So it was, Tom Penders told the Associated Press last week, that he declined an offer from Salinas to join a $1 million investment pool in which 10 coaches would each contribute $100,000 shortly after Penders was hired as Houston's coach in 2004. Penders says Salinas ended his pitch by mentioning Houston Select and saying, "I helped all those [players] go [to Houston], and I can really help you." The NCAA has already begun to interview former Houston Select players, including Moses Malone Jr., who went on to play guard for Houston, Texas Tech and South Carolina State.
Of interest: the dates of coaches' investments with J. David Financial, which remain unknown, and the dates that Select players signed with their schools. There is also a lengthy list of other college basketball coaches who were Salinas clients—none of whose names are yet public—who did not invest in the bond scheme and whose money is not at risk. "What we know right now is this guy apparently took a whole bunch of people, coaches included, in this Ponzi scheme," a high-ranking NCAA official says. "What we don't know is whether or not there was any funneling of kids. That's what we have to ask around about and determine."
Adds a coach who was a client of Salinas's, "We invested because he thought he would make us money.... When it all comes out, I bet there will be a hundred coaches who invested with him."
"Dear Coach Salinas: I will always be grateful for what you have done and will continue to do for me and my family.... You as a dad, person, coach, friend and role model will always have a place in my heart!"
—Former Nebraska, Houston and Houston Select forward Louis Truscott
A few years ago, Salinas invited Houston Select center James Blasczyk, whose family had built the coach's beach house in Galveston, into his J. David Financial office in Friendswood. Displayed prominently was a golden basketball rim with the Select logo and the words THANKS COACH SALINAS on its backboard. Salinas directed the future USC big man to his desk's three computer monitors. Green, black and red numbers seemed to dance across the screens.
"He showed me how his computers worked, just moving bonds back and forth on a spreadsheet," Blasczyk recalls now. "One of the numbers I read was $2.5 million, and I was like, Damn."
Over the last several months such personal meetings had become increasingly rare. Formerly lengthy phone calls would be cut short after about a minute. Ultimately the players stopped hearing from Coach Salinas altogether. On July 17, the man they trusted was a memory. "Salinas was the toughest, most confident man I'd ever met," says Blasczyk. They all wonder why he had to drift away.
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