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Archive for Saturday, November 20, 2004

La Salle moving past offseason scandal

November 20, 2004

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— The first point John Giannini wants to make clear is that he had nothing to do with this summer's rape scandal at La Salle. He never coached the three accused players, doesn't know them and really doesn't want to talk about them.

Giannini can't be blamed for trying to make everyone forget those three former players and an offseason that tainted a once-proud program.

The former University of Maine coach sees lots of promise at La Salle, where the men's basketball program was struggling even before the scandal. His first step is moving beyond the three arrests, still fresh and painful to so many people.

"Everyone wants to talk about it, but as a basketball program, we've very much moved past it," Giannini said. "It's not on our minds as a topic of conversation. We're focused on the present. I understand how serious it was, but it really is not affecting our daily business."

Dzaflo Larkai, Michael Cleaves and Gary Neal were charged with rape, and both men's coach Billy Hahn and women's coach John Miller resigned.

Giannini, who led Philadelphia-area school Rowan to the 1996 NCAA Division Three national title, inherited a team thin on talent and expectations. He knew one of his immediate tasks was getting players to focus on proper behavior off the court.

"I did emphasize that we can't go through another period of time where the actions of our student-athletes damage the program," he said. "I did emphasize to them how critical it is for them to not do certain things when they leave this building."

La Salle has just nine scholarship players and three walk-ons for today's opener against James Madison. Cleaves and Neal were two of its best offensive players, Larkai was a needed inside presence, and starting forward David Bell transferred to East Carolina.

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