Gophers choose young Pitino to succeed Tubby Smith
Minnesota has picked Richard Pitino, the son of Louisville Coach Rick Pitino, to take over for Tubby Smith.
In his lone season at Florida International, Pitino led the Panthers to an 18-14 record, the school's first winning season in 13 years. He will turn 31 in September, fitting the profile of the young, up-and-comer that Minnesota Athletic Director Norwood Teague has preferred to hire in the past.
Pitino's pedigree and connection to another premier coach in Florida's Billy Donovan may have sealed the deal. Teague hired Shaka Smart off Donovan's staff, and the charismatic young coach took VCU to the Final Four. Before Smart, Teague worked with Anthony Grant, another former assistant of Donovan's.
In addition to working with his father at Louisville, Richard Pitino also served briefly on Donovan's staff with the Gators. He also knows a little something about replacing a big-name coach.
"The great thing about Billy and my dad, they're always willing to give me advice," Pitino told The Associated Press in February. "They understand where I'm at. I call Billy every single day, almost like I call my dad, and I'm so appreciative that they give the time ... ."
Florida International never got going under NBA Hall of Famer Isiah Thomas. Pitino inherited a program that was short on talent and long on academic problems, but he helped instill a renewed focus to performance in the classroom. They went 11-9 in the Sun Belt Conference, the most wins since joining the league in 1998-99.
■ Rutgers fired its men's basketball coach Mike Rice on Wednesday, a day after a video surfaced showing him berating his players during practices, throwing balls at them, kicking them and taunting them with slurs.
Rice's termination comes nearly four months after the university's athletic director, Tim Pernetti, suspended him for three games and fined him $50,000, with little elaboration. On Wednesday Pernetti called that decision a mistake and said that he would "work to regain the trust of the Rutgers community."
On Tuesday ESPN broadcast video from practices from 2010 to 2012 that showed Rice's conduct at practices. The video went viral and prompted the university to take further action.
"I've let so many people down," Rice told reporters outside his home. "My players, my administration, Rutgers University, the fans. My family, who's sitting in their house just huddled around because of the fact that their father was an embarrassment to them.
"It's troubling, but I will at some time, maybe I'll try to explain it, but right now, there's no explanation for what's on those films."
■ Texas A&M junior Kelsey Bone has declared for the WNBA Draft and will skip her senior season with the Aggies. "This was always the goal," she said. The 6-foot-4 Bone was third in the Southeastern Conference in scoring with 16.6 points per game and second with 9.3 rebounds per game.
Cuban says he might draft Griner
Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban says he's willing to draft women's college basketball superstar Brittney Griner.
"If she is the best on the board, I will take her," he told ESPN Tuesday. "I've thought about it. ... Would I do it? Right now, I'd lean toward yes, just to see if she can do it."
One major roadblock: Griner is likely to be drafted by the Phoenix Mercury, which has first pick in the WNBA Draft on April 15. .
■ The future home of the Kings may not be settled this month after all. With owners facing a difficult choice between a move to Seattle or the team staying put in Sacramento, NBA Commissioner David Stern said Wednesday the vote in two weeks may be delayed. "We've never had a situation like this," Stern said. "And the seriousness of purpose to me is really incredible, because (owners) know that there's a lot at stake here for two communities and the NBA."
A Seattle group led by investor Chris Hansen and Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer has a pending agreement with the Maloof family to buy 65 percent of the team and move it back to the city the SuperSonics left in 2008. Sacramento has put together its own group.
Track and Field
Pistorius ready to stretch his blades
Oscar Pistorius wants to train again and recently went back to visit his regular track in South Africa's capital of Johannesburg, the double-amputee athlete's agent, Peet van Zyl, said Wednesday.
Pistorius last trained on a track more than two months ago, and his last competitive race was his victory in the 400 meters final at the London Paralympics in September last year.
Van Zyl said Pistorius wasn't ready "mentally" to compete yet after he was charged with murder in the Feb. 14 shooting death of girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp at his home. "It was clear and evident it's going to take some time for him (to be ready to compete)," Van Zyl said. "He's trying to process this whole ordeal."
Falcons sign player exonerated of rape
Brian Banks signed with the Atlanta Falcons on Wednesday after the former Southern Cal recruit's football dream was derailed when he was convicted of rape and kidnapping charges a decade ago.
The linebacker will participate in Atlanta's off-season workouts with a chance to resume his career. Banks, 27, has been trying to get back into football since he was cleared on May 12, 2012, of a rape conviction.
The Falcons are the first NFL team to sign Banks, but he has had chances with other teams. He took part in the Seattle Seahawks' minicamp last June following workouts with Kansas City and San Diego. He had one tackle in two games with the Las Vegas Locomotives of the United Football League (UFL).
Banks was 16 and had a scholarship offer from USC when a Long Beach Poly high school classmate accused him of rape. He spent five years in jail and five years on probation. The woman recanted her claim and offered to help Banks clear his name.
■ The Cincinnati Bengals have acquired quarterback John Skelton off waivers from Arizona to compete for the job backing up Andy Dalton. Skelton was a fifth-round pick from Fordham in 2010 who started 17 games in three seasons, including six last year. He has completed 53 percent of his passes for 3,707 yards with 15 touchdowns and 25 interceptions.
Messi to miss match, not much more
Lionel Messi will miss Barcelona's Spanish league match this weekend because of a hamstring injury, but might play in the Champions League return leg against Paris Saint-Germain.
"I will return soon, thankfully it was not so serious," Messi said on his Facebook page. Messi suffered a similar injury in March 2008 and was sidelined for five weeks.
■ Jack Ebel, who has been Transylvania University's athletics director since 2006, is moving to a different position at the school, Transy announced Wednesday. Ebel will become the associate athletics director for outdoor facilities at Transy, effective July 1.
Under Ebel's tenure, the number of athletes increased from 270 to almost 400; numerous teams qualified for NCAA post-season play; men's and women's track, men's and women's lacrosse, and equestrian programs were added, and the cheer and dance program was upgraded to competitive status.
The last word
From sleepless nights to gut-wrenching decisions in the dugout, new Cleveland skipper Terry Francona couldn't be happier to be back managing again. Even if it doesn't always sound that way.
"I love doing this. Sometimes it kills you, but I don't want to do anything else. . . . It's funny, because I've been telling everybody I took the year off to get perspective. I have no perspective."