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On Sports from United Press International

  |   March 4, 2003 at 12:07 AM
Gentry fired as coach of Clippers

LOS ANGELES, March 4 (UPI) -- The Los Angeles Clippers, unable to improve with their youth movement, Monday fired Coach Alvin Gentry.

Team officials have scheduled a news conference for later in the afternoon Monday.

"These decisions are never easy, and this one is especially tough because Alvin and I had a very good working relationship," said Clippers Vice President of Basketball Operations Elgin Baylor. "But I reached the conclusion Sunday night that the players simply were not responding and I believe a change is necessary at this time."

In two-plus seasons with the Clippers, Gentry was 89-133. Thus far this season, the Clippers are 19-39 and have dropped 12 of their last 15 games.

They have dropped five straight, and 14 of 17, and at 19-39, are last in the NBA's Pacific Division.

Gentry has faced criticism nearly the entire season, failing to motivate a team that is facing a number of offseason questions.

"I do believe we have good people and good players on this team," Gentry said in a statement. "I think the players must try to make something positive out of the remainder of the season."

After acquiring point guard Andre Miller prior to the start of this season, expectations were raised, possibly higher than they should have been. The team has struggled from the start and has been unable to compete in the highly competitive Western Conference.

Assistant Coach Dennis Johnson will replace Gentry. His first game will be Monday night against New Orleans.

Johnson is in his fourth season with the Clippers' coaching staff. He joined the team as an assistant coach midway through the 1999-2000 season after beginning his professional head-coaching career earlier that season with the CBA's La Crosse Bobcats.


Mickelson, Singh withdraw from Doral

MIAMI, March 4 (UPI) -- Phil Mickelson, third-ranked player in the world, Monday withdrew from this week's Ford Championship due to the impending birth of his third child.

Vijay Singh, ranked fourth in the world, also pulled out. He will miss his fourth consecutive event with an aggravated pectoral muscle.

Mickelson had hoped to play in the event since signing an endorsement deal with Ford in September, but his first son is due this week.

Mickelson is expected to be out through the Players Championship, which will be held March 27-30, two weeks before The Masters.


Arizona, Kentucky continue 1-2 in college basketball

ARLINGTON, Va., March 4 (UPI) -- Arizona and Kentucky retained their hold Monday night on the two top spots in the latest college coaches' basketball poll.

Arizona (23-2) posted victories over Pac-10 rivals California and Stanford while clinching the conference's regular season title. The Wildcats collected 29 first-place votes and 773 points from the panel of Division I coaches.

Kentucky (24-3) picked up two first-place votes and 746 points with victories over Tennessee and Georgia.

Florida (24-4) rose one spot to No. 3, while fourth-ranked Texas (20-5) also moved up one place. Oklahoma (20-5) dropped two slots to No. 5.

Kansas (23-6) and Pittsburgh (21-4) are sixth and seventh, respectively, while No. 8 Marquette (22-4) passed three teams to crack the top 10, which is rounded out by Duke (20-5) and Wake Forest (21-4).

No. 11 Xavier (22-4) moved up two spots, ahead of Maryland (19-7) and Syracuse (21-4), who are tied at No. 12. Illinois (20-5) and Louisville (20-5) complete the top 15.

Notre Dame (21-7) dropped six spots into 16th after losses to then-No. 24 Connecticut and Rutgers, followed by Stanford (22-7), Oklahoma State (20-7), Creighton (26-4) and California (20-6).

Ranked 21st is Mississippi State (18-7), followed by Dayton (21-5), Utah (22-5), Wisconsin (21-6) and Georgia (17-8).


Linebacker Shawn Barber signs with Chiefs

KANSAS CITY, Mo., March 4 (UPI) -- The Kansas City Chiefs Monday signed veteran outside linebacker Shawn Barber, who played for Philadelphia last season.

Barber, a fourth-round pick by the Washington Redskins in 1998 out of the University of Richmond, has played in 65 games as a pro. The 6-3, 227-pounder was on the Chiefs' radar the entire offseason.

NFL in Philadelphia. We look for him to bring that experience with him to our defense."

Barber said he can't wait to play for Coach Dick Vermeil.

Barber is known for his speed and his pass-covering skills. He has a pair of 100-tackle seasons, and finished the 2002 campaign as Philadelphia's second-leading tackler with 119 stops, including 69 solos, and also added two interceptions, one for a touchdown.

Additionally, he had one sack, three fumble recoveries, a forced fumble, five quarterback pressures, and four special teams stops. He registered his second NFL touchdown on an 80-yard scoring return at Dallas on Dec. 21. Barber also started both of Philadelphia's postseason games in 2002, totaling eight tackles.

In his career, he has 400 tackles, four sacks, five interceptions, 29 special teams tackles, five fumble recoveries, and five forced fumbles.

He enjoyed his best season with the Redskins in 1999, when he racked up a career-high 148 tackles to rank second on the squad.

He said what happened in 2002 is history.

"At 12:01 a.m. Saturday, (the opening day of free agency), the call was made to bring me in and I was excited," Barber said. "It was exciting having the number one team on my list be the number one team on Carl's. It wasn't surprising to me that I wasn't going to leave once I got here. They got me here and I knew some of the guys on the team -- I knew (quarteback) Trent (Green) and (fullback) Tony (Richardson) already. This is a great football city."

Peterson said the Chiefs may make other moves.

"We're still in the buying mode, yes," Peterson said. "A little less cash, but we still have some cap and we have some goals. This planning goes back to November and December with our pro personnel people. We can still address some needs, and we've got some more players coming here this week and probably the ensuing week."

The Chiefs went 8-8 last season. Statistically, they had worst defense in the AFC, while having an explosive offense led by the No. 3 rusher in the conference in Priest Holmes.


Grizzlies put Dickerson on injured list

MEMPHIS, Tenn., March 4 (UPI) -- Memphis Grizzlies guard Michael Dickerson, who has played just 10 games the last 1 1/2 seasons, was placed on the injured list Monday with a hernia.

It is the second stint on the injured list this season for Dickerson, who was sidelined for more than three months with back and groin injuries before returning in mid-February.

The 6-5 Dickerson played the first four games of the 2001-02 season before suffering what eventually was termed a stress fracture near the groin area. Since signing a six-year, $45 million contract extension prior to last season, he has scored just 72 points in 10 games.

Dickerson was a 1998 first-round pick of Houston and averaged 10.9 points as a rookie. He was traded to the Grizzlies in the deal for Steve Francis and averaged 18.2 points in the club's last two seasons in Vancouver, playing in 152 of 164 games.

To take Dickerson's spot on the roster, the Grizzlies activated rookie forward Robert Archibald from the injured list. Archibald, who has been sidelined since Jan. 17 with tendinitis in his left knee, has scored one point in two games this season.


Atlantic 10 sanctions St. Bonaventure

PHILADELPHIA, March 4 (UPI) -- Forfeiting six conference games apparently was not a severe enough penalty for St. Bonaventure's basketball program.,

The Atlantic 10 Monday declared the Bonnies ineligible for the 2003 conference tournament as part of a sanction against the school for using an ineligible player.

The decision was made by a board consisting of presidents of the conference's member schools. It is in addition to the school's self-imposed sanction of forfeiting six conference wins.

Last week, St. Bonaventure asked conference officials and the NCAA for clarification on the eligibility of junior Jamil Terrell.

The school declared Terrell ineligible on Feb. 26 after determining he did not meet eligibility guidelines as they relate to junior college transfers.

"This was a decision our presidents took very seriously," Atlantic 10 Commissioner Linda Bruno said. "This is a very uncharacteristic problem regarding one of our institutions, and our presidents are determined that something like this never happen again."

As a result of this sanction, the Atlantic 10 tournament will feature five teams with opening-round byes and three opening-round games. Dayton, Saint Joseph's and Xavier already have clinched byes.

Temple, which had earned a bye, now has not clinched because Rhode Island picked up a forfeited win. Richmond, which has clinched the third seed in the West, now will receive a bye due to St. Bonaventure being locked into sixth place in the East.


Saints sign CB Ambrose and LB Ruff

METAIRIE, La., March 4 (UPI) -- The New Orleans Saints bolstered their defense Monday by signing cornerback Ashley Ambrose and linebacker Orlando Ruff.

Ambrose, who signed a four-year contract, spent the last three seasons with the Atlanta Falcons after leading New Orleans with six interceptions in 1999. He started all 48 games over the last three years and had 160 tackles and 12 interceptions in that span.

The 32-year-old Ambrose has 415 tackles and 36 interceptions in 415 games with Indianapolis, Cincinnati, New Orleans and Atlanta. He made the Pro Bowl in 1996, when he had a career-high eight interceptions with the Bengals.

Ruff signed a three-year deal after spending his first four seasons with San Diego. Last season, he served as a backup for Donnie Edwards after recording a career-high 74 tackles in 2001.

Sunday, New Orleans signed tackle Wayne Gandy to a six-year contract.


Mitchell signs with Giants

NEW YORK, March 4 (UPI) -- The New York Giants Monday addressed one of the weakest facets of the team by signing running back-kick returner Brian Mitchell to a multi-year contract.

Financial terms were not revealed, but Mitchell made $750,000 with the Philadelphia Eagles last season.

Second all time with 22,001 combined net yards, Mitchell, 34, last season was one of just two players to rank in the top seven in the NFL in kickoff and punt returns.

He averaged 12.3 yards on 46 punt returns.

The Giants were 26th in the NFL, averaging just 7.6 yards on punt returns. Mitchell set an NFL record on Nov. 25 with his 13th career punt return for a touchdown.

He has played in 193 consecutive games, third among active players, and was third in the NFL with a career-high 27.0-yard average on kickoff returns.

"Brian Mitchell adds a dimension to our team that we really need," said Giants General Manager Ernie Accorsi. "He is one of the great return men in the history of the National Football League, and is a threat to contend playing out of the backfield. After playing against him all these years, it's nice having him on our side."

The 5-10, 221-pounder spent his first 10 seasons with the Washington Redskins before signing with the Eagles prior to the 2000 campaign. He owns NFL records with 12,897 kickoff return yards and 4,845 punt return yards.


Barber signs with Chiefs

KANSAS CITY, Mo., March 4 (UPI) -- The Kansas City Chiefs Monday signed veteran outside linebacker Shawn Barber, who played for Philadelphia last season.

Barber, a fourth-round pick by the Washington Redskins in 1998 out of the University of Richmond, has played in 65 games as a pro. The 6-3, 227-pounder was on the Chiefs' radar the entire offseason.

Barber is known for his speed and his pass-covering skills. He has a pair of 100-tackle seasons, and finished the 2002 campaign as Philadelphia's second-leading tackler with 119 stops, including 69 solos, and also added two interceptions, one for a touchdown.

Additionally, he had one sack, three fumble recoveries, a forced fumble, five quarterback pressures, and four special teams stops. He registered his second NFL touchdown on an 80-yard scoring return at Dallas on Dec. 21. Barber also started both of Philadelphia's postseason games in 2002, totaling eight tackles.

In his career, he has 400 tackles, four sacks, five interceptions, 29 special teams tackles, five fumble recoveries, and five forced fumbles.

He enjoyed his best season with the Redskins in 1999, when he racked up a career-high 148 tackles to rank second on the squad.

The Chiefs went 8-8 last season. Statistically, they had worst defense in the AFC, while having an explosive offense led by the No. 3 rusher in the conference in Priest Holmes.


Titans sign Godfrey

NASHVILLE, March 4 (UPI) -- The Tennessee Titans, making the same roster moves of their NFL brethren, have come to terms with veteran linebacker Randall Godfrey.

In salary cap moves, the Titans have released center Gennaro DiNapoli and defensive tackle Henry Ford. They also have removed the transition tag from punter Craig Hentrich, which allows him to become an unrestricted free agent, and are continuing contract talks with guard Zach Pillar.

"The Titans are still very much a consideration," his agent, Drew Rosenhaus, told The Tennesseean. "But once free agency starts, all bets are off. Anything can happen at this point. We will stay in touch with the Titans, but obviously now we will have an opportunity to talk with other clubs. I think Zach will draw a lot of attention.''

Godfrey told the paper that he strongly considered turning down the Titans. The paper said he signed a contract that will pay him a total of $2.5 million in combined base salary and bonus, and through various incentives, he has a chance to earn up to $3.4 million.

His new deal saved the Titans $2.5 million against the salary cap.

"With me being hurt last year, it was a fair deal, and I am excited about coming back," Godfrey said. "We got pretty far last year, and as I sat back and looked at it, I realized everybody is coming back. I thought about going out and testing the market and getting a three- or four-year deal, and then again I thought about what we have here. We went to the AFC Championship Game last year, and I think there is a good chance of getting me a Super Bowl ring. That is what I want most. I am going to help this team in whatever way I can."

Meanwhile, with Ford's release, Tennessee now has just three defensive tackles with NFL experience -- Albert Haynesworth, Robaire Smith, and Kris Kocurek.


Guerin might miss postseason

VALLEY RANCH, Texas, March 4 (UPI) -- There is a possibility that superstar forward Bill Guerin is done for the season after undergoing emergency thigh surgery Saturday night.

Guerin suffered a severe thigh contusion Thursday when he collided with Chris Phillips of Ottawa in the third period of a 3-2 overtime loss. He missed the rest of the game, and sat out Friday's 5-3 loss in Buffalo.

At the moment, the best the Stars can hope for is having Guerin back for the first round of the NHL postseason. A team spokesman told the Dallas Morning News that the Stars are assessing their options before the March 11 trade deadline.

"We're going to assess the situation and do whatever we can do to improve our team if that's possible," General Manager Doug Armstrong told the paper, "but we were going to do that regardless of Bill's situation. That's a long-term contract that Bill has, and a lot more goes into whatever decision we make than just the last four or five days."

Guerin is suffering from "compartment syndrome," a rare condition where the bleeding becomes so severe that it cuts off circulation to the thigh muscle, according to Stars team doctor Dan Cooper.

"Then his condition deteriorated with just really massive swelling in the thigh, which created enough tension that it cuts off blood supply to the muscle," Dr. Cooper said. "Occasionally, an athlete can develop bone formation in the thigh from how the body heals itself."

He will have more surgery this week.

"Maybe I'm just being an optimist," Cooper said. "I think Bill will be back for the start of the playoffs and will be a contributing factor for the success we hope to have."

In the offseason, Guerin signed a five-year contract worth $45 million. He has 25 goals and 25 assists in 64 games. He scored a career-high 41 goals for Boston last season, and led the NHL with 355 shots on goal.

The Stars have a league-high 89 points, and lead Vancouver in the Northwest Division by three points after a 3-1 win over Pittsburgh Sunday night.


Federov, Kournikova now split

TORONTO, March 4 (UPI) -- Detroit Red Wings star Sergei Fedorov has admitted he was married for a short time to tennis darling Anna Kournikova.

Federov says the two now are divorced. He made the admission in the latest edition of the Hockey News, and it was a cover story.

He made the admission in an article which deals with a number of hockey-related issues.

"We were married, albeit brief, and are now divorced," Federov said.

The magazine said the nature of his relationship with the Russian tennis star, how his teammates felt about it, and Kournikova's rumored relationship with NHL star Pavel Bure are among the topics Fedorov addressed in a wide-ranging interview.

Fedorov, 33, also says he no longer keeps in touch with the 21-year-old Kournikova, who has made her name as a model while on the tennis tour. She has never won a tournament, and has found herself outclassed in a number of matches.

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