SAN ANTONIO, April 28 (UPI) -- The San Antonio Spurs have their first-ever NBA Coach of the Year.
Gregg Popovich earned that distinction Monday after guiding the Spurs to a 60-22 record and their third straight Midwest Division title.
The Spurs matched Dallas for the league's best record and earned the top seed in the playoffs. San Antonio was 41-9 after Jan. 1 and became the first team in NBA history to win 18 of its last 20 road games.
"The reason this has happened is I have a staff that is pretty incredible," Popovich said. "They have done a great job all year long."
San Antonio's best-of-seven first round Western Conference series with the Phoenix Suns is tied 2-2. The Suns evened the series with an 86-84 win on Sunday.
Popovich kept the Spurs on track despite numerous injuries to center David Robinson, who was limited to 64 games. This year also saw the emergence of second-year guard Tony Parker, who averaged 15.5 points per game, and strong play from guard Emanuel Ginobili, who spent the last five seasons playing in Argentina.
Popovich replaced Bob Hill as coach of the Spurs in December 1996, and owns a 339-185 regular season record. He guided the Spurs to their only NBA title in 1999.
Hornets, Jazz try to draw even
NEW ORLEANS, April 28 (UPI) -- The New Orleans Hornets and Utah Jazz try to even their respective NBA playoff series Monday night.
Both teams got boosts from unlikely sources in their last outings.
New Orleans got a lift from little-used forward Jerome Moiso on Saturday. He had 10 points and five rebounds in the final period of a 99-95 win over the Philadelphia 76ers. The Hornets, who lost the first two games of their best-of-seven Eastern Conference first-round series in Philadelphia, host Game Four on Monday.
Meanwhile, the Jazz continue their Western Conference series when they host the Sacramento Kings. The home team also won the first three games of this series.
Utah center Greg Ostertag scored a playoff career-high 22 points, and also had 12 rebounds and five blocks to lead the Jazz to a 107-104 win Saturday at the Delta Center.
Ostertag surpassed his previous playoff career high of 18 points, which he set in Game One.
Moiso's effort helped soften the blow of not having All-Star forward Jamal Mashburn, who sat out with a dislocated finger and is not expected to play on Monday.
"As long as he continues to do what he does, we will do well," said New Orleans guard Baron Davis of Moiso, his college teammate at UCLA.
Davis said he was playing at only 70 percent because of a knee injury, but he was healthy enough to score 28 points on Saturday, including 15 in the fourth quarter.
Philadelphia Coach Larry Brown was critical of his club's performance in their Game Two win, pointing out problems in effort and defensive intensity. He saw Saturday's loss as a missed opportunity, putting even more importance on Monday's affair.
"This game is huge," Brown said. "Why shouldn't it be? It's a playoff game."
The Jazz used their physical style against the Kings, who grew frustrated with the officiating.
"It's ridiculous," said Sacramento guard Bobby Jackson. "I'd rather have high school refs than NBA refs."
Ostertag had more points, rebounds, and blocks than the combined total of the three Sacramento centers -- Vlade Divac, Scot Pollard, and Keon Clark.
Karl Malone had 20 points and 11 rebounds, and Calbert Cheaney scored 14 of his 15 points in the first half for Utah.
Slovakia, Finland win blowouts
TAMPERE, Finland, April 28 (UPI) -- Sloavkia and Finland got big production from a few NHL players and cruised to routs Monday in the preliminary round of the World Hockey Championships.
Ziggy Palffy had two goals and two assists and Jozef Stumpel scored a goal and set up three others as Slovakia routed Japan, 10-1. Saku Koivu had three assists and Teemu Selanne had two goals and an assist as Finland had an even easier time with Slovenia, 12-1.
In Monday's other game, the Czech Republic had no trouble with Austria, posting an 8-1 victory to improve to 2-0. The Czechs and Finns meet Wednesday in the final preliminary round game for both nations.
Stumpel, who had 14 goals and 37 assists in 78 games with the Boston Bruins this season, opened the scoring seven minutes into the contest with a power-play tally. Palffy, who had 37 goals and 48 assists in 76 games with the Los Angeles Kings, took a pass from Stumpel and scored a shorthanded goal to double the lead just past the midway point of the first period.
Japan's only goal came with 9:29 left in the first as Kuniko Sakurai sent a pass that hit Takeshi Saito's skate and deflected past goaltender Pavol Rybar.
Palffy restored the two-goal lead with 3:21 left in the opening period when he lifted a shot from the slot over Masahito Haruna.
Koivu, the Montreal Canadiens captain who last season came back from stomach cancer, assisted on a power-play goal by New York Islanders defenseman Janne Niinimaa that began the rout 3:58 into the game. Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Aki Berg doubled the lead just 29 seconds later.
Right wing Tomi Kallio, who played seven games with the Philadelphia Flyers this season, also scored twice for Finland, which was coming off Saturday's 5-1 win over Austria.
Radim Vrbata of the Carolina Hurricanes and Martin Straka of the Pittsburgh Penguins each scored twice to help the Czechs remain atop Group D. Tomas Vokoun of the Nashville Predators stopped 26 shots and Robert Reichel of the Maple Leafs contributed three assists in his tournament debut.
Headed to relegation play, the United States wraps up the preliminary round Tuesday against unbeaten Russia (2-0). Canada has posted two straight convincing wins and faces unbeaten Sweden on Tuesday.
Former Georgia football coach dead at 78
DULUTH, Ga., April 28 (UPI) -- Johnny Griffith, a former football player and coach at Georgia who still owns the record for the longest rushing touchdown in school history, died Monday at age 78.
Griffith was a member of the Bulldogs' undefeated 1946 team that defeated North Carolina in the Sugar Bowl. He had a school-record 89-yard TD run earlier that season against Furman.
Griffith was an assistant on the Bulldogs' staff under Wallace Butts from 1956-60. He was head coach from 1961-63 and posted a 10-16-4 record before being replaced by current Athletic Director Vince Dooley.
Griffith also coached at South Georgia College.
Eustachy apologizes for behavior
DES MOINES, Iowa, April 28 (UPI) -- Iowa State men's basketball coach Larry Eustachy spent all day Monday trying to deflect his behavior earlier this year at a student party.
The "after-hours" party took place at an apartment near the University of Missouri campus.
The Des Moines Register reported Monday that Eustachy went to the party with Josh Kroenke, a member of the Missouri squad, shortly after the Cyclones' 64-59 loss to the Tigers on Jan. 23. The paper said that at his news conference after the game, Eustachy had described himself as "as disappointed as I've been in a long time," and criticized his players, saying: "This is the real world. Our guys have to get tougher."
The paper Monday printed 12 photographs showing Eustachy during the early hours of Jan. 23, with beer, and in several photos embracing and kissing women on the cheek or being kissed on the cheek.
The paper said Eustachy issued a statement to the Register Thursday in which he confirmed meeting with President Gregory Geoffroy and Iowa State Athletics Director Bruce Van De Velde about the incident, which the Register said was not the first.
"In the past, I have made some poor decisions that I regret," Eustachy, who is married and has two children, said in his statement. "I talked with President Geoffroy and Bruce Van De Velde last week about a variety of issues. I love Iowa State University and all the people who support our team. It's important to represent ISU in a manner that sheds a positive light on the university and the Cyclone men's basketball team."
There was no word from Van De Velde or Geoffroy on whether Eustachy would be disciplined.
Eustachy is the highest-paid state employee in Iowa, making upwards of $1 million annually.
Millwood NL PLayer of Week
NEW YORK, April 28 (UPI) -- Philadelphia Phillies righthander Kevin Millwood, who on Sunday pitched the National League's first no-hitter in nearly 18 months, was named the league's Player of the Week on Monday.
Millwood needed just 108 pitches to blank the San Francisco Giants, 1-0, for just the ninth no-hitter in team history and the first since Tommy Greene stifled the Montreal Expos, 2-0, on May 23, 1991.
The last no-hitter in the NL was Bud Smith's 4-0 whitewash of the San Diego Padres for the St. Louis Cardinals on Sept. 3, 2001. Ironically, Smith was acquired by the Phillies last July 29.
Millwood struck out 10 and walked three en route to his first complete game of the season and third career shutout. It came exactly one year after Derek Lowe of the Boston Red Sox pitched a no-hitter vs. Tampa Bay.
Earlier in the week, Millwood allowed one run over six innings in a 5-2 win over the Colorado Rockies.
New Jersey, Anaheim seek commanding leads
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J., April 28 (UPI) -- New Jersey and Anaheim will try to grab commanding three games to none leads Monday night as the Stanley Cup playoffs continue.
New Jersey, which tied with Philadelphia for the fewest goals allowed in the regular season, has used its typical solid team defense to take the first two games of its Eastern Conference series with the Tampa Bay Lightning after eliminating the Boston Bruins in five games in the quarterfinals.
The Mighty Ducks, who are owned by The Walt Disney Company and named after a movie, are continuing a Cinderella story that began with a stunning sweep of the defending Stanley Cup champion Detroit Red Wings in the quarterfinals.
The Ducks try to stay unbeaten on Monday when they host the Dallas Stars in their Western Conference series.
The Devils provided excitement in their last game when they twice rallied from deficits in Saturday's 3-2 overtime victory over the Lightning. Jamie Langenbrunner scored off his own rebound just 2:09 into the extra session for his fourth game-winning goal of the playoffs.
The gritty two-way player is tied with Philadelphia's Mark Recchi for the NHL lead with seven goals in the playoffs. He had just 22 goals in 78 games in the regular season.
Tampa Bay, which rallied from a two games to none deficit to beat Washington in the quarterfinals, is in the semifinals for the first time in franchise history. Rugged left wing Chris Dingman scored his first career playoff goal Saturday, but Vincent Lecavalier and Dave Andreychuk combined for only one shot on goal.
Andreychuk, a former Devil, is the most prolific power-play goal-scorer in NHL history, but the Lightning had just five opportunities with the man advantage in the two games in New Jersey, and failed to score on any.
While Anaheim has scored more than three goals only once this postseason, it has provided drama by winning three straight overtime contests.
While Langenbrunner has been the main lead for the Devils, six different players have scored game-winning goals for the Mighty Ducks.
On Saturday, Mike Leclerc flipped a wrist shot past Marty Turco just 1:44 into the extra session to give Anaheim a 3-2 victory at Dallas. In Game One, former Devil Petr Sykora scored 48 seconds into the fifth overtime for a 4-3 win.
Ten different players have scored for the Ducks, and Jean-Sebastien Giguere has been stellar in his first career postseason.
Giguere, who set a franchise record with 34 wins during the regular season, and in December posted a shutout streak of just over 237 minutes, leads the league with a 1.34 goals-against average and .958 save percentage.
The Stars, who have won only once in nine all-time series when losing the first two games, could get a boost from right wing Bill Guerin, who has been out since late February after suffering a deep thigh bruise that caused a blood clot and required surgery. He could return Monday. A team spokesman said he is listed as day-to-day.
The 6-2, 210-pounder had 25 goals and 25 assists in 64 games in the regular season. He has 43 points in 82 career playoff games.
Finalists named for Pearson Award
Forsberg plays center for the Avalanche, and Naslund is the left wing for the Canucks.
Boston Bruins center Joe Thornton is the other finalist named Monday for the award, which goes to the most outstanding player during the regular season in a vote by members of the NHL Players' Association.
Forsberg, 29, had three points in the final game of the regular season to finish with 106, becoming the first Swede to capture the Art Ross Trophy. He had 29 goals and 77 assists for his highest total since the 1995-96 season, when he recorded a career-high 116 points. He also tied teammate Milan Hejduk for the NHL lead with a plus-52 rating.
Forsberg can become the third member of the Avalanche in four years to win the Pearson Trophy. Center Joe Sakic won it in the 2000-01 season, and goaltender Patrick Roy the following season. Calgary Flames right wing Jarome Iginla won it last year.
Naslund, a boyhood friend of Forsberg, had career highs with 48 goals, 56 assists, and 82 games. He led the league with 12 game-winning goals.
No Swedish-born player has ever won the Pearson Award.
Thornton finished third in scoring, totaling 36 goals and 65 assists in 77 games. He also was the third Bruin ever, and the first player in the NHL, with 100 points and 100 penalty minutes in the same season since Eric Lindros in 1995-96. Hall of Fame defenseman Bobby Orr was the last Bruin to win the award in 1974-75.
The award, which is named after the former Prime Minister of Canada, will be presented at the Hockey Hall of Game in Toronto on June 12.
Dawkins gets long-term deal from Eagles
PHILADELPHIA, April 28 (UPI) -- The Philadelphia Eagles Monday signed veteran defensive back Brian Dawkins, a three-time Pro Bowler, to a seven-year contract.
The signing eliminated any uncertainty regarding his future.
Financial terms were not disclosed for Dawkins, who could have become an unrestricted free agent after the 2003 season.
Dawkins, 29, has been with the Eagles since he was a second-round pick in 1996. He has played in three Pro Bowls since then, and is an integral part of the team's defensive scheme under coordinator Jim Johnson.
"If I am going to build a football team, Brian Dawkins is my free safety," Johnson said. "Brian can play strong safety, cornerback, and free safety, and not miss a beat. He has the toughness to play strong safety, and the cover ability as far as playing corner."
In 2002, Dawkins, a strong safety extraordinaire, led the Eagles with career highs in tackles (131) and forced fumbles (seven), while registering three sacks and two interceptions.
In a Week 4 matchup with the Houston Texans, he became the first player in NFL history to record a sack, an interception, a fumble recovery, and a touchdown reception in a single game.
In 103 NFL games, he has 10 sacks, 63 quarterback hurries, 76 knockdowns, 18 forced fumbles, and 11 fumble recoveries, and has been to the Pro Bowl three of the last four seasons.
Suggs to miss 2003 NFL campaign
CLEVELAND, April 28 (UPI) -- Record-setting running back Lee Suggs of Virginia Tech will miss the 2003 season after being drafted in the fourth round of the NFL Draft by Cleveland.
Suggs, the 115th pick overall, suffered a partial tear of his rotator cuff while lifting weights in January and will need surgery. The Cleveland Plain-Dealer reported Monday that Suggs likely will require 4-6 months of rehabilitation.
We knew that he was facing shoulder surgery," Browns Head Coach Butch Davis said. "He may actually spend the entire (2003) season on injured-reserve. The projection is that it's a four or five-month recovery time. He'll come in for a physical sometime in the next seven-to-10 days."
Suggs missed the 2001 after tearing the ACL in his left knee in the season opener against Connecticut, but returned to action and in top form in 2002, when he rushed for 1,325 yards and 22 scores, and had 11 pass receptions for 126 yards and two touchdowns.
Those numbers came despite sharing playing time with highly-regarded backfield mate Kevin Jones.
"They say it takes two years (after an ACL tear), and I had a pretty good year last year," Suggs said. "If it takes two years, then I should be even better this year. I thought I was going to get drafted way higher, but I guess (the knee) is still a question. I just have to continue to keep after it."
The 6-0, 203-pounder rushed for 2,767 yards, averaging 5.2 yards per carry, and scored 53 touchdowns in his collegiate career. He was the leading scorer in Division I-A in 2000.
"Two years ago, Lee Suggs was one of the premier running backs in the entire country," said Cleveland Coach Butch Davis. "He's had several 1,000-yard seasons. We just really like the upside of a guy like Lee Suggs. He can hit home runs from anywhere on the field."
Seattle gets Hand from Saints
SEATTLE, April 28 (UPI) -- The Seattle Seahawks, desperate for defensive help, have acquired veteran tackle Norman Hand from New Orleans.
They got him Sunday for a sixth-round pick in the NFL Draft.
Hand, a 6-3, 330-pound nine-year veteran out of Mississippi, had 47 tackles and 2 ½ sacks for the Saints last season. The general consensus was that he has an off-year because of an ongoing weight problem, but the Seahawks could take a chance on him because they had several expendable veterans.
He played in 98 NFL games for the Saints, San Diego, and Miami, starting in 72 of them. He is adept at stopping the run.
"Coming into the draft, of course, defensive line was a priority," said Seattle Coach Mike Holmgren. "Hand's name, we'd been talking about for a while. Sometimes, things kind of fall unexpectedly just right, and that one did. This guy can play. (The Saints) drafted a good young lineman early (Jonathan Sullivan), and (Hand) became available."
Sullivan, a highly-regarded prospect out of Georgia, was the sixth overall pick in the first round Saturday.
The Seattle Times reported that Hand, who had eight sacks in three seasons in New Orleans, was given an ultimatum to lose weight and get in shape this offseason or look elsewhere for employment. When the Saints chose Sullivan with their first pick of the draft Saturday, Hand became expendable.
He seemed happy to be able to turn the page.
"I'm glad to know I'm a Seattle Seahawk now and can start a new era," Hand told the paper. "It would have been tough (to wait until after June 1, when he expected to be released for salary-cap purposes). It would have been hard to sit back and wait to jump, so I'm glad they (the Saints) pulled the trigger right now."
Ironically, Seattle opens the regular season against New Orleans on Sept. 7.
"He is a load," Holmgren said. "He is a big, strong man. When we played against him, he's just very difficult to run the ball against. He's very difficult to block inside."
Hand is scheduled to earn a $3.9 million base salary in 2003, and 4.5 million in 2004 as part of the five-year deal he signed with the Saints in 2000. The Seahawks will take over his base salary and apply that figure to their salary cap for the upcoming season.
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