The team was nothing if not consistent, and 2004-05 saw a 17-12 overall record to go along with a 12-6 conference mark. Drexel got perhaps its highest profile out of conference victory of Flint’s tenure to that point, a Big 5 victory over the coach’s alma mater, St. Joes. Another early exit from the league tournament was on the horizon, however, as Hofstra knocked the Dragons out in their first game. Despite a less than stellar record, the fun really started the following year. Drexel opened the season on a tear in the Preseason NIT and bested Princeton before coming home to defeat Sam Houston State in front of a raucous crowd to advance to the tournament’s final rounds at Madison Square Garden. Drexel gave #1 Duke all it could handle in the semifinals, trailing by just a point at halftime before ultimately losing by 10. The third place game was a heartbreaker of epic proportions, as the Dragons all but handed #16 UCLA a victory in the game’s waning seconds. That same Bruins team played in the national championship game just a few months later. The Dragons ultimately finished at 15-16 overall and 8-10 in conference, but the wild wide of the first few weeks of the season is not something that any Drexel fan will ever forget. For me, it was about the most incredible introduction to a basketball program as you can have. But it was really just the beginning.
The 2006-07 was undoubtedly one of the finest teams in program history. After a few questionable losses at the beginning of the season, that ultimately doomed the team’s at-large hopes, Drexel rallied off wins against St. Joes, Villanova, #23 Syracuse, Temple, and a George Mason team fresh off a Final Four appearance. December of 2006 may very well have been the most successful month the team has ever had. The team without-a-doubt deserved to be dancing in March. The Dragons became synonymous with the term snubbed that year. There’s no doubt that if the powers that be put Drexel in the tournament, they would have been trouble for any prospective opponent. Ultimately, the Dragons had to settle for an exciting loss at home in the NIT to NC State, a team fresh off a runner-up finish in the ACC tournament.
The success proved only temporary as Drexel sputtered to a 12-20 overall record and 5-13 conference record the next year. The Dragons suffered a number of lopsided out of conference losses and never got things going in league play. They dropped their first game of the CAA tournament to Delaware. The team rebounded the next year, posting a 15-14 overall record to go along with a 10-8 league record. In Richmond, it was another year and another early exit, this time at the hands of the Towson Tigers. The next year provided another solid if unspectacular result for Drexel, where they went 16-16 overall and 11-7 in conference play. Success in the league tournament was again elusive, Drexel lost its first game to JMU.
In 2010-11, the Dragons went 21-10 overall and handed #20 Louisville its first ever loss in its new arena. Another solid season came to an end early in Richmond, this time to hometown VCU on a quarterfinal buzzer beater. After a slow start to the year, Drexel posted 29 wins en route to yet another NCAA tournament snub in 2011-12. After two losses to being league play, the Dragons rattled off sixteen straight regular season victories and fourteen overall. Drexel, despite a valiant effort, fell to VCU in the league title game just steps from their opponent’s campus.
The four years since that point have been a steady decline for the Dragons. 2012-13 saw a 13-18 record. Drexel went 16-14 in 2013-14 after losing Damion Lee to a season-ending injury in a game that saw Drexel lead another highly ranked opponent in an NIT semifinal. Last year’s team struggled mightily at times, but ultimately finished at 0.500 in conference play. And as we know, this season was anything but memorable.
Bruiser Flint’s tenure will ultimately be remembered as with teams that were highly successful at times, but also ones that never fully achieved the ultimate goal of winning league titles and advancing to the NCAA tournament. In recent years, injuries and transfers have decimated Drexel’s backcourt depth, and the Dragons have routinely played with just a handful of potential subs, sometimes for long stretches of the season.
While today’s announcement is understandable given the direction of the program in recent years, it is also disheartening in a way. We must remember that it is not only Bruiser, but also his assistant coaches Mike Connors, Bob Jordan, Matt Collier, Kenell Sanchez, and John Linehan, that are no longer with the program. All of those coaches have been nothing but great representatives of the university. All are great people who will undoubtedly catch on with another program quickly.
For many of us, Bruiser Flint is the only men’s basketball coach at Drexel that we’ve ever known. He has long been the identity of the program itself. When you think of Drexel basketball, you think of Bruiser Flint. Much has been said over the years about the animated manner in which Bruiser tends to carry himself during games. But to me, the charisma was always just another representation of the passion Flint had for the game, and most importantly, his players. Bruiser was, and is, universally revered by those who have played under him for the last fifteen years. The outpouring of support he has received today from fans and players alike truly represents how highly regarded he was on the court and on campus. Flint elevated the play of the program while he was he, despite less than stellar facilities. He took on the Big 5, and has beaten every team in the city. He stood his ground when city teams refused to play at the DAC, and two programs that long refused to step foot in the DAC have returned in recent years.
Flint’s tenure has led to a lot of great memories for Dragons fans. It was, and is, an honor to call him a fellow Dragon. To Bruiser, Mike, Matt, Bob, Kenell, and John, we say thank you, and best of luck. We’ll be rooting for you wherever you end up. Once a Dragon, always a Dragon.