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Edited by Jack McCallum And Kelli Anderson
August 29, 1994
The Massimino Mess
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August 29, 1994


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The Massimino Mess

When Rollie Massimino accepted the basketball coaching job at UNLV two years ago, he sounded like a man who would have worked for tree. "This isn't about money," said Massimino. "It's about people. It's about challenges. It's about opportunities."

It was also about keeping quiet on the subject of an extra $375,000 a year that Massimino would be getting from a nebulous private group called the Varsity Club. That money, added to his announced salary of $511,000, would bring Massimino's annual take to $886,000, considerably more than the approximately $600,000 Jerry Tarkanian would have made had he not left UNLV after the 1991-92 season, when he was forced out by Robert Maxson, UNLV's president at the time.

The under-the-table contract was exposed last week by the Las Vegas Sun, which reported that interim president Kenny Guinn had axed the deal. Guinn, who took over in May when Maxson moved on to Long Beach State, said that because the regents board had never approved the supplemental contract, the university would not honor it. Massimino will apparently keep the $300,000 or so he has earned thus far from the secret deal but will not, Guinn told him in a Monday meeting, get the rest. Stubbornly, Massimino insisted that the secret deal should be honored.

Although Maxson says the contract was "handled in an appropriate and ethical manner." there is something wrong with playing hide-and-seek with hundreds of thousands of dollars. First, Maxson made the overly generous offer at a time when his university, including the athletic department, was in financial peril. Guinn revealed in June that UNLV was operating under a $10 million shortfall during Maxson's administration, and there have been severe budget cuts throughout the university for several years. Yes, the funds were private, but shouldn't the president of a beleaguered institution be trying to funnel such money into educational programs rather than into an already overpaid coach's wallet? In addition, hatching a secret deal—it was Massimino, according to Maxson, who insisted that the supplemental payment be hush-hush—was the wrong way to begin an era that was supposed to clear the air after the scandal-tinged Tarkanian regime.

Clearly Massimino is not worth the money. His two-year record is 36-21, and last season's 15-13 slate included losses to Cal State-Fullerton, Utah State, San Jose State and Nevada, teams that the towel-chomping Tarkanian usually dispatched with ease. Also, Massimino's arrogance has alienated many longtime Runnin' Rebel fans—home attendance was down 33% last season—as well as the local media.

When he got the job, the ex-Villanova coach waxed sanctimonious about cleaning up the program at UNLV. Massimino's immediate task is to clean up after himself.

Able with Cane

Mercifully, the Michael Fay and/or caning stories have all but ceased in the U.S., but two books about Singapore's celebrated crime and punishment incident hit that country's bookstores last week. One, The Caning of Michael Fay by Dr. Gopal Baratham, provides the unsettling revelation that like baseball and tennis players, each Singapore caner has his own swinging style.

"There were those who twirled and those who...took careful aim." writes Baratham. "There were those who took three steps forward and those who stood absolutely still...some played a serve-and-volley game and some preferred to play from the baseline, some used a lot of topspin, others preferred the quick smash."

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