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April 2, 2013 at 5:15 PM   |   Comments

NBA referee Greg Willard dies at age 54

NEW YORK, April 2 (UPI) -- Greg Willard, an NBA game official for 24 seasons, has died at the age of 54, the league announced Tuesday.

Willard died Monday. He had officiated nearly 1,500 regular-season games when he left the game in 2012 after being was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. The NBA said the cancer was the cause of Willard's death.

"The entire NBA family joins me in mourning the loss of one of our own, Greg Willard," NBA Commissioner David Stern said in a statement.

"Greg touched all those with whom he came in contact thanks to his extraordinary spirit, dedication and hard work. As a Finals referee, he reached the highest level of his profession while at the same time demonstrating a strong commitment to his family and his community.

"Our thoughts are with his wife Laurie, their children and the rest of the Willard family during this difficult time."

NBA referees will honor Willard's memory by wearing wristbands or patches with his jersey number 57 for the remainder of this season.

The NBA said Willard called 1,494 regular-season games and 136 playoff games. He was on the officiating crew for two NBA Finals and the 2006 NBA All-Star Game.

"Greg epitomized what it meant to be an NBA referee through dedication to his craft, hard work, and integrity both on-and-off the court," said National Basketball Referees Association General Counsel Lee Seham. "He was not only a great NBA referee but, more importantly, a wonderful person and our thoughts and prayers are with his family during this difficult time."


Enfield leaves UFGC for Southern Cal

LOS ANGELES, April 2 (UPI) -- The University of Southern California has hired Andy Enfield, who guided Florida Gulf Coast University to the NCAA Sweet 16, as head men's basketball coach.

Enfield, 43, shot to prominence this season, his second at UFGC, when the Eagles won a school record 26 games, and then -- in just their second year of NCAA Division I post-season eligibility -- knocked off second-seeded Georgetown and seventh-seeded San Diego State before losing to Florida in the South Regional tournament semifinals.

USC Athletic Director Pat Haden made the announcement in a post on the school's website Monday.

"Andy's success this season at Florida Gulf Coast was not a flash in the pan," Haden said. "He has a consistent and proven record of success for more than 15 years in college and the NBA. He is a respected teacher who develops his players on the court and sees them excel in the classroom, he is a noted shooting coach, he is a relentless recruiter and he has integrity and great character."

Haden said Enfield's "brand of basketball -- an up-tempo offense and a stingy defense -- is fun for players to play and fans to watch."

Enfield's teams -- which fans came to refer to as "Dunk City" -- were 41-28 in his two seasons at FGCU.

He previously worked as an assistant coach at Florida State, as a shooting coach for the NBA Milwaukee Bucks and as an assistant coach with the Boston Celtics.

Enfield, succeeds Kevin O'Neill, who was fired in February before the team completed a disappointing 14-18 regular season and did not get past the first round of the Pac-12 tournament.

Citing sources within USC, the Los Angeles Times said Enfield signed a six-year deal worth more than $1 million per year. He was making $157,000 at Florida Gulf Coast.


Tulsa to join new Big East

PROVIDENCE, R.I., April 2 (UPI) -- The Tulsa Golden Hurricane will leave Conference USA and join the new Big East Conference, the new league announced Tuesday.

The move will become effective July 1, 2014. Tulsa joins C-USA members Central Florida, East Carolina, Memphis, Southern Methodist and Tulane in moving to the new Big East alignment.

Remaining in the Big East are Connecticut, Cincinnati, South Florida and Temple.

The co-called Catholic 7 Big East members left the conference, but in a deal get to keep the Big East name. That left the remaining members in search of new competitors and a new name.

"The addition of The University of Tulsa marks another significant step in building a strong conference," said Big East Commissioner Mike Aresco.

"In common with our member schools, Tulsa brings a rich academic profile, outstanding and storied athletic programs and a devoted fan base. Under the leadership of President Steadman Upham, the university will be a valued member of our conference and will make us even more competitive across the collegiate landscape."

The new conference is to soon select a name and will have 11 all-sports members in place for the 2014-15 academic year. Navy is to join the group as a football-only member in 2015.


Former Bears coach Pardee dead at 76

HOUSTON, April 2 (UPI) -- Former Chicago Bears coach Jack Pardee has died of gallbladder cancer at the age of 76, his family said.

Pardee coached the Bears from 1975 until 1977 and was Walter Payton's first head coach in the NFL, the Chicago Tribune reported Tuesday.

The Texas football legend guided the Chicago Bears to a playoff appearance in 1977 and is credited with helping to turn the franchise around from the doldrums of the late 1960s and early 1970s.

Bears Chairman George McCaskey issued a statement saying the Bears were saddened to hear of his passing.

"Coach Pardee's time with us was only three seasons, but he made an impact by ending a 14-year playoff drought in 1977," McCaskey said. "It was a spark that led toward a great decade of Bears football."

Pardee attended Christoval High School in Texas where he scored 57 touchdowns for his six-man football team in 1952.

He played three seasons for Bear Bryant at Texas A&M, becoming one of the "Junction Boys."

Pardee played for the Rams and Redskins from 1957 to 1972, missing two seasons after melanoma was discovered in his left arm.

He capped his playing career by winning the NFC defensive player of the year award in 1972.

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