John Giannini is inheriting a La Salle program rich in history but scarred by a rape scandal and a string of sub-par seasons.

But the former University of Maine men's basketball coach sees nothing but promise in La Salle.

Giannini, who coached Maine for eight seasons to a record of 125-111, was introduced yesterday as the Explorers' new coach. He replaces Billy Hahn, the former Maryland assistant who resigned as head coach after two former players were charged with raping a 19-year-old woman who had been working at a youth basketball camp at the school.

Giannini said he is eager to join La Salle's basketball tradition, a winning history chronicled in the tournament banners hanging in the gym.

"It's an opportunity I wanted, and it's an opportunity I'm excited about," Giannini said.

"I did not find a lot of people that were unconfident in this institution," Giannini said. "The mood here, frankly, was far more positive than what I expected, based on what I'd been reading."

Tom Brennan, La Salle's athletic director, said Giannini is an excellent coach who "also had the background and the character that we want to see out of the coach that will head our program."

During the rape investigation this summer, a second woman came forward and told investigators she had been sexually assaulted by another male basketball player in 2003 while she was a member of the women's team.

The woman said she had informed both women's coach John Miller and Hahn that she had been assaulted, but decided not to file charges when the coaches discouraged her, police said. Both Hahn and Miller have denied discouraging the woman from pursuing charges, and both have said the woman was adamant about wanting to drop the matter.

Giannini didn't talk specifically about the rape allegations.

"Coaches know that the most important thing is the lives of their student athletes off the court and you don't want them to make decisions that negatively affect that . . . or the institution," Giannini said.

-- From News Services