Haith to return for Hurricanes' ACC opener

CORAL GABLES, Fla. -- Miami coach Frank Haith hails from a large family, with nine brothers and sisters and plenty of nieces and nephews.

The support group is large, and these days his family members need each other more than ever.

Haith left his team Thursday to attend the funeral for his 23-year-old nephew, Sean Bell, who was killed early on his wedding day by a 50-bullet barrage of New York City police gunfire as he left his bachelor party at a Queens strip club. Police said five officers fired at a car with three black men inside after it struck an undercover officer and an unmarked NYPD minivan.

"Basketball's been good for me this week," Haith said. "It's been a tough week. ... With the tragedy as it is, it's been soothing for me, so to speak, to stay involved."

Bell's funeral is Friday afternoon. Haith -- whose brother is Bell's father -- plans to return to South Florida late Friday night and resume prepping his Hurricanes (4-3) for Sunday's Atlantic Coast Conference opener at home against No. 21 Georgia Tech (6-1).

Haith got word of the shooting early Saturday, about five hours after it happened.

He coached his team that day to a 98-66 win over Lafayette, without telling anyone -- not even his staff -- about the tragedy.

"I chose not to talk to people about it because I wanted to stay immersed into basketball and stay focused within our team," Haith said. "The first time I talked about it was Tuesday night after the game with our team, because I was going to have to leave the team."

Miami lost 61-59 at Northwestern on Tuesday night.

"It's been hard. We're one family. We all feel his pain," said Miami guard Jack McClinton, who scored 30 points in that loss and leads the ACC in scoring so far. "We went out there like we go out for every game, ready to play. The outcome wasn't what we wanted."

Bell's shooting has sparked widespread outrage in New York, with civil rights activists Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton among those who have been to the scene to console relatives. Two other men with Bell were injured in the shooting, and the New York Civil Liberties Union has called for an independent investigation by the state attorney general's office.

Bell and his fiancee, Nicole Paultre, planned to move with their two daughters -- Jada and Jordyn -- to Atlanta after the wedding and start a new life.

Bell was a standout high school pitcher and Haith thought he would play baseball in college. But that never happened, and after some minor legal scrapes, he decided to try to find work in the music industry, which pleased Haith and other members of the family.

"He started a family and in the process he really just came to his senses and decided to get married, which is a positive, and everybody was so happy for him that he made that decision," Haith said. "He was getting ready to start a new chapter in his life and we were all so excited for him."

Those plans ended in a hail of gunfire, prompting many who knew Bell to demand answers.

"I'm not angry," Haith said. "I'm strong in my faith. Things like this, you put it in God's hands and you know that things happen for a reason."