Lions hire Mariucci as head coach
ALLEN PARK, Mich., Feb. 5 (UPI) -- The Detroit Lions Tuesday named Steve Mariucci, 60-43 in six years with the San Francisco 49ers, their new head coach.
The Detroit Free Press reported Tuesday that Executive Vice President Tom Lewand and Mariucci's agent, Gary O'Hagen, already had reached agreement on all the significant points of a five-year contract worth between $3.5 million and $4 million annually.
The Lions had issued a statement Monday afternoon stating that a deal was not yet in place, but that an agreement could be reached Tuesday. The hire was announced Tuesday afternoon.
ESPN is reporting that Mariucci received a five-year contract worth $25 million, which would tie him with Steve Spurrier of Washington for having the highest annual salary in the NFL. Mike Holmgren of Seattle makes $4.5 million a year, and recently-hired Bill Parcells of Dallas signed for $4.25 million per year.
Mariucci, 47, born and raised in Iron Mountain, Mich., became the immediate front-runner for the job when Millen, the Lions' President and Chief Executive Officer the last two years, fired Marty Mornhinweg as coach on Jan. 27.
Lions owner William Clay Ford had announced on New Year's Eve that both Millen and Mornhinweg would return in 2003, despite Detroit's 5-27 record in their first two seasons, but when San Francisco fired Mariucci on Jan. 15, Millen decided to seize the opportunity to hire Marriucci, and fired Mornhinweg less than two weeks later.
Millen wanted Mariucci to coach the Lions two years ago, but was unable to lure him out of San Francisco. Instead, he settled for Mornhinweg, Mariucci's offensive coordinator from 1997-2000.
The Lions interviewed only Mariucci for the job. That drew strong criticism from civil rights attorneys Johnnie Cochran and Cyrus Mehri.
The NFL mandates that franchises interview minority candidates for head coach and high-ranking front office positions.
"The Lions have seriously threatened to undermine and potentially violate the new NFL minority hiring policy approved by team owners in December," Cochran and Mehri said in a statement. "Prior to conducting a single interview, General Manager Matt Millen essentially crowned Steve Mariucci as the Lions' new head coach. He might well have put up a sign at Lions headquarters reading, 'Head Coaching Vacancy: Minorities Need Not Apply.'"
According to the Detroit Free Press, the Lions approached five minority candidates, including former Minnesota Coach Dennis Green and Pittsburgh Steelers defensive coordinator Tim Lewis, but they were rejected because Mariucci was the obvious front-runner.
Sherman Lewis, who was named the Lions' offensive coordinator last month, denied a report that he interviewed for the job.
The hiring of Mariucci figures to be a popular one with Lions' fans. Detroit has not made the playoffs since 1999. Mariucci took the Niners to the postseason four times in six years.
However, after winning the NFC West title with a 10-6 record and
leading the Niners to the second-greatest comeback win in playoff history in the wild card round, Mariucci was fired three days after a 31-6 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the divisional playoffs.
The Niners claimed Mariucci wanted to expand his role in the organization and add the title of Vice President of Football Operations, a claim Mariucci has denied.
Mariucci upset the Niners' front office last winter by openly campaigning for a contract extension through the media. He then talked with the Buccaneers about becoming their coach and general manager. He hesitated when it came time to accept the job, and Tampa Bay ultimately made a trade for Jon Gruden.
In Detroit, Mariucci will take over a team that is in a rebuilding mode after finishing 2-14 and 3-13 in two years under Mornhinweg. However, the Lions at least appear to have a building block in quarterback Joey Harrington, the third overall pick in the 2002 draft. They own the second choice in April's draft of 2003.
One of Mariucci's closest friends is Michigan State basketball coach Tom Izzo, who grew up with Mariucci in Iron Mountain. Mariucci starred as a quarterback at Northern Michigan, leading the school to an NCAA Division II championship in 1975.
Two seeded players lose at Paris Indoors
PARIS, Feb. 5 (UPI) -- Patty Schnyder of Switzerland and Silvia Farina Elia of Italy were first-round upset victims Tuesday in the indoor Open Gaz de France.
But No. 8 Eleni Daniilidou of Greece advanced.
Tina Pisnik of Slovakia beat the fifth-seeded Schnyder, 6-3, 6-3 and Rita Grande knocked off countrywoman Farina Elia, the sixth seed, 6-3, 1-6, 7-5.
Daniilidou defeated American Alexandra Stevenson, 6-3, 7-5 in her first-round match. She equaled her best Grand Slam finish at the Australian Open, where she lost in the fourth round to top seed Serena Williams.
The world's No. 1 player and winner of four straight Grand Slam events, Williams will play Switzerland's Myriam Casanova in her second-round match on Wednesday after receiving a first-round bye. Casanova defeated Barbara Schett of Germany, 4-6, 7-5, 6-3, on Tuesday.
Williams won the Australian Open in Melbourne last month, becoming only the fifth woman all-time to hold all four titles at once. She has won seven of the last nine tournaments she has entered, losing only to Chanda Rubin in the quarterfinals of Manhattan Beach and Kim Clijsters in the final of the season-ending championships in Los Angeles.
Phoenix defenseman Vaananen hit by car
PHOENIX, Feb. 5 (UPI) -- Phoenix Coyotes defenseman Ossi Vaananen feels lucky to be alive after being hit by a car driven by a 90-year-old man in Florida.
Vaananen is expected to miss up to six weeks with a strained medial collateral ligament in his right knee suffered when he and two reporters from his native Finland were struck by a car Saturday night following the YoungStars Game at All-Star weekend in Sunrise, Fla.
Vesa Rantanen, a renowned journalist in Finland, spent the night in the intensive care unit and is in danger of losing an arm, according to the Arizona Republic. Kimmo Romanoff, a television reporter, suffered a collapsed lung.
The three had just gotten out of a cab when they were hit by another car. The elderly driver lost control of his automobile, which jumped a median before striking the three men.
The cab driver suffered minor injuries. Rantanen's girlfriend, who was standing on the far side of the cab, was not hurt.
"The cab driver and I were the lucky ones, but the other two guys weren't that lucky," the 22-year-old Vaananen told the paper. "But we're all lucky to be alive."
Vaananen said the cab driver was lost and decided to pull over to ask for directions, but he couldn't speak English.
Vaanenen's party decided to get out of the car "to find out what was going on" or to see if they should get another cab.
"Then all of a sudden something hit us," Vaananen said.
The impact threw Rantanen, who was standing in front of Vaananen, through a closed window of the cab.
Vaananen, who was hit behind the knee with the bumper, spent six hours at the hospital and was released. His knees became increasingly swollen and painful on the flight back to Phoenix, so the team administered an MRI.
The 6-4, 212-pounder has one goal, four assists, a minus-3 rating, and 66 penalty minutes in 50 games this season, his third in the NHL. He was a second-round draft pick in 1998.
Astros LHP Hernandez to miss season
HOUSTON, Feb. 5 (UPI) -- Carlos Hernandez, a promising but oft-injured lefthander for the Houston Astros, will miss the 2003 season.
Hernandez underwent surgery Tuesday to repair two tears in his shoulder.
Hernandez, 22, is expected to be sidelined between nine and 11 months after Dr. James Andrews repaired a small tear of the labrum and another in the rotator cuff. Andrews also tightened the capsule in the shoulder.
"We are optimistic that Carlos will be able to return after an estimated recovery time of nine to 11 months," Astros General Manager Gerry Hunsicker said Tuesday. "He will return to Houston on Friday and go through the rehabilitation process here."
Hernandez has a lifetime mark of 8-5 with a 3.92 ERA in 26 games.
Fizer done for season after knee injury
CHICAGO, Feb. 5 (UPI) -- Chicago forward Marcus Fizer, who had emerged as an effective scorer off the bench, will miss the remainder of the season with a torn ACL in his right knee.
Fizer met Monday with team orthopedic surgeon Dr. Ira Kornblatt, who confirmed the diagnosis of an ACL tear in the knee that will require surgery. There was no immediate word on when the surgery will take place, but Fizer is expected to need at least six months of rehabilitation.
"He's handled everything like a pro and worked so hard," Bulls Vice President of Basketball Operations Jerry Krause told the Chicago Tribune. "I feel bad for him. And I feel bad for us too. This takes away one of our best players. I think he would've been Sixth Man of the Year."
The 6-8 Fizer was placed on the injured list Saturday with what was originally diagnosed as a right knee sprain. He suffered the injury in Chicago's 107-94 loss at Portland on Friday.
A 2000 first-round draft choice of the Bulls, Fizer was averaging 11.7 points and 5.7 rebounds per game. He had been playing well of late, scoring at least 16 points in five of the Bulls' previous seven contests, including 17 on Friday.
Marge Schott sues Reds
CINCINNATI, Feb. 5 (UPI) -- Former Cincinnati Reds owner Marge Schott has sued her former team over the location of her seats at the club's new stadium.
The new stadium, which is called the Great American Ball Park, opens this season. Schott has told a judge in Hamilton County (Ohio) Common Pleas Court she is suing because the team's new owners did not approve her request for a private box.
She told the Cincinnati Enquirer that she was promised a private box and 21 premium seats next to the field.
In the suit, she names the Great American Insurance Co., which owns Schott's former majority share and owns the stadium's naming rights, and is chaired by Carl H. Lindner.
The Cincinnati Post reported Schott asks that the court determine the seats she is entitled to in the new stadium. She said the 1999 sale agreement guarantees her use of the premium-section seats.
The team responded in a prepared statement.
"Not only are these benefits not included in the agreement, but they are greater than any benefit provided to any other Reds owner," the statement said. "We are confident that the matter will be resolved quickly in our favor by the court."
The Post reported the lawsuit said she had use of a private box at the Reds' old stadium, Cinergy Field, and 21 seats that were grouped together in the premium section near home plate. In the new ballpark, her seats are scattered about the stadium and are at the back of the premium section.
The first game in the new stadium is scheduled for March 31 against the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Carrara, Dodgers come to terms
LOS ANGELES, Feb. 5 (UPI) -- The Los Angeles Dodgers have avoided arbitration with Giovanni Carrara, signing the veteran reliever to a one-year contract worth $790,000.
Carrara, who turns 35 in March, had asked for $880,000 in arbitration. The Dodgers offered $725,000.
The native of Venezuela was 6-3 with a 3.28 ERA and one save in 63 appearances last season. The righthander spent three weeks on the disabled list in August with a strained right forearm.
The 6-2, 210-pounder is 12-4 over the last two years with a 3.22 ERA and one save.
The Dodgers have no other players eligible for salary arbitration.
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