurt Coach Phelan. Anybody who thinks he can't coach anymore is wrong. He's doing a tremendous job. I sit next to him. I see what he does throughout a game."

Flynn said Phelan is also doing a superb job off the court.

"There's never, ever been a hint of NCAA violations. We have a 96-percent graduation rate among basketball players, and Coach Phelan is one of the most respected coaches in the country by his peers," said Flynn, whose basketball career began as a backup center to Robert Valderas at Gibbons.

So why did one of the top coaches in NCAA history rescue a former backup center from a remote high school coaching job?

"Bob was always around after he graduated from the Mount," said Phelan. "He stayed in Emmitsburg and coached basketball at Mother Seton school and St. Joseph's High. Then he went to North Carroll when St. Joe's closed down. He works so hard and will help in any way he can."

Phelan said Flynn has been extremely loyal and is a "very good recruiter."

As far as X's and O's are concerned, Phelan said his No. 1 assistant understands they "all must go by me and I might not use a lot of them. If something catches my fancy, I use it."

One suggestion that rarely catches Phelan's eye is a timeout.

"I found out in my third game at the Mount that Coach Phelan doesn't believe much in timeouts," said Flynn. "He'd rather have the team work itself out of trouble, and he doesn't like to give the other team a chance to rest."

In that third game, the Mount was playing against 7-foot-7 Manute Bol and Bridgeport and fell behind, 14-0, in the opening minutes.

It was obvious to Flynn the team needed a timeout. But Phelan didn't agree.

"We went on to be down by only three at halftime and won by 20 points," said Flynn. "Coach Phelan didn't want to give Bol an opportunity to rest, and it worked."

Throughout it all, Flynn has maintained a close association with Carroll County.

He lives north of Westminster with his wife, Tina, and daughter, Caitlin, attends high school basketball games throughout the county and maintains a close friendship with Westminster coach Dave Byers and South Carroll coach Jim Carnes.

Flynn recruited Bruce Winter out of Westminster in 1986 for the Mount, but Winter ran into academic troubles after one season.

"We're always looking for the local players," said Flynn. "We went after Phil Williams [a 6-8, 265-pound center from Thomas Johnson who will attend Penn State next season], and we have Chad Stull from TJ."

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