Jim Calhoun retires from UConn...

689064.jpg

Jim Calhoun retires from UConn...

From Comcast SportsNetSTORRS, Conn. (AP) -- As Jim Calhoun stood in his office at Gampel Pavilion, waiting for his final news conference as Connecticut's basketball coach, Pat Calhoun turned to her husband and gave him one final piece of advice."Don't change your mind," she said.Calhoun had stayed on at UConn through cancer and a recruiting scandal. He refused to retire after winning a third national championship in 2011 because he didn't want a new coach to serve his NCAA suspension. He came back again to finish last season after another absence, this one for spinal surgery.But on Thursday he finally retired -- on his own terms, with a hand-picked successor and no apologies."I never, ever, ever said that I was mistake free," Calhoun said. "But I was always trying to do the right thing. It didn't always work that way, but I was always trying to do the right thing."The 70-year-old Hall of Famer, on crutches after breaking a hip last month, made the announcement on the court in Storrs where he racked up many of his 873 total wins.He thanked everyone associated with the Huskies program -- administrators, players, fans and his family -- for his team's success, and played down both his health problems and troubles with the NCAA."There have been some bumps in the road," he said. "But we are headed in the right direction."Calhoun will take a transition appointment through next spring as a special assistant to athletic director Warde Manuel. When fully retired, he will become head coach emeritus.Calhoun has been slowed repeatedly by illness and accidents in recent years, including the fractured hip. He said the injury didn't cause him to retire, but gave him time to reflect on whether this would be a good time to leave."As I looked at everything. So many things are in place for us to even go farther that we have already," he said. "So I thought it was an excellent time."With just a month to go before the start of practice, there also was no time for a national search for a replacement. Assistant coach Kevin Ollie, who played point guard for Calhoun from 1991-95, but has never been a head coach at any level, will be the Huskies' new coach.Athletic director Warde Manual, who had balked at Calhoun's suggestions earlier this year to name Ollie as a coach in waiting, decided not to tag him with an "acting coach" label. He instead offered Ollie a contract that runs only through next April 4, with a pro-rated value of 384,615."I haven't seen him coach," Manuel said. "He's never been a head coach. This is a commitment to him to see what he is like as a head coach."Ollie, who played his way from the USBL to a 13-year NBA career, said he's not afraid of the challenge."I'm used to it," he said. "My first six years in the NBA, I didn't have no guaranteed contract. This is easy. This is exactly where I want to be at."Ollie takes over a team that returns only five players who saw significant playing time a year ago and failed to qualify academically for the 2013 NCAA tournament.Guard Ryan Boatright said the team didn't want to play for anyone other than Ollie, and will take it upon themselves to make sure his new coach gets to keep the job."He's a great person, and he loves us," Boatright said. "I wouldn't rather have nobody else than KO."Ollie is one of more than two dozen players whom Calhoun sent to the NBA, a list includes everyone from Reggie Lewis at Northeastern, to Cliff Robinson, Ben Gordon, Emeka Okafor, Rudy Gay, Ray Allen and Kemba Walker.Walker, who attended the news conference, said that will be a big part of Calhoun's legacy."He's showed us how to work," Walker said. "He's pushed me to be the best player and person I could be. He's one of the most special men in my life."Calhoun also will be remembered for turning a regional program into a national power -- winning an NIT championship in 1988, national titles in 1999, 2004 and 2001, 10 Big East regular-season championships and seven Big East Tournament titles."The thing that stands out to me is it's one thing to take over a Duke or a Kentucky and build it and win games and win championships," said Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim, who went into the Hall of Fame with Calhoun in 2005. "But 26 years ago Connecticut wasn't even thought of in the college basketball world. He's turned them into one of the top programs in the country. I think it's really, to me, the greatest building job that anybody's ever done."Stony Brook coach Steve Pikiell, who played for Calhoun from 1987 to 1991 said his influence goes beyond the basketball program. Calhoun, he said, made people aware that there was a University of Connecticut."When I went here, the number-one question we got, everywhere, was: Where is UConn? Isn't that in Alaska?" he said. "Nobody asks that anymore."

Lynch: 49ers will be up-front with Kaepernick

img_6324-2.jpg

Lynch: 49ers will be up-front with Kaepernick

The only promises new 49ers general manager John Lynch made quarterback Colin Kaepernick for this offseason are open communication and honesty.

Kaepernick has spent all six of his NFL seasons with the 49ers after being a second-round draft pick in 2011. He has started 58 of the 49ers’ past 71 regular-season games.

Kaepernick has the contractual ability to opt out of his contract in March. If he does not, it seems likely the 49ers would release him – even if they want him back – to avoid being on the hook for his scheduled $14.9 million pay for the 2017 season.

“The one thing we will do very well with Kap is we’ll communicate,” Lynch said Tuesday on 95.7 The Game. “And I think that’s very important for both sides. Like everything else, that process is well in the works. We’ll continue to do that and we’ll be very up-front with him, in terms of what we’re thinking and we’ll want to know what he’s thinking, as well.”

Lynch said he developed trust and a good rapport with Kaepernick during the time when the 49ers were among the top teams in the NFL. Lynch was a broadcaster for FOX-TV and had occasion to meet with Kaepernick multiple times during production meetings.

“Every time we talk about Kap, I think of the guy who was in the Super Bowl not too (long ago),” Lynch said. “Things happen in guys’ careers. Injuries happen. Different things happen.”

Kaepernick began last season as the backup to Blaine Gabbert. After regaining his starting role in Week 6, Kaepernick put together his best season since 2013 – his first full season as a starter.

Kaepernick completed 59.2 percent of his passes with 16 touchdowns and four interceptions. His passer rating was 90.7, and he added 468 yards rushing.

Lynch said he and coach Kyle Shanahan have been evaluating the players on the 49ers’ roster. The other three quarterbacks on the roster – Gabbert, Christian Ponder and Thad Lewis – are not under contract for next season.

“Like we said we would – and like we told Kap we would – we’re assessing everything,” Lynch said. “Both Kyle and I believe wholeheartedly that position is the most-important position in football.

“From every side of this thing, we’re evaluating. And we’re continuing to watch the film. We’ll continue to work toward that until we have made a decision.”

A sports-related pie-fixing scandal? Hell never felt so fun

apple-pie.jpg
AP

A sports-related pie-fixing scandal? Hell never felt so fun

I’m liking this 2017 so far. Then again, after 2016, nearly any year would be an improvement.

Just this last weekend we got a flat-earth scandal that turned into a mock-up about media self-importance and fake news (yay Kyrie Irving and his impish sense of satire!).

We got the overblown Russell-Hates-Kevin narrative, and the faux Russell-Secretly-Loves-Kevin counternarrative, all because we are stunningly attracted to meaningless and utterly contrived drama (yay our ability to B.S. ourselves!).

We got the NBA All-Star Game ripped for having no defense even though last year’s game was, if anything, worse (yay short attention span!).

We got the Boogie Cousins trade and the national revulsion of all the thought processes the Sacramento Kings put into this perpetually rolling disaster (yay making Boogie and Vivek Ranadive household names!).

And now we got the Great Sutton United Pie-Fixing Scandal. Yeah, pie-fixing. Hell never felt so fun.

So here’s the deal. Sutton United, a very small fry in English soccer, got to the fifth round of the FA Cup, a competition in which all the clubs in England are commingled and play each other until one team remains. The big clubs almost always win, so any time a small club goes deep, it’s a big deal.

Anyway, Sutton went deeper in the competition than nearly anyone in the last century, a charming development given that it is such a small club that it had a stadium caretaker, goalie coach and backup goalie all in one massive fellow, a 46-year-old guy named Wayne Shaw. Shaw became the globular embodiment of the entire Sutton Experience, a jolly lark for everyone involved and especially when he ate a pie on the bench in the final minutes of Sutton’s Cup-exiting loss to Arsenal.

And now he’s been eased into resigning his jobs with the club, because – and this is so very British – there were betting shops taking action on whether he would in fact eat a pie on the bench, and he either did or did not tip off his pals that he was going to chow down on television.

He did eat the pie. His pals collected on their bets. The sport’s governing body opened an investigation into market manipulation by gambling – which is hilarious given that no fewer than 10 gambling establishments have advertising deals with English soccer clubs. Shaw was invited to quit to kill the story, and he took the hint.

Hey, dreams die all the time. But it’s still pie-fixing. Let that rattle around your head for a minute. Pie-fixing. Not match-fixing. Not point-shaving. Pie-fixing.

Now how can you not love this year?

Sure, it sucks for Shaw, but it serves as a series of cautionary tales for athletes around the world.

* Gambling is everywhere, and every time you inch toward it, you dance on the third rail.

* If you want to help your friends, give them cash.

* This is a horribly delicious way to lose your gig.

* And finally, fun in the 21st century isn’t ever truly fun because someone in a suit and a snugly-placed stick is going to make sure you pay full retail for that fun.

But it is nice to know that something that has never happened before is now part of our year. Pie-fixing is a thing now, as silly in its way as Irving’s flat-earth narrative was. And as we steer away from normal games as being too run-of-the-mill-fuddy-duddy entertainment, we have replaced them with sideshows.

Or do you forget how many people complained Saturday and Sunday that the dunk contest wasn’t interesting enough? How stupid is that?

Lots. Lots of stupid. But against pie-tin-shaped planets and pies turned into betting coups, how can it possibly compare?

We chase a lot of idiotic narratives in our sporting lives. The great What Will The Patriots Do To Roger Goodell story died like the old dog it was. We still try to flog Warriors-Thunder as a rivalry in search of better TV ratings when all the obvious evidence is that it is no such thing unless you think a couple that broke up nine months ago is still a solid story. We have Bachelor fantasy leagues, for God’s sake.

This would leave most normal folks in despair, thus matching their everyday experiences, but yin meets yang, and every time it looks like we are all barrel-rolling into the sun, we get Irving, and then we get Wayne Shaw.

In short, 2017 is going to be fun of grand surprises for us all. I look forward to the day President Trump tries to fete the Patriots and only gets to Skype with Bob Kraft and the equipment guys who midwifed DeflateGate, and Mark Davis in Las Vegas, just to see if he can get a P.F. Chang’s into the Bellagio.

Why not? This is sport’s year-long tribute to sketch comedy, and evidently everyone is signing on enthusiastically to replace lessons of morality and honor and equality and dignity and sportsmanship with slackened jaws and belly laughs.

So yay sports! Or as it is clearly becoming, A Night At The Improv.