Buffalo’s Levy Decides It’s Time to Step Down

From Staff and Wire Reports

Marv Levy retired Wednesday as coach of the Buffalo Bills, who became one of the NFL’s showcase teams in the 1990s but could not shake the stigma of losing four consecutive Super Bowls.

The 72-year-old coach--who next season would have surpassed George Halas as the oldest coach in NFL history--leaves after a 6-10 season and amid speculation he would be part of a shakeup of his offensive assistants.

He said he had been having a hard time balancing the ups and downs of winning and losing and has found himself worrying more about the health of his players.


“Today is a bittersweet day for me,” Levy said at a news conference at Orchard Park, N.Y. “Visions from a lifetime of thrills keep flashing before me. The future beckons, and I look forward to it with anticipation and excitement.”

Levy coached the Bills 12 years. He has led one team longer than any current coach or manager in the four major sports except Minnesota Twin Manager Tom Kelly, who was hired two months before Levy in 1986.

He is the only coach to reach four straight Super Bowls. The Bills were consistently among the NFL’s most talented teams but never won the biggest game. Levy, unfailingly patient and philosophical, never lost his dignity in defeat.

Bill running back Thurman Thomas, meanwhile, said he may decide to call his pro football career quits now that Levy is stepping down.

Thomas, who lives in the Houston suburb of Sugar Land, told Houston station KRIV-TV:

“It does change my thinking a little bit because I knew deep down I was coming back for another year, but I was wanting to come back another year under Marv Levy. I really haven’t made a decision,” said Thomas, who has spent the last decade with the Bills.

Thomas said he and many other Bills want defensive coordinator Wade Phillips to be named head coach.


“If Wade Phillips is the guy, I’m going to try and come back two or three more years,” Thomas said. “Wade has done an outstanding job with the defense. All of the players love him.”


Cuban pitcher Orlando Hernandez, his wife and another baseball player who escaped from Cuba on a small boat were cleared by the State Department to enter the United States.

They were in a group of eight who were being held in the Bahamas while U.S. officials considered their request for asylum.

The State Department said that Hernandez, a star pitcher on the Cuban National team and the half-brother of World Series most valuable player Livan Hernandez of the Florida Marlins, could enter the United States along with his wife, Noris, and Alberto Hernandez Perez.

State Department spokesman James Foley said the two players had been banned for life from baseball in Cuba after helping Livan Hernandez defect in 1995, depriving them of their livelihoods and subjecting them to harassment.

It was not immediately clear when Hernandez would travel to the United States. The other five Cubans will remain in the custody of Bahamian immigration authorities, Foley said.



Pernell Whitaker was charged with reckless driving after a police officer pursuing the boxer’s vehicle said he weaved around traffic and ran a red light in Virginia Beach, Va.

The officer tried to pull over Whitaker on Tuesday night after seeing the car cut in front of an ambulance, according to police spokesman Lou Thurston. The ambulance was not on a call at the time and did not have its flashers or siren on, Thurston said.

After a pursuit of about two miles, Whitaker stopped. Thurston said Whitaker wasn’t charged with eluding police because he told the officer he did not initially see the police car. Whitaker, 33, was released on an $800 personal recognizance bond.

NASCAR team owner Rick Hendrick, who has a life-threatening form of leukemia, was sentenced to three years’ probation for his part in a bribery and kickback scandal involving American Honda Motor Co.

A federal judge ordered Hendrick, who owns teams featuring drivers Jeff Gordon, Terry Labonte and Ricky Craven, confined to his Charlotte, N.C., home for 12 months, during which time he cannot participate in his automobile business or NASCAR operations. He also must pay a $250,000 fine.

Winter Sports

Even though he had already clinched a spot on the U.S. Olympic ski team, Todd Lodwick of Steamboat Springs, Colo., overcame a bad second jump in the Nordic combined, made up a 21-second deficit in the cross-country portion of the competition and beat Tim Tetreault by a foot to win the event and the first-place prize money at Lake Placid, N.Y.


“I’m bummed about the $10,000,” said the 27-year-old Tetreault, also of Steamboat Springs. “It’s nice to win money in a sport that you [normally] don’t. It’s the one chance we get to make some money.”


Although he’s banned from boxing, Mike Tyson could be back in the ring soon--as a pro wrestling referee.

Tyson, prevented from fighting after he bit off a piece of Evander Holyfield’s ear, may participate in “Wrestlemania XIV” on March 29 in Boston.

The World Wrestling Federation says it is negotiating with promoter Don King to get Tyson to appear in the event. King spokesman Howie Evans confirmed that negotiations are under way but declined to give any details.

The WWF wouldn’t disclose Tyson’s proposed role, but New York’s Daily News said the former heavyweight champion is being sought as a referee.

The third Gilbert Cup, an invitational table tennis tournament featuring eight world-class players, will be held Friday and Saturday in the Wooden Center at UCLA. Sweden’s Jan-Ove Waldner, the 1997 world champion; Korean national champion Kim Taek Soo and two-time U.S. champion David Zhuang are among those competing. Play begins each day at 3 p.m. Tickets are available through Ticketmaster or UCLA ticket office. Details: (310) 967-1338.


Hall of Fame jockey Jorge Velasquez, retiring at age 51, finished his career afterf riding three horses at Calder Race Course in Miami.

“I’m not sure what I’ll do now,” he said. “I thought about becoming a trainer, but that’s very tough. You start at the bottom and I don’t want to go through that.”

The final three mounts of his career were not momentous. Byzantine Design finished fourth in the third race, Glitter River took the lead in the fourth but faded and Dynamic Chase in the fifth race finished next to last.

Velasquez was the sixth-most productive rider in North America, winning 6,795 races and earning purses of $125.2 million. Two of his most notable victories were the Kentucky Derby in 1981 on Pleasant Colony, and the $3-million Breeders’ Cup Classic in 1985 on Proud Truth.

Former jockey Warren Mehrtens, who won the Triple Crown aboard Assault in 1946, died Tuesday at the age of 77. Mehrtens rode his first winner in 1940 and went on to post 614 career victories and win $3.5 million in purses.