Marriucci canned by 49ers
SAN FRANCISCO, Jan. 15 (UPI) -- Steve Mariucci Wednesday was fired as head coach of the NFL's San Francisco 49ers,
The firing was first reported by ESPN, and was confirmed at a late west coast press conference at team headquarters.
Mariucci's ouster has been a hot media topic since Sunday, when the 49ers were wasted, 31-6, in the NFC divisional contest by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
The ESPN report said Mariucci was told by General Manager Terry Donahue that has been released from the final year of his contract.
ESPN reported that there were "philosophical differences" between Mariucci and John York, the owner's representative, about Mariucci's role in the organization, and that Mariucci has been asking for the title of Vice President of Football Operations.
San Francisco finished with an 11-7 record this season, and won the NFC West title.
Mariucci, 47, completed his sixth season as coach of the Niners, posting a 58-39 regular season record. He endured back-to-back losing seasons in 1999 and 2000, but that was due in part to salary cap considerations that forced the Niners to make major changes on their roster.
Dallas player charged in 2 deaths
DALLAS, Jan. 15 (UPI) -- Dallas defensive back Dwayne Goodrich Wednesday faced manslaughter charges in the deaths of two men hit by a speeding car.
The two were struck and killed while trying to pull an injured motorist from a burning car.
Goodrich, 24, surrendered to Dallas police late Tuesday night and he was released from jail about 2:15 a.m. Wednesday after posting a $50,000 bond. He was charged with two counts of manslaughter, a second-degree felony.
Demont Matthews, 23; and Joseph Wood, 21; long-time friends from Plano, Texas, were fatally injured about 2 a.m. Tuesday as they tried to rescue the driver of a burning car on Interstate 35 in north Dallas.
Witnesses said a gray BMW, traveling at speeds in excess of 100 mph, crashed into the men and did not stop. Accident investigators said there were no skid marks to indicate that the driver attempted to stop, police Lt. John Blanton said.
Police later determined that the car was registered to Goodrich, a Cowboys' second-round draft pick in 2000 from Tennessee who started one game this past season.
Goodrich contacted police because he knew they would be looking for him, his agent, Stephen W. Zucker, told The Dallas Morning News.
"He's just devastated by all of this, absolutely devastated," Zucker said.
Calvin Hill, the Cowboys' coordinator of player assistance, extended sympathy to the families of the two victims.
"We were informed on Tuesday of this tragic situation. It is a police matter, and we will continue to monitor developments. We are deeply saddened for the families who have experienced the lost of life."
Matthews and Wood had pulled off the freeway to help the driver of a car that burst into flames after read-ending a parked semi-tractor trailer truck. They joined a third man who was also trying to assist at the accident scene. The third man suffered a broken leg and the driver of the burning car is expected to survive, police said.
The BMW dragged Matthews 155 feet, according to police. He died at the crash scene and Wood died Tuesday morning at a hospital.
Manslaughter is a second-degree felony and carries a penalty of 2 to 20 years in prison and fines of up to $200,000.
Goodrich received a $1 million signing bonus from the Cowboys in 2000. A torn Achilles tendon suffered in training camp ended his second year. He played in 11 games this past season.
White Sox gets Colon
CHICAGO, Jan. 15 (UPI) -- As part of a tree-team trade, the Chicago White Sox Wednesday acquired Bartolo Colon.
The chunky righthander was highly sought during baseball's winter meetings, and was the centerpiece of a blockbuster deal that also involved Montreal and the New York Yankees.
The White Sox dealt righthanded reliever Antonio Osuna and minor league righthander Delaris Lantigua to the Yankees for veteran righthander Orlando "El Duque" Hernandez.
Chicago then sent Hernandez, outfielder Jeff Liefer, righthander Rocky Biddle, and cash to Montreal for Colon and minor league infielder Jorge Nunez.
Colon thus returns to the American League Central Division after being traded to the Expos by Cleveland last June 27. For the season, the hard-throwing righthander was 20-8 with a 2.93 ERA in 33 starts.
Colon, 29, who always has been criticized about his weight, is 84-49 with a 3.85 ERA in 179 games, all but two of which are starts. He has thrown at least 200 innings in four of the last five seasons, and has 502 strikeouts over the last three years.
"We have been discussing with the Expos various ways we could acquire Bartolo for quite some time," said White Sox General Manager Ken Williams. "There were very few pitchers of his caliber available this offseason, and we really like the potential of the Bartolo Colon-Mark Buehrle combination at the top of our rotation, followed by Jon Garland and Danny Wright."
Colon's eight complete games in 2002 tied him with Randy Johnson of Arizona for the major league lead. He was 10-4 with a 2.55 ERA in 16 starts with Cleveland before being traded.
Hernandez, who has battled injuries the last two seasons, was 8-5 with a 3.64 ERA in 24 appearances in 2002. The Cuban defector, who is the half-brother of San Francisco Giants righthander Livan Hernandez, is 53-38 with a 4.04 ERA in 124 career appearances. In 16 postseason outings, he is 9-3 with a 2.51 ERA.
The Yankees had an abundance of starting pitchers after acquiring righthander Jeff Weaver from Detroit during 2002, and signing another Cuban defector, Jose Contreras, in December.
Osuna, 29, went 8-2 with a 3.86 ERA in 59 appearances with the White Sox last season. He had a career-high 11 saves, and will bolster a New York bullpen that lost righthander Ramiro Mendoza (Boston) and lefthander Mike Stanton (Mets).
The 23-year-old Lantiagua split 2002 between Double-A Birmingham and Triple-A Charlotte, going 7-7 with a 4.38 ERA in 31 games.
Liefer, 28, who also can play first and third base, batted just .230 with seven home runs and 26 RBI in 76 games last season. The first-round pick in 1995 has a .244 average with 25 homers and 79 RBI in 209 career games.
Biddle, 26, was 3-4 with a 4.06 ERA in 44 games, including seven starts in 2002, which was just his second full season in the majors.
Valdes back to Texas
ARLINGTON, Texas, Jan. 15 (UPI) -- The Texas Rangers Wednesday came to terms with Ismael Valdes on a one-year contract.
Financial terms were not made public.
Valdes, who was traded to Seattle Aug. 18 for a pair of minor leaguers, went a combined 8-12 with a 4.18 ERA in 31 starts for the Rangers and Mariners last season.
He signed with Texas as a free agent by Texas in January 2002. He was 6-9 with a 2.93 ERA in 23 starts for the Rangers.
Valdes rejoins a rotation that was 12th in the American League with a 5.15 ERA in 2002.
Texas is not expected to re-sign veteran free agent lefthander Kenny Rogers, who led the team with 13 wins.
"We are pleased that Ismael Valdes has decided to return to the Texas Rangers," said General Manager John Hart. "He did a great job for us over the first four months of the season and, with any luck, could have won another five or six games. With Chan Ho Park and John Thomson, this gives us three guys who can be very effective at the front end of our rotation."
Valdes joins an overhauled staff that has added Aaron Fultz, Thomson, closer Ugueth Urbina, and Esteban Yan in the offseason. Texas also has added catcher Chad Kreuter and outfielder Doug Glanville.
Valdes has a career mark of 80-86 with a 3.76 ERA in 255 games with Los Angeles, the Chicago Cubs, Anaheim, Texas, and Seattle.
Cubs re-sign Wood
CHICAGO, Jan. 15 (UPI) -- Chicago Cubs Wednesday signed righthander Kerry Wood to a one-year contract.
The signing of Wood, who pitched a career-high 213 2/3 innings last season, helped the Cubs avoid arbitration.
Financial terms were not released by the team, but ESPN Radio 1000 in Chicago reported the deal was worth $6.1 million.
Wood, 25, went 12-11 with a 3.66 ERA last season and along with 22-year-old Mark Prior, also a righty, gives the Cubs two of the most promising young starters in the major leagues.
Wood, the fourth pick in the 1995 draft, is 45-30 with a 3.75 ERA in 110 career starts. He became the first Cubs pitcher to win Rookie of the Year, when he went 13-6 with a 3.40 ERA and a career-high 233 strikeouts in 1998.
In just his fifth start, Wood tied a major league record with 20 strikeouts, when he fired a one-hitter in a 2-0 win over the Houston Astros on May, 6, 1998.
The 6-5, 230-pounder missed all of the 1999 season after undergoing reconstructive surgery on his pitching elbow. He struggled a bit in 2000, but has 217 strikeouts in each of the last two seasons.
Wood also compiled a 3.66 ERA, ranked third in the NL in total strikeouts, was sixth in strikeouts per inning (9.1) in the 2002 campaign, and also went the distance four times.
Expos re-sign Armas
MONTREAL, Jan. 15 (UPI) -- The Montreal Expos have come to terms with pitcher Tony Armas Jr.
The team was able to avoid salary by signing the veteran righthander to a one-year contract.
Financial terms were not disclosed.
Armas, 24, was second on the Expos in wins last season, going 12-12 with a 4.44 ERA in 29 starts. The native of Venezuela worked 164 1/3 innings, allowing 149 hits while striking out 131 to go along with 78 walks.
Armas, entering his fifth season, has a career record of 28-36 with a 4.21 ERA in 81 starts.
The 12 wins marked the first time in his career that Armas reached double figures in victories. His best game of the 2002 season was on April 8, when he pitched 8 1/3 innings and struck out seven batters in 10-2 victory over the Florida Marlins.
Funeral for sportswriter Will McDonough
BOSTON, Jan. 15 (UPI) -- Funeral services were Wednesday for Boston Globe sportswriter Will McDonough, considered one of the nation's most respected and influential pro football commentators.
A lifelong South Boston friend, University of Massachusetts President William Bulger, apparently fainted in a front pew during the funeral mass in St. Augustine's Church and was carried out on a stretcher.
Bulger, former president of the Massachusetts Senate, was conscious and smiling as police and emergency medical personnel carried him to an ambulance that took him to Massachusetts General Hospital. His condition did not appear serious.
Bulger, 67, was one of hundreds of people who turned out to mourn the passing of McDonough, who died last week at his Hingham, Mass., home of an apparent heart attack while watching a sports show on television.
McDonough, also 67, had worked at the Globe for more than 40 years, earning a reputation as a tough but fair reporter. It was said he had unparalleled access in the sports world, and counted many as friends. With his sometimes bulldoggish attitude, he also had his share of critics.
McDonough, who is survived by his wife and their five children, was perhaps best known nationally for the years he spent on television covering professional football. Among other things, he was one of the few writers who covered every Super Bowl.
Several thousand people showed up Tuesday afternoon and evening to pay their respects to McDonough at the Fleet Center, the first time the facility had been used for a wake.
Among the dozens of sports figures, journalists, politicians, business leaders and friends who filed past his closed casket was Paul Tagliabue, commissioner of the National Football League.
"He was a very decent person who didn't think he was anybody special," Tagliabue said. "He just loved sports."
Pacers lose Bender for awhile
INDIANAPOLIS, Jan. 15 (UPI) --Indiana will be without forward Jonathan Bender two-to-four weeks because of an aggravated calf injury.
Bender, who just came off the injured list last week, re-injured a torn left calf muscle.
He came off the injured list before a 89-97 win over the New York Knicks on Jan. 8. He had two points and two rebounds in that game, and a combined 13 points and 13 boards in wins over Orlando and Golden State on Friday and Saturday.
Bender, a 7-footer, underwent an MRI. It revealed a torn left gastroc as well as a significant hematoma, which is a buildup of blood outside the blood vessel.
"I was getting better and I left ready to play," Bender said. "I just came back too soon."
Bender, 21, has appeared in 26 games this season, averaging 6.0 points and 2.8 rebounds in 18 minutes. Selected by the Toronto Raptors with the fifth overall pick in the 1999 draft, he has averaged 5.3 points and 2.2 rebounds in 187 career games.
Agassi, Venus move on at Melbourne
MELBOURNE, Australia, Jan. 15 (UPI) -- Andre Agassi cruised to a straight sets win Wednesday morning at the Australian Open.
Agassi, the men's second seed, won 18 straight games on the way to a 6-1, 6-0, 6-0 rout of Hyung-Taik Lee of Korea. The match at Rod Laver Arena lasted only 80 minutes.
Venus Williams, the other No. 2 from the United States, destroyed Ansley Cargill, a qualifier from the U.S., 6-3, 6-0, in 52 minutes.
No. 4 Carlos Moya of Spain became the highest-ranked men's seed to lose. The 1997 runnerup fell to Mardy Fish of the U.S., 3-6, 7-6 (10-8), 6-4, 4-6, 6-2.
Lee, who was the winner of last week's adidas International in Sydney, held his first service game and had three break points in the second, but that only awakened Agassi to the challenge.
The three-time Australian Open champion lifted his game another notch at that point.
"How can you not when you play a guy of Lee's quality, playing as well as he's been playing,?" Agassi asked. "To go out there and have a score like that doesn't happen too often. So, needless to say, I feel great about everything."
Agassi, 32, had 26 winners, won 89 percent of his first-service points, and converted 9-of-14 break-point chances.
"I was hitting the ball with conviction," Agassi said. "My unforced errors were way down. My winners were up. The stats would show that I was playing aggressive tennis without missing a whole lot, so that's a great feeling. My game plan was to go out there and control the match. For it to go that way was certainly unexpected."
Williams played less than an hour for the second straight match. She hit 39 winners, staved off four break points while snatching Cargill's serve four times.
She did commit 28 unforced errors.
"I tried my best to get into a rhythm more than anything else, just hit a lot of balls and get a nice rhythm going," Williams said. "Really, that was my goal tonight, besides of course to be the victor. I definitely think it was much better (than the first match), a lot less errors. I was playing a lot of good points in a row. Also, I was able to start being aggressive because I was more consistent."
Williams, 22, fell in the Australian quarterfinals last year, and lost in the finals at the French Open, Wimbledon, and the U.S. Open to younger sister Serena.
Williams has not lost before the quarterfinals in her four previous visits to Melbourne, and she beat Cargill in the first round last year.
"I think some of her best assets, she runs very well and she just tries till the very end," Williams said. "I think last year she came through the qualifying. This year, she did also. I suppose if we hadn't met tonight, she probably could have been able to get to the next round also. I think she's very good, actually."
Henin-Hardenne, a quarterfinalist at Melbourne last year, took advantage of a spate of unforced errors and Kournikova's weak serve to hand the popular Russian her worst Grand Slam defeat.
"It was hard (to keep concentration in the second set)," Henin-Hardenne said. "I played really well in the first set and didn't have a lot of mistakes. It's hard to stay focused because there weren't a lot of rallies. It was a difficult situation."
She admitted that Kournikova's feeble serve posed certain problems.
"I just tried to stay focused on myself and go for the return," she said. "For sure, it was hard sometimes because it was a very slow serve, a lot of double faults. Sometimes it was just amazing."
Kournikova, a former top-10 player who had won her first match at a major in two years on Monday, committed 29 unforced errors and six double faults while producing just five winners. She was broken five times, and failed on her only break point.
"It was very hard to get into the match," said Kournikova, who has never won a set in four lifetime losses to Henin-Hardenne. "She started off playing really, really well. I was always on the defense. I had no weapons against her today. I tried to turn it around and find some kind of weakness in her game today, but there was just none."
Agassi extended his winning streak in Melbourne to 16 straight matches. He claimed the title in 2000 and 2001, but was forced to pull out on the eve of last year's event because of a wrist injury.
Bidding to become only the fourth player to capture four men's singles titles in the history of this event, the former world No. 1 had mixed feelings about his dominant display.
"It's twofold," he said. "You have to know you can do it when you need it, but you don't necessarily need to do it until you need it. You hope you always play your best tennis in the best of situations. My experience in Grand Slam play is you can never predict how it's going to unfold. You don't want to spend more than you need to, but you do want to make sure you have what it takes when you do get pushed."
Meanwhile, No. 22 Yevgeny Kafelnikov of Russia, the 1999 champion trying to return from last month's vascular surgery, fell to Jarkko Nieminen of Finland, 6-3, 6-3, 3-6, 4-6, 6-1.
The women's champion three years ago, No. 9 Lindsay Davenport, overcame Uzbekistan's Iroda Tulyaganova, 6-7 (7-9), 6-4, 7-5.
"Sometimes you're definitely lucky to still be in the tournament, when you feel you don't play your best and you pull out a close match," Davenport said. "I'm very happy to still be around. Hopefully, it helps me play better later."
Davenport, 26, missed last year's event because of right knee surgery. She reached the final last week at Sydney, but has not won a title since 2001.
12th-seeded Patty Schnyder also won, but casualties were No. 13 Silvia Farina Elia and No. 15 Alexandra Stevenson.
Following Moya out of the event were No. 11 Paradorn Srichaphan of Thailand and No. 16 Sjeng Schalken of the Netherlands.
Srichaphan was upended by Australian Mark Philippoussis, 3-6, 6-1, 1-6, 7-5, 6-3, and Schalken was upended by 18-year-old Mario Ancic of Croatia, 6-3, 1-6, 6-7 (10-12), 6-4, 6-4.
Escherick will not be penalized
WASHINGTON, Jan. 15 (UPI) -- Mike Escherick will not be disciplined for his tirade about Big East officiating.
Escherick, the basketball coach at Georgetown, was vehement after his team's 84-82 overtime victory Sunday against West Virginia.
He was very upset about what he perceived was a physical mauling of star power forward Mike Sweetney.
According to the Washington Post, Escherick was especially upset with one official in particular whom he says is unwilling to call obvious hand-checking fouls against his perimeter players.
The paper also said the unidentified official and his crew drew Escherick's ire in recent road losses at Virginia and Duke because, he claimed, Sweetney took a physical beating in both games and no fouls were called.
The situation boiled over in Sunday's home-court victory over the Mountaineers, and Escherick did not hide his anger.
Tranghese called Esherick at his Arlington, Va., home, the paper said, and, after he promised not to launch into any more public tirades about officiating, decided not to make him the first league coach suspended for such behavior.
"I always cut people slack the first time," Tranghese told the paper. "Craig was not going after the officials personally or going after their integrity. Those are the two things I'll never accept from anyone. But I told him he can't go through that again, and he assured me he won't."
The paper said Escherick apologized for shouting at officials John Cahill, Mike Kitts, and Jeff Clark as they were leaving MCI Center after the contest.
Summitt gets to 800
KNOXVILLE, Tn., Jan. 15 (UPI) -- Pat Summitt became the first woman to reach the 800-win mark Tuesday night when her Tennessee team beat DePaul.
Nearly 13,000 fans were in attendance at Thompson-Boling Arena in Knoxville.
Summitt, the all-time winningest coach in women's college basketball, became just the sixth college coach to eclipse the 800-win mark, the third in Division I.
"I'm not as old as I seem," said Summitt, who is 50. "Eight-hundred wins is hard for me to believe."
Dean Smith of North Carolina is the all-time leader in college basketball with 879 wins. Kentucky's Adolph Rupp is second with 876.
Summitt has led Tennessee to six national championships, second only to John Wooden's 10, and has a career record of 800-161. All of it has come at Tennessee, where she showed her appreciation Tuesday.
"I want to thank the greatest fans in women's basketball, and that's all of you," she said. "Thank you."
Summitt is three wins ahead of Texas women's Coach Jody Conradt (797-262), but has coached 98 fewer games. Both started the season with 788 victories, but Summitt is ahead in the race for 800 with an 12-3. Conradt is 9-4.
When Summitt won her first game in 1974, a 69-32 victory over Middle Tennessee State, just 53 people attended. A crowd of 12,791 showed up Tuesday.
"It gives you a warm feeling," said senior forward Gwen Jackson, "something you'll never forget."