In Sports from United Press International

Jan. 31, 2003 at 3:06 PM
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Mariucci meets with Detroit officials

DETROIT, Jan. 31 (UPI) -- Detroit Lions President and CEO Matt Millen has confirmed that Steve Mariucci visited with the team Thursday and interviewed for the head coaching position.

Millen issued a statement late Thursday afternoon which said talks with Mariucci would continue. The former 49ers head coach took a tour of both Ford Field and Allen Park Headquarters and Training Facility Thursday and also met with Lions owner and Chairman William Clay Ford.

"Steve Mariucci arrived in town last night to discuss our head coaching vacancy," Millen said in the statement. "We had an excellent meeting with Bill Ford Wednesday evening and we also gave Steve a tour of Ford Field. Steve spent most of today at our Allen Park facility. He is now on his way back to the West Coast. Steve and I will continue to discuss this opportunity over the next few days."

Earlier in the week, Millen said he hoped Mariucci would be a candidate for the head coaching position.

"I spoke with Steve after he was left go (from San Francisco)," Millen said Monday when he announced the firing of Mornhinweg. "I have known Steve for a long time and I would like to speak with him again."

Detroit closed the season with eight straight losses, and the Lions' winning percentage of .156 over the last two seasons is the worst for such a span in franchise history.

Mornhinweg was widely criticized for an overtime loss to Chicago in which the Lions won the overtime loss and elected to take the wind. The Bears drove to the winning score on their first possession.

Under Mornhinweg, the Lions were 5-27, including 0-16 on the road. Despite no previous head coaching experience, Mornhinweg agreed to a five-year contract to replace Gary Moeller following the 2000 season.

San Francisco General Manager Terry Donahue announced on Jan. 15 that Mariucci had been released from the final year of his contract with the 49ers, citing "philosophical differences" between the coach and owner representative John York.

Report: Froemming utters racial slur

ARLINGTON, Va., Jan. 31 (UPI) -- It appears veteran umpire Bruce Froemming has been pulled from an assignment to work major league baseball's opening series in Japan for using an ethnic slur.

USA Today reported Friday that Froemming will likely be suspended and already has been taken off the two-game opening series between the Oakland Athletics and Seattle Mariners in Tokyo on March 25 and 26.

The newspaper cited three unidentified league officials who claim they heard a recorded phone message in which Froemming directs a slur at umpiring administrator Cathy Davis. Froemming apparently was upset after being chided by baseball officials for booking his own transportation to Japan and not letting baseball's office handle it as he was instructed.

The baseball officials said that Froemming likely would be suspended for a week to 10 days for his remarks. USA Today added that baseball officials have a copy of the tape.

Baseball officials would not comment on any possible suspension.

"It was a matter handled internally," Davis told the paper.

Froemming, 63, whose tenure is longer than any of his counterparts and will enter his 32nd season this year, is no stranger to controversy.

In 1996, he was reprimanded for taking a case of baseballs to the Los Angeles Dodgers clubhouse to seek autographs before a game he worked.

Then-National League President Leonard Coleman warned Froemming that such actions were a conflict of interest.

Payton joins Skills Challenge

NEW YORK, Jan. 31 (UPI) -- Nine-time All-Star Gary Payton of Seattle will be among those showing off his ability in the NBA's inaugural Skills Challenge.

Three other guards -- Jason Kidd of New Jersey, Stephon Marbury of Phoenix, and Tony Parker of San Antonio -- also were selected Friday to compete in the event, which will be held on NBA All-Star Saturday, Feb. 8 at Philips Arena in Atlanta.

Looking to add more spice to All-Star Saturday, the NBA has added the Skills Challenge, which features four players competing in a timed "obstacle course" that consists of dribbling, passing, and shooting stations.

Payton is in his 13th NBA season, and is averaging 20.9 points and a league-high 9.2 assists per game.

Kidd, who is bothered a right groin injury suffered Wednesday against Washington, averages 20.0 points, and is second in the NBA in assists (8.3).

Marbury is averaging 22.0 points and 8.1 rebounds.

Parker, 20, who played in France and is in just his second NBA season, averages 14.7 points and 5.1 assists.

The contestants will be competing for $50,000 in prize money, with $25,000 going to the winner.

Other events on All-Star Saturday include the Slam Dunk contest, the Long Distance Shootout, and the Rookie Challenge.

The All-Star Game is on Sunday, Feb. 9.

Women's hoops heavyweights square off

DURHAM N.C., Jan. 31 (UPI) -- The top two teams in women's college basketball face each other Saturday night in Durham, N.C., when Duke hosts Connecticut.

The Lady Huskies (19-0, 7-0 Big East) are the nation's defending national champions, and have a record 58-game winning streak. They won the title last season without losing in 39 games.

This year, they are led by 6-0 junior Diana Taurasi, who is generally called the best player in the country. She leads UConn with a 17.8 scoring, and also averages 6.9 rebounds per contest.

The Huskies average 72.8 points a game, and are hitting 46.1 percent from the field. They rank first in the nation in rebounding margin (+12.3), and are coached by one of the all-time greats in college hoops, Geno Auriemma. He is in his 18th year at the school, and has an overall record of 483-98.

Taurasi, the lone starter back from UConn's 2002 national championship team, has been so big for the Huskies this season that she was the subject of a feature story in the Jan. 20 issue of "Sports Illustrated."

"She has tremendous court vision, court sense," Duke Coach Gail Goestenkors told the Durham Herald-Sun. "She has got that sixth season about the game that not many people have. ... She hits the big shots."

The Lady Blue Devils (20-0, 8-0 ACC), who currently are No. 1 in the polls, are led by senior Alana Beard, who averages 23.5 points per game, and has scored 20 or more points in 15 of their 20 games.

The Lady Blue Devils have scored 100 or more points five times this season, which ties a school record from the 1994-95 campaign.

All five times, they have been on their home court, Cameron Indoor Stadium, and that my give them an advantage in this contest.

Duke has won its last eight games against ranked opponents when playing at Cameron.

A national television audience will see the contest on ESPN2, and it will be attended by a sellout crowd of 9,314 fans.

Connecticut leads the overall series, 2-1.

SEC suspends Lloreda one game

BIRMINGHAM, Ala., Jan. 31 (UPI) -- Louisiana State forward-center Jaime Lloreda has been suspended one game by the Southeastern Conference and will sit out Saturday's contest against No. 21 Alabama.

SEC Commissioner Mike Slive said Lloreda received the suspension for a "flagrant, unsportsmanlike act" in the second half of Tuesday's 70-53 loss to fourth-ranked Florida.

The suspension was more than Lloerda thought he would get.

Lloreda had been told Thursday that he would not be a starter against Alabama when he was summoned to the office of Coach John Brady. He was guilty of elbowing Florida guard Brett Nelson.

The Advocate, a newspaper based in Baton Rouge, reported Brady watched tape of the foul a number of times before meeting with Lloreda.

"Jaime made a mistake," Brady said after practice Thursday. "He shouldn't have done it. It was wrong."

The paper indicated that Brady had Lloreda write a letter of apology to Nelson and Florida Coach Billy Donovan, copies of which were sent to the Southeastern Conference office.

Lloreda is averaging 12.3 points per game and 8.3 rebounds for LSU (12-6), which is last in the SEC West with a 1-5 mark. The Tigers have lost four in a row, while Alabama has lost three straight.

Maryland honors Driesell

COLLEGE PARK, Md., Jan. 31 (UPI) -- Long-time college basketball coach Charles "Lefty" Driesell was recognized for his accomplishments Thursday night.

Driesell, who retired in December from Georgia State shortly after his 71st birthday, received a rousing ovation at halftime of the Maryland-North Carolina State game at the new Comcast Center in College Park. He was Terrapins' head coach from 1970-86.

Driesell left the profession with 786 career victories after stints at Davidson, Maryland, James Madison, and Georgia State. He led all four of his schools to the NCAA Tournament, and is the only coach in history to win 100 games at four different schools.

He won 348 games at Maryland, which he vowed to turn into "The UCLA of the East." He also was named the conference coach of the year in four different conferences, and produced 22 20-win seasons.

He was given a plaque noting his accomplishments.

"I'm honored to be here," Driesell said after the presentation. "I appreciate the reception given me. I love this facility here. It's a tremendous facility. I'm elated and sort of humbled by the applause and reception I've gotten here. A lot of my life and a lot of great memories are here at the University of Maryland. I feel that it's not me, but all the players who played for us here got the winning tradition going here. We're the ones who sort of got people interested in Maryland basketball. I think we developed a winning tradition here."

"There are two coaches in Maryland history that have a special place in the hearts of the fans. That's Gary Williams and Lefty Driesell," Athletic Director Debbie Yow told the Baltimore Sun. "I was touched by the standing ovation and the reception he received. I hope he enjoyed it."

Driesell said he is very happy about Williams' success, especially after he led the Terps to the national championship last season.

"I had 17 great years here," Driesell said. "To see all the progress they've made, Gary's done a great job. He's my kind of coach. He yells and he hollers just like I used to."

At Maryland, he has eight Top teams, seven All-Americans, and ten 20-win campaigns. The Terps also went to the NCAA Tournament eight times.

"I'm going to miss coaching, but I'm going to enjoy sitting up in the stands and not having to write notes and things," Driesell told the Sun. " I can watch television and not have to worry about anything, just kind of take it easy."

Dokic falls in Tokyo

TOKYO, Jan. 31 (UPI) -- After skipping the first Grand Slam event of 2003, Jelena Dokic of Yugoslavia was bounced Friday from the $1.3 million Pan Pacific Open tennis event.

Dokic, the second seed, dropped 12 of the final 15 games and was upset, 6-4, 6-2 by Lisa Raymond in the quarterfinals.

Top-seeded Monica Seles and No. 4 Chanda Rubin also advanced to the semifinals, helping to set up an all-American final four.

No. 3 Lindsay Davenport improved to 5-0 lifetime against Tamarine Tanasugarn of Thailand with a 7-5, 7-6 (7-3) quarterfinals win.

Making her 2003 season debut here, Dokic made an early exit for the second straight year. She lost in the second round to Anne Kremer of Luxembourg in 2002.

Dokic, 19, one of four seeds who received first-round byes, won two titles last year, and reached a career-high ranking of No. 4 in August. However, she burned out toward the end of the season with losses in seven of her last 10 matches.

She did not play at the Australian Open this year, and has had problems in Australia since January 2001, when she and her family switched their citizenship back to Yugoslavia after emigrating to Australia in 1994.

After losing in the first round of the 2002 Australian Open for the second year in a row, Dokic decided not to return to Melbourne.

Entering this week ranked 30th in the world, Raymond, 29, already has recorded her best performance in three tournaments so far in 2003. She qualified for Sydney, but lost in the second round to Davenport, and went out at the same stage at Melbourne Park.

Seles made the semifinals here for the third time in four attempts, posting a 6-4, 6-4 win over qualifier Lina Krasnoroutskaya of Russia.

Seles is playing in her first event since the earliest Australian Open exit of her career. The nine-time Grand Slam winner endured a second-round loss to unheralded Klara Koukalova of Czechoslovakia in which she injured her ankle.

Rubin recorded her second victory of the year against No. 8 Elena Dementieva of Russia, rallying for a 3-6, 6-1, 6-3 quarterfinals triumph.

Rubin, 26, also got past Dementieva in the second round in Sydney.

Rubin will make her second semifinals appearance in Tokyo in as many

attempts. In 2000, she fell in the final four to eventual champion Martina Hingis.

Rubin will battle the top-seeded Seles in Saturday's semifinals, and Raymond will meet Davenport, her Australian Open doubles partner.

Davenport, 26, a former world No. 1, won the Pan Pacific title in 1998 and 2001 after losing in the final in '95.

She did not play at Tokyo last year after undergoing knee surgery. She began this season with a runnerup finish at Sydney and a fourth-round loss at the Australian Open.

First prize at this Tier I tournament is $189,000.

Cole suffers broken leg

RALEIGH, N.C., Jan. 31 (UPI) -- The Carolina Hurricanes endured another key injury Thursday when left wing Erik Cole suffered a broken bone in his lower left leg.

Midway through the second period of the Hurricanes' clash with the Southeast Division-rival Tampa Bay Lightning, Cole fell awkwardly after being cross-checked by defenseman Dan Boyle.

The injury could sideline Cole up to three months, a team official said.

Cole has scored 14 goals in his second NHL season, and was scheduled to skate in the 2003 NHL YoungStars game in Sunrise, Fla., on Saturday.

Cole, 24, is tied for third on the Hurricanes' goal-scoring list with veteran center Rod Brind'Amour, who was placed on injured reserve on Jan. 21 after undergoing hand surgery.

Cole emerged as a key member of the Hurricanes in his rookie season, playing in 81-of-82 regular-season games and taking the ice for all 23 games of Carolina's run to the 2002 Stanley Cup Finals. He tallied six goals and three assists during the playoffs.

Turco earns NHL honor

NEW YORK, Jan. 31 (UPI) -- Dallas Stars goaltender Marty Turco, who has not lost since Dec. 26, Friday was named NHL Player of the Month for January.

Turco went 8

2 with a 1.92 goals-against average and .929 save percentage in January to lead Dallas (30-11-11-1) to the best record in the NHL.

In his first season as a starter, Turco is first in the NHL with a 1.79 GAA and second with 24 wins and a .931 save percentage. He is 9

3 since a 3-1 loss at Nashville the day after Christmas.

Turco, 27, will play for the Western Conference in the All-Star Game on Sunday.

His teammate and fellow All-Star Mike Modano was considered for the award after recording six goals and four assists in 13 games.

New Jersey goalie Martin Brodeur, right wing Jaromir Jagr and defenseman Sergei Gonchar of Washington, and Colorado right wing Milan Hejduk also were considered.

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