Newsletter: The Sports Report: Bruce Arians surprises by retiring and boosting NFL diversity
Howdy, I’m your host, Iliana Limón Romero, filling in for Houston Mitchell, who is probably updating his greatest Dodgers of all time list. Let’s get right to the news.
From Sam Farmer: Bruce Arians, who led the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to a Super Bowl victory, is retiring from coaching effective immediately with the intent of being replaced by defensive coordinator Todd Bowles.
Arians, 69, informed his coaching staff and players of the news Wednesday evening and discussed the decision exclusively with The Los Angeles Times and NBC’s Peter King.
Bowles is expected to be named head coach as soon as Wednesday night with an introductory news conference Thursday.
“Succession’s always been huge for me,” Arians said, adding the organization “is probably in the best shape in its history.”
Arians, a two-time NFL coach of the year, is handing the reins to Bowles, his defensive coordinator in both Arizona and Tampa Bay and a former head coach of the New York Jets.
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Normally, a team would need to comply with the Rooney Rule and conduct in-person interviews with at least two minority candidates for a head-coaching vacancy — that’s people of color and/or women. But because this is happening after the start of the league year, when the interview window has closed, this type of coach-to-coach succession is permissible.
The Buccaneers recently sought clarification from the NFL to ensure they were operating properly under the hiring protocols.
Bowles would bring the NFL’s total of minority head coaches to six. He will be the fourth head coach of the Buccaneers who is Black, an NFL record. No other franchise has had more than two. The Glazer family, which owns the Buccaneers, previously hired Tony Dungy, Raheem Morris and Lovie Smith to be head coach.
ALSO: Big questions behind Bruce Arians’ retiring as Tampa Bay coach in favor of Todd Bowles
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From Kevin Baxter: A little more than an hour after the U.S. lost to Costa Rica on Wednesday, coach Gregg Berhalter left his team at San Jose’s Estadio Nacional and headed for the airport.
The first part of his World Cup journey had ended with a physical 2-0 loss on a cool, breezy night, a result that dropped the U.S. to third in the CONCACAF tournament but still qualified it for this fall’s World Cup in Qatar. The second part of that journey would begin with a flight to New York, the first leg of a 21-hour trip that will take him to Doha for Friday’s World Cup draw.
It was a fittingly fatiguing reward for guiding the national team through the most exhausting World Cup qualifying campaign in its history, a seven-month, 14-game slog that crossed eight countries. Berhalter’s team played in high humidity and subfreezing temperatures, in packed NFL stadiums and in stadiums where COVID-19 limited attendance to mostly empty seats. It played near the shores of the Caribbean in Jamaica and at 7,200 feet above sea level in Mexico.
And it did all that with the youngest roster the U.S. has ever used in qualifying, one that averaged under 24 years of age. It was a team that bent but rarely broke, and despite the fact its qualifying campaign ended Wednesday with a loss, the Americans are back in the World Cup, a tournament it missed four years ago.
“Just reflecting on these last seven months and how much his team has grown together, being the youngest team in the world to qualify for the World Cup is no easy task,” Berhalter said. “What we saw was the resilience of the team, the strong mentality of the team, and absolute focus to reach our goal. I’m looking forward to competing in the World Cup again.
“We’re excited for the draw, excited to see who we have. This group can do some damage, I’m confident.”
From Andrew Greif: It was just one game.
It was also a telling one.
After missing his 43 previous games with an elbow injury, Paul George’s 34 points and harassing defense in Tuesday’s comeback to beat the Utah Jazz offered enough during his 31 minutes to draw a glimpse into how his return changes the Clippers and how the Clippers must adjust to George’s presence in the lineup to meet their playoff potential, two scouts for NBA teams said.
One scout felt George showed less rust than expected and while turning a slow start into a furious finish looked even better than when he had last played, in December.
George missed his first three shots and threw two turnovers in the first quarter while matching his conditioning to NBA speed, but the adjustment was quick. He scored 25 of his points after the Clippers had fallen behind by 25 in the third quarter, including a pair of three-pointers in front of the Clippers’ bench less than 30 seconds apart in the third quarter that signaled to coach Tyronn Lue that George was fully back.
George’s eight deflections, which led to four steals, also matched Utah’s entire total, and his two turnovers were half of his season average.
Initially concerned by George’s explosiveness after missed layups early, the scout described leaving impressed by how fluidly George played as the game went on and also with his sense of timing. George’s ability to get his hands on the ball helped neutralize Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell in their matchups.
“George looked good,” said a second scout, who like the other spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly.
UCLA WOMEN’S BASKETBALL
From Marisa Ingemi: UCLA coach Cori Close said South Dakota State and her Bruins should be in the NCAA tournament.
Instead, the Bruins will face the Jackrabbits for the second time this season, this time competing for a berth in the WNIT championship game.
It will take avenging an early-season defeat to get there.
“Neither of us were playing our best basketball back in November,” Close said on Wednesday. “... I watched their [Summit League tournament] game against South Dakota, and South Dakota ended up being a Sweet 16 team and almost beating Michigan. And their only loss in conference was to South Dakota State. I mean, they’re a really good basketball team.”
The Bruins lost 76-66 to the Jackrabbits at the Gulf Coast Showcase in Florida at the end of November, when UCLA was ranked No. 15 in the country. From there, their grasp on the top 20 slipped and they never reentered, dealing with a plethora of injuries. A COVID-19 pause canceled three games that could have helped UCLA eek into the NCAA tournament.
UCLA, now healthier, hit its stride in time for the postseason, winning seven of its last eight games, including a triple-overtime victory at Wyoming, one of the most unforgiving gyms in the country. The Jackrabbits, though, are a reminder of a time when the Bruins struggled, having lost three of five during that stretch in November.
From Thuc Nhi Nguyen: Almost as popular UCLA gymnasts performing viral floor routines are their backup dancers. Behind every internet-breaking UCLA performance, whether it was Katelyn Ohashi or Nia Dennis, there is always a line of teammates, dancing along, smiling and clapping.
This year, junior Kalyany Steele dubbed the phenomenon “sidelineography.” And with their season in the balance, every smile and shimmy matters for the Bruins.
Needing their best meets of the year to stay in national championship contention, UCLA will rely on its sideline energy to fortify its “Bruin bubble” during an eight-team, two-round NCAA regional beginning Thursday.
The 14th-ranked Bruins will compete against No. 3 Michigan, Maryland and North Carolina in Raleigh N.C., at 4 p.m. PT on Thursday. No. 6 Louisiana State and No. 11 Missouri lead Thursday’s morning session that also includes host North Carolina State and Iowa. The top two teams from each session will advance to Saturday’s regional final. The best two teams Saturday move on to the NCAA championships April 14-16 in Fort Worth .
Last season, UCLA missed the cut for nationals as a team for the first time since 2016. With the top freshman class in the country, the Bruins were determined to return to the top stage this season. Then internal strife between coaches and gymnasts threatened to derail the season before it began.
UCLA MEN’S BASKETBALL
From Ben Bolch: Mick Cronin’s new six-year contract, which takes effect Friday and pays him $4.1 million annually, is expected to make the UCLA coach the highest-paid public-school basketball coach in the Pac-12.
Given the early returns on investment, it might count as a major bargain. In his two seasons at the school in which the NCAA tournament has been played, the Bruins have reached a Final Four and a Sweet 16. One of the nation’s top recruiting classes will arrive this summer, bolstering what could be a veteran returning core.
Oregon’s Dana Altman will make $4 million next season as the result of a $250,000 raise, according to salary data obtained by USA Today, ranking him second in the conference among public school coaches. USC and Stanford, which are both private schools, do not divulge the salaries of their coaches, but it is unlikely they make more than $4.1 million a year.
In three seasons, Cronin’s teams have gone 68-30, twice finishing in second place in the Pac-12 regular season standings and reaching the conference tournament championship game earlier this month.
ALSO: UCLA sharpshooter Jake Kyman says he will transfer in wake of reduced role
From Luca Evans: Justin Pierce wasn’t coming back.
He’d spent four years bouncing around Los Angeles gyms — even living in one — just for a shot at a professional basketball career. He’d spent the two years before that, following a playing career at Averett University in Danville, Va., saving his pennies for G League tryouts. He’d been scammed, swindled and sucked into the maw of the money machine that is the below-deck professional basketball world and spit out without so much as a place to live.
But in September, the 32-year-old Pierce was summoned by Mike Creppy, chief executive of the L.A.-based international consulting firm Vindicated Sports, to accompany the agency to a showcase in Uruguay. Coming off a five-month stint in Costa Rica where he’d averaged more than 30 points a game for the Caribe Jaguares, Pierce was determined to earn a deal by any means necessary.
He bought a one-way plane ticket. He wasn’t going home empty-handed. Not again.
“I was like, ‘There’s no way I’m missing this,’” Pierce said. “I ain’t have no money to come back anyways.”
There’s a certain class of hardcourt grinders in Los Angeles that exist between the margins, between G League and semipro, who strive for a chance to play in another country. According to the RealGM website, more than 80 players from L.A. alone have played overseas. Some are former NBA pros such as Jordan Farmar, two-time NBA champion with the Lakers. But many, like Pierce, are small-college products with divergent resumes.
For them, playing overseas is a Holy Grail, one with no clear GPS route. The business is cutthroat, players say. If you aren’t careful, a player can end up dead broke or stuck halfway across the world spinning his wheels.
“It’s almost like running with no finish line,” Creppy said. “They don’t know where they’re running to.”
From Bill Shaikin: Even by the big event standards of Las Vegas, Wednesday was huge. In the morning, plans were unveiled for a sparkling new arena that could allow the NBA to follow the NFL and NHL into town. In the evening, Formula One announced it would stage a race on the Las Vegas Strip starting in 2023.
“There is no better place for Formula 1 to race than in the global entertainment capital of the world,” Formula 1 President Stefano Domenicali said in a statement.
Since 2012, the only Formula One race in the United States has been held in Austin. However, with the European-dominated circuit riding the Netflix show “Drive to Survive” to a wave of global popularity, Formula One has added races in Miami, starting this year, and in Las Vegas, starting on an unannounced Saturday in November 2023.
The race will include 50 laps of a 3.8-mile course along and around the Strip and its hotels, casinos, and faux world landmarks.
Earlier Wednesday, a company led by former AEG chief executive Tim Leiweke announced it would build a $3 billion entertainment center, including an NBA-ready arena, on a recently purchased 25-acre site just south of the Strip and adjacent to a proposed station for high-speed rail from Los Angeles. Leiweke’s Oak View Group built the arena for the expansion NHL Seattle Kraken and currently is building an arena near Palm Desert for concerts and the Kraken’s minor league team.
Leiweke told CNBC the Las Vegas arena could prosper with concerts and onetime events such as boxing and wrestling matches and said the NBA has made no promises. If the NBA expands to 32 teams, the favorites for the two new teams are widely considered to be Seattle – in Leiweke’s arena there – and Las Vegas.
From the Associated Press: Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid scored in regulation and then again in the shootout, lifting the Edmonton Oilers to a 4-3 win over the L.A. Kings on Wednesday night.
McDavid added an assist to get to 100 points for the fifth time in his career. Cody Ceci also scored and Mikko Koskinen had 38 saves for the Oilers, who have won eight straight at home.
The victory was Edmonton’s second in a row and moved the Oilers within a point of Los Angeles for second place in the Pacific Division.
Alexander Edler, Quinton Byfield and Carl Grundstrom scored in regulation for the Kings, who have lost three of their last four games.
Los Angeles started the scoring three minutes into the game with a goal on its first shot. Edler floated a shot from the point that ticked a defender and got past Koskinen.
Thursday’s schedule (all times PDT)
Seton Hall at Middle Tennessee, 4:30 p.m., ESPN3.com
UCLA at South Dakota State, 5 p.m., ESPN3.com
Saturday’s Final Four schedule (all times PDT)
No. 2 Villanova vs. No. 1 Kansas, 3:09 p.m., TBS
No. 8 North Carolina vs. No. 2 Duke, 5:49 p.m., TBS
Friday’s Final Four schedule (all times PDT)
No. 1 Louisville vs. No. 1 South Carolina, 4 p.m., ESPN
No. 2 UConn vs. No. 1 Stanford, 6:30 p.m., ESPN
On this date
1923 — The Ottawa Senators of the NHL completes a two-game sweep of the WCHL’s Edmonton Eskimos with a 1-0 victory to win the Stanley Cup for the third time in four years. Harry “Punch” Broadbent scores the goal.
1931 — Notre Dame football coach Knute Rockne and seven others die in a plane crash in a wheat field near Bazaar, Kansas. During his 13 years at Notre Dame, the 43-year-old coach, led the “Fighting Irish” to 105 victories, 12 losses, five ties and three national championships.
1968 — The American League’s new franchise in Seattle chooses Pilots as its nickname.
1973 — The Philadelphia Flyers tie an NHL record for most goals in one period, scoring eight goals in the second period of a 10-2 win over the New York Islanders.
1973 — Ken Norton scores a stunning upset by winning a 12-round split decision over Muhammad Ali to win the NABF heavyweight title. Norton, a 5-1 underdog, breaks Ali’s jaw in the first round.
1975 — UCLA beats Kentucky 92-85 for its 10th NCAA basketball title under head coach John Wooden. Wooden finishes with a 620-147 career record after announcing his retirement two days earlier.
1980 — Larry Holmes scores a TKO in the eighth round over Leroy Jones to retain his WBC heavyweight title in Las Vegas.
1980 — Mike Weaver knocks out John Tate in the 15th round to win the WBA heavyweight title in Knoxville, Tenn.
1986 — Freshman center Pervis Ellison hits two free throws with 27 seconds left to seal Louisville’s 72-69 victory over Duke in the NCAA basketball championship.
1991 — Tennessee edges Virginia 70-67 in overtime for its third NCAA women’s basketball title. It’s the first overtime in the NCAA’s 10-year history.
1991 — Amy Alcott wins the Dinah Shore golf tournament with a record eight-shot victory over Dottie Mochrie.
1995 — Major league baseball players end their strike.
1997 — Martina Hingis becomes the youngest No. 1 player in tennis history. The 16-year-old Swiss sensation, who claimed her fifth title of 1997 at the Lipton Championships on March 29, supplants Steffi Graf in the WTA Tour rankings.
2005 — Tarence Kinsey hits a 3-pointer with 1.3 seconds left to lift South Carolina to a 60-57 victory over Saint Joseph’s for the NIT championship.
2012 — Ray Whitney passes 1,000 career points with a goal and assist in Phoenix’s 4-0 victory over Anaheim.
2013 — In one of the biggest upsets in the history of the NCAA women’s tournament, sixth-seeded Louisville stuns defending national champion Baylor in the regional semifinals, 82-81. It’s the end of a remarkable college career for Baylor’s Brittney Griner, a record-setting 6-foot-8 post player who ended up as the second-highest scoring player in NCAA history.
2013 — Pete Weber ties Earl Anthony by winning his 10th major Professional Bowlers Association title with a 224-179 win over Australian Jason Belmonte in the Tournament of Champions.
2017 — UConn’s record 111-game winning streak comes to a startling end when Mississippi State pulls off perhaps the biggest upset in women’s basketball history, shocking the Huskies 66-64 on Morgan William’s overtime buzzer beater in the national semifinals.
2018 — Anthony Joshua beats Joseph Parker by unanimous decision to become a three-belt world heavyweight boxing champion. Joshua adds Parker’s WBO belt to his WBA and IBF titles, and moves within one belt of becoming the first undisputed champion since Lennox Lewis in 2000.
Watch the final moments of John Wooden’s last national championship as he leads UCLA past Kentucky on this date in 1975.
Until next time...
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