SAN FRANCISCO, Jan. 16 (UPI) -- The San Francisco 49ers fired Coach Steve Mariucci Wednesday and blamed it on his desire to expand his role in the franchise.
General Manager Terry Donahue announced Mariucci had been released from the final year of his contract, citing "philosophical differences" between the coach and owner representative John York.
"Dr. York has a strong feeling on how he wants the team structured," Donahue said. "He wants a president, a general manager, a head coach. He wants people with clearly defined responsibilities. From a fundamental standpoint, there was a conflict with where the owner wanted the organization to be and where he wanted it flowing."
Mariucci and York were not present at Wednesday's news conference.
The firing came three days after the 49ers concluded their season with Sunday's 31-6 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in an NFC divisional playoff game.
Mariucci came under fire Sunday for running out the clock in the final minute of the first half with the 49ers trailing, 28-6.
San Francisco won the NFC West title and finished with an 11-7 record. In an NFC wild card game, the 49ers rallied from a 24-point deficit to defeat the New York Giants.
Mariucci, who coached the team for six years, upset the front office last winter by openly campaigning through the media for a contract extension. He then talked with the Tampa Bay Buccaners about becoming their coach and general manager. But Mariucci hesitated when it came time to accept the job and Tampa bay ultimately hired Jon Gruden.
The final straw, according to Donahue, came when Mariucci asked for more power in a meeting with York earlier this week. But Donahue denied he personally clashed with Mariucci.
"I don't believe we ever had a major conflict," said Donahue, who added that Mariucci will receive a severance package. "I don't think we had any minor conflicts."
Kings smash Mavericks
The Kings sent a loud message to the league-leading Mavericks, who were overwhelmed in the opening 12 minutes and had their six-game winning streak abruptly stopped.
Although the Kings pushed the defending NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers to the limit in last season's Western Conference finals, they have been flying a bit under the radar this season. They got off to a bit of a slow start and have been hampered by injuries.
Meanwhile, Dallas won its first 14 games and became the league's trendy team. It came into this contest on pace for 70 wins with a 31-5 mark, four games better than the Kings.
However, the Kings breezed past the Mavericks in five games in last year's conference semifinals and reminded everyone how easy that was. They raced to a 39-26 lead after one period and never looked back.
It was remarkably similar to Thursday's road annihilation of New Jersey, where the Kings led by as many as 42 points before settling for a 118-82 rout of the best team in the Eastern Conference.
Webber scored 29 points and Stojakovic added 23 for the Kings (29-10), who posted a season high in points and have won six of their last seven games.
Other NBA results: Boston 86, Atlanta 66; Indiana 105, Miami 81; Philadelphia 108, New Jersey 107; Milwaukee 99, Toronto 87; Houston 102, Phoenix 96; Los Angeles Lakers 90, New Orleans 82; Utah 92, Denver 81.
Blackhawks rally past Red Wings
CHICAGO, Jan. 16 (UPI) -- The Blackhawks used four unanswered goals to record a 4-1 triumph over Detroit Wednesday night in their third meeting in 11 days.
Alex Zhamnov and Mark Bell ended long scoring droughts and Mike Eastwood had two assists.
The Blackhawks dropped two overtime losses to the Red Wings in the last five contests and trailed after the first period on a power-play goal by rookie Henrik Zetterberg. But Zhamnov ended a 14-game goalless streak early in the second period to tie it.
Chris Simon and Eric Daze tallied 36 seconds apart midway through the session to stake Chicago to a 3-1 advantage before Bell halted a 12-game drought late in the third with a shorthanded goal.
Jocelyn Thibault turned aside 26 shots for the Blackhawks, who have collected at least one point in each of the last 14 games (7
Other NHL results: Pittsburgh 2, Carolina 0; Anaheim 4, Columbus 3; New York Rangers 2, Washington 1 in overtime; Atlanta 1, Montreal 0; Florida 3, Boston 0; New Jersey 5, New York Islanders 0.
Duke fights off Virginia
DURHAM, N.C., Jan. 16 (UPI) -- Freshman J.J. Redick made all 11 of his free throws and scored 34 points Wednesday night to carry No. 1 Duke past Virginia, 104-93.
Duke remained the nation's lone unbeaten team.
The Blue Devils (12-0, 3-0 ACC) notched their 20th straight home victory and defeated Virginia for the 13th time in 14 meetings. Duke, which is 9-0 at home, visits defending national champion Maryland on Saturday.
It is the Blue Devils' sixth 12-0 start under coach Mike Krzyzewski.
The game was more of a free-throw shooting contest as the teams combined for 78 attempts. Duke shot 92.5 percent and the Cavaliers clicked at 71 percent.
Virginia (10-4, 1-2) was within 90-87 after a pair of foul shots by Devin Smith with 4:44 remaining. Redick, however, completed a three-point play 12 seconds later and added two free throws for an eight-point cushion with just under four minutes to go.
In Winston-Salem, Josh Howard had 23 points and eight rebounds night as No. 20 Wake Forest ended a seven-game slide against the 15th-ranked Maryland Terrapins with an 81-72 victory.
Maryland (9-4, 2-1 ACC) saw its school-record 14-game ACC winning streak come to an end. It was the Terrapins' first conference loss since a 99-78 defeat at Duke on Jan. 17, 2002.
In other action involving top 10 teams, No. 4 Texas rallied past Baylor, 82-71; No. 7 Florida beat Tennessee, 77-64; No. 8 Illinois fell to Iowa, 68-61; and No. 10 Alabama went to overtime before defeating Mississippi State, 68-62.
Els tries for second straight
HONOLULU, Jan. 16 (UPI) -- Coming off a record-breaking performance, Ernie Els begins his first week as the world's No. 2 player Thursday.
Els will join the first full field of the season on the PGA Tour at the Sony Open.
With Tiger Woods recovering from knee surgery and Phil Mickelson on vacation, Els crushed an elite field at the season-opening Mercedes Championships last week. The 33-year-old South African set a 72-hole PGA scoring record at 31-under-par 261, breezing to a wire-to-wire eight-stroke victory.
Els totaled four eagles, 28 birdies, one bogey and two double-bogeys en route to his 11th career PGA Tour triumph, moving past Mickelson into second place in the World Golf Rankings.
Els took advantage of unusually benign wind last week to tame Kapalua. He was greeted Wednesday by a high wind warning at the Waialae Country Club, where gusts approached 30 miles per hour. Conditions are expected to be slightly more favorable when play begins Thursday.
The reigning British Open champion has a chance to do something not even Woods has accomplished -- win the first two events of the season. Steve Jones was the last to do it in 1989.
Colon goes to White Sox
CHICAGO, Jan. 16 (UPI) -- Montreal Expos righthander Bartolo Colon was traded Wednesday, going to the Chicago White Sox in a three-team deal.
The White Sox dealt righthanded reliever Antonio Osuna and minor league righthander Delaris Lantigua to the New York Yankees for righthander Orlando Hernandez. Chicago then sent Hernandez with outfielder Jeff Liefer, righthander Rocky Biddle and cash to Montreal for Colon and minor league infielder Jorge Nunez.
Colon returns to the American League Central after being traded by the Cleveland Indians to Montreal last June 27. For the season, the hard-throwing righthander was 20-8 with a 2.93 ERA in 33 starts.
The 29-year-old Colon 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.
Colon's eight complete games in 2002 tied Arizona's Randy Johnson for the major league lead. He was 10-4 with a 2.55 ERA in 16 starts with Cleveland before being traded.
Cubs sign Kerry Wood
CHICAGO, Jan. 16 (UPI) -- Chicago Cubs righthander Kerry Wood avoided arbitration Wednesday by signing a one-year deal.
Wood threw a career-high 213 2/3 innings last season.
Financial terms were not released by the team, but one report said the deal was worth $6.1 million.
The 25-year-old Wood went 12-11 with a 3.66 ERA last season and, along with righthander 22-year-old Mark Prior, 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 honors 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.
Deadline reached for NFL Draft
IOWA CITY, Iowa, Jan. 16 (UPI) -- Iowa's Dallas Clark went to the deadline Wednesday before deciding to enter the NFL draft.
Clark won the John Mackey Award this season as the top tight end in the country.
Wednesday afternoon was the deadline for underclassmen to file for the draft, scheduled for April 26-27 in New York.
"It's been a tough decision, one of the toughest I've ever had to make," Clark said. "Over the last few days, I've felt very comfortable with this decision. I have asked NFL personnel questions about life as an NFL player and what the routine is like. I found out that it is quite similar to what I'm doing here."
Clark was a key member of an Iowa team that went 11-2 this season and advanced to the Orange Bowl, where it lost to Southern California. He caught 43 passes for 742 yards and four touchdowns.
Another notable Big Ten Conference player, Michigan defensive lineman Shantee Orr, said in Wednesday's editions of the Detroit News that he plans to bypass his senior season and enter the NFL draft. He started eight games this season and had 24 tackles, including six sacks.
Kentucky's Jared Lorenzen became the second Southeastern Conference quarterback in as many days to announce his intention to remain for his senior season. Eli Manning of Mississippi did the same Tuesday.
The complete list of eligible underclassmen is expected to be released later this week.
Earnie Stewart to play in Washington
CHANTILLY, Va., Jan. 16 (UPI) -- National team stalwart Earnie Stewart will make his Major League Soccer debut with D.C. United.
Stewart, 33, the U.S. squad's all-time leader in minutes played in the World Cup, signed with United Wednesday after playing in his native Holland for the past 14 seasons. Terms of Stewart's contract with MLS have not been released.
The player allocation represents one of the two held by United for the 2003 campaign, including one acquired by the team in a December trade with the MetroStars that sent national team defender Eddie Pope, Jaime Moreno and Richie Williams to the MetroStars for Mike Petke and a draft pick.
Stewart, a midfielder and forward who helped the Americans reach the quarterfinals of the World Cup last June, had spent the last seven seasons with NAC Breda of the Dutch Honor Division. But the club was unable to re-sign the dual citizen due to financial difficulties and granted Stewart a free transfer in December.
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