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Report: Gillispie, Olson lost millions in Ponzi scheme

Jul 19, 2011, 6:57 PM EDT

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As more details emerge following the death of David Salinas – a Houston-area businessman and founder of a local AAU team — it’s clearer than ever that this will be incredibly embarrassing for the college hoops coaches who invested with him.Report: Gillispie, Olson lost millions in a possible Ponzi scheme.

If they’re lucky.

Salinas committed an apparent suicide Sunday not long after news emerged that he was being investigated by the Securities and Exchange Commission for fraudulent practices that might’ve cost those coaches who invested with Salinas more than $7.8 million. Names of those coaches and their monetary investments surfaced Tuesday.

A report by SI.com’s Pablo S. Torre indicates Texas Tech’s Billy Gillispie, former Arizona coach Lute Olson, Baylor’s Scott Drew and Gonzaga’s Mark Few were among the coaches who lost money.

From the report:

According to documents reviewed by SI.com, the value of Gillispie’s investment alone was purported to be $2.3 million; Olson’s, $1.17 million; Drew’s, $621,000; Few’s, $353,000.

SI.com has identified Few and former Rice, Wichita State and Cornell basketball coach Scott Thompson (investment most recently valued at $65,000) as the latest names to be added to an initial list of nine basketball coaches first reported by CBSSports.com. Those nine included: Gillispie; Olson; Drew; Nebraska coach Doc Sadler ($38,000); Texas A&M-Corpus Christi (and former Rice) coach Willis Wilson ($642,000); Gonzaga assistant (and former Utah head coach) Ray Giacoletti ($1.2 million); United States Merchant Marine Academy (and former Nebraska) coach Danny Nee ($23,000); Augustana College coach Grey Giovanine ($533,000); and former Houston and Nevada coach Pat Foster. Save for Foster, SI.com was able to independently confirm each of those individuals as clients of Salinas.

Most coaches expressed shock at the news and at Salinas’ death. (Some denied investing with him for some odd reason.) But beyond being part of a financial scheme gone awry, there could be NCAA issues as well.

Former Houston coach Tom Penders told Dan Wolken of The Daily that he was approached by Salinas in 2004 to invest $100,000. Penders passed despite  a “strong, strong implication” that it would help Penders’ Houston program gain access to prospects who were part of Salinas’ AAU team.

“He talked about all these coaches that he had investing with him,” Penders told The Daily. “I told him because he was an AAU guy, I couldn’t possibly get involved in that. I said, ‘I think that’s kind of a rules violation, or could be.’ ”

No NCAA rule prevents coaches from investing in legitimate financial plans. But there’s a gray area when there are potential recruits involved. Nearly every coach who invested with him landed one of Salinas’ AAU players.

Losing money is bad enough. Those coaches should hope the NCAA doesn’t decide to make it worse.

UPDATE: There are conflicting reports of how the NCAA will proceed. ESPN says there is “no intention at present of opening a formal probe.” But a Houston TV station says the NCAA is already on the case. So there’s that.

You also can follow me on Twitter @MikeMillerNBC.

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