In Sports from United Press International

March 17, 2003 at 8:10 PM
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Dunn steps down at Penn State

STATE COLLEGE, Pa., March 17 (UPI) -- Jerry Dunn, who could not build a winning men's basketball program at Penn State, resigned Monday.

He had been the Nittany Lions' coach for the last eight seasons, but was in unable to overcome the shadow of long-time football coach Joe Paterno.

"This was a very difficult decision," said Dunn. "I am very appreciative of the opportunity Dr. Spanier and (Athletic Director) Tim Curley gave me to become the head coach at Penn State. I have greatly enjoyed my association with Penn State. I would like to have had more success over the past two seasons, but I am proud of our efforts and what we have accomplished over the past eight years."

Penn State was just 7-21 this season, including a dismal 2-14 mark in the Big Ten. He had an overall record of 117-121, and was 45-87 in Big Ten games during his eight seasons as PSU head coach. He had spent the previous 12 seasons as a Penn State assistant coach under Bruce Parkhill.

He submitted his resignation to Curley.

"I appreciate what Jerry has done for the men's basketball program," Curley stated. "Jerry Dunn has been a member of the basketball staff and Penn State community for 20 years. I have a great deal of respect for Jerry. He has a great work ethic, strong character, and ran his program with class and dignity. We wish Jerry and his family the best in the future."

Dunn, who also has been an assistant at George Mason, went to the postseason four times with the Nittany Lions. They advanced to the NIT Championship game in 1998, the NIT semifinals in 2000, the NCAA Sweet 16 in 2001.

Curley said a search committee has been formed to find Dunn's successor.

UCLA fires basketball Coach Steve Lavin

LOS ANGELES, March 17 (UPI) -- Steve Lavin, the beleaguered basketball coach at UCLA, Monday was fired after seven years.

Lavin has been under siege this season because of the Bruins' poor play. They suffered though a 9-19 campaign, and just barely had enough league wins to qualify for the Pac-10 Tournament.

He becomes the seventh coach fired since the retirement of the legendary John Wooden in 1975.

"My conclusion was that for UCLA basketball to flourish, a change in leadership was necessary," said UCLA Athletic Director Dan Guerroro. "We certainly wish Steve the very best in his future endeavors. In addition, I want to acknowledge his dignity in handling his situation during difficult times this season."

Despite the Bruins' shocking upset of top-ranked Arizona in the tournament, Lavin said repeatedly in the past few days that he felt the firing would happen Monday.

"Decisions like this are always tough," said Guerrero. "However, if this program is to regain its place among the nation's elite, I felt a change was required. Steve has enjoyed some important accomplishments during his tenure at UCLA, six trips to the NCAA tournament and five trips to the Sweet 16 among them, but my assessment of future success had to be based upon what I have observed this year. When all is said and done, I considered what our goals for this program should be and the process necessary to achieve those goals."

Lavin, 38, who compiled a record of 145-78 in his seven years as head coach, had five years remaining on his contract. The contract buyout consists of one year of the full package of $578,000 and four years at the base salary of $153,000.

Prior to his becoming interim head coach in November of 1996, he served as an assistant coach for five seasons (1992-96).

"I am glad to have been a part of this important learning process (at UCLA)," said Lavin. "In my previous six years, our teams enjoyed a series of successful seasons and a very strong NCAA tournament record, but change is a constant in life, and it is certainly a given in the coaching profession. After 12 years at UCLA, I take the long view, and I am grateful for the experience of teaching at one of the world's great universities. I will remember most the lasting friendships I've made, and I remain optimistic about the bright future of the program.

The Los Angeles Times reported Monday that Lavin was barely 32 and still owed $70,000 in student loans and credit card debt when he fell into the job after Jim Harrick was fired a week before the 1996-97 season for lying about an expense report.

The Los Angeles Daily News reported sources saying a list of replacements already is in place, including head coaches Ben Howland of Pittsburgh, Dana Altman of Creighton, Mark Few of Gonzaga, and Rick Majerus of Utah, former Florida and Atlanta Hawks coach Lon Kruger, and Larry Brown of the Philadelphia 76ers, who is a former UCLA coach.

The paper said school supporters also have mentioned Rick Pitino of Louisville and Roy Williams of Kansas.

Howland, who recently signed a long-term contract with Pitt, told ESPN Radio Monday morning that he is staying put.

Hunter canned by Aggies

GREENSBORO, N.C., March 17 (UPI) -- North Carolina A&T, one of only two Division I men's basketball teams that failed to win two games this season, has fired Coach Curtis Hunter.

North Carolina A&T lost its first 24 games before posting a 61-54 win at Norfolk State on March 3. The Aggies followed with a three-point loss to South Carolina State in their final game of the regular season, and were routed, 76-55, by Norfolk State in the opening round of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference Tournament.

"The A&T athletics department thanks Coach Hunter for the

efforts he has put forth during the past four seasons," said Athletic

Director Charles Davis. "We thank him for the leadership and integrity he has displayed both on and off the court."

Associate Athletic Director Wheeler Brown has appointed a screening committee, and hopes to fill the position soon.

Tennessee State, which was the only other Division I team with one win, dismissed Nolan Richardson III during the season.

Todd Bodine wins final lap battle

DARLINGTON, S.C., March 17 (UPI) -- Todd Bodine won Monday's NASCAR Busch Series 200 by barely beating Jamie McMurray.

Bodine and McMurray staged a side-by-side battle to the checkered flag that resulted in both cars spinning across the finish line. Bodine crossed the finished line in a sideways slide while McMurray's car was in a full fledge spin and just a tick too late.

The finish nearly was identical to Sunday's Winston Cup race, which was won by Ricky Craven, except both cars in Monday's race lost control before crossing the finish line.

"I have to apologize to Jamie; I don't want to race that way," Bodine said. "He got into me and I tried to save the car and got into him. We were a little loose because I had burned the tires off the car. I was loose at the end but had enough tires to do it. We have a flair for the dramatic, I guess."

Scott Riggs was third followed by Stacy Compton.

With four laps to go, Bodine passed Compton for the lead with McMurray on the rear of his car. Compton's team decided to gamble on fuel by not pitting.

It was the second time in the last three Busch races this season that the contest had to be staged on a Monday morning after a Saturday rainout.

The winning car is co-owned by Frank Herzog and baseball Hall of Famer Reggie Jackson.

With qualifications for the race rained out Thursday, Stan Barrett started on the pole because he is driving the same car that Greg Biffle drove to win last year's Busch Series title. Biffle now is in the Winston Cup Series.

Barrett led the first 15 laps before Johnny Sauter forged ahead.

On lap 28, the yellow flag waved for the first time after a multi-car crash. Michael Waltrip had a right-rear tire deflate, putting him into the fourth-turn wall and Kerry Earnhardt ran into the back of him. David Green also was involved.

The leaders pitted led by Sauter when the pits opened. Sauter was first off pit road to retain his lead followed by Scott Wimmer.

Bodine was the leader at the halfway point of the race and began to pull away from the field. But Riggs was able to pull ahead when he went to the outside and passed Bodine with 50 laps to go.

Riggs and Bodine both pitted with 25 laps left in the race. Riggs' crew changed all four tires and sent him out of the pits in 17 seconds. That put Compton in the lead as the race entered its final stage.

Mets say they will not retaliate

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla., March 17 (UPI) -- The general manager of the New York Mets say his club will not be out for revenge when it next meets Los Angeles.

Steve Phillips made the declaration in an interview in the wake of a brawl last Wednesday when Mets catcher Mike Piazza was hit by Dodgers pitcher Guillermo Mota.

"We've given them full reassurance that we're going there (only) to play baseball," Phillips said. "We've got to get ready for baseball season and we've got to prepare to play and also make sure that we're fully manned."

Mota hit Piazza in the sixth inning, and the normally reserved Mets catcher charged the mound.

After being restrained, Piazza attempted to enter the Dodgers' locker room, but Mota already had departed the ballpark. Los Angeles officials filed a complaint with the commissioner's office over the incident.

Piazza also was fined $3,000, and Mota $1,500.

When the two teams play at Mexico City later this week, Piazza was listed on the Mets' travel list, and Mota was not on the Dodgers. Baseball's disciplinarians hit both players with five-game regular-season suspensions Monday afternoon.

"We just heard the ruling from the commissioner's office and we plan to support Mike in whatever course of action he decides to take," Phillips said.

"Naturally I'm disappointed in the ruling," Piazza said. "I have seven days to weigh my options. I plan to use that time to decide what course of action I will take."

Mets Manager Art Howe said his team has talked about the fight already.

"We had a little chat," said Howe, who, like Piazza, was angry about the incident. "Nothing (is) going to happen, at least not intentionally. I've been in this game too long to dwell on it. It's crazy. A lot of crazy things take place in this game. But I was pretty upset the other night."

Each player has the option of appealing the ruling.

It is the second suspension handed down in less than a week.

On Friday, baseball disciplinarian Bob Watson suspended Vladimir Guerrero and Jose Macias of Montreal, and Florida's Brad Penny for their roles in an on-field incident March 10. Mota and Piazza also were fined for an incident in 2002, and the bad blood boiled over again Wednesday.

Iverson, Francis NBA Players of Week

NEW YORK, March 17 (UPI) -- Guards Allen Iverson of the Philadelphia 76ers and Steve Francis of the Houston Rockets were honored Monday as NBA Players of the Week.

Iverson, the Eastern Conference winner, averaged 28.0 points, 6.7 assists, 4.0 steals and 3.0 rebounds to lead the Sixers to a 3-0 record. Iverson's efforts drew Philadelphia within one-half game of first-place New Jersey in the Atlantic Division.

Iverson capped his week with 31 points, six steals, five assists and three rebounds in Sunday's 92-87 victory over the Nets.

Francis, the Western Conference recipient, averaged 20.0 points, 8.3 assists, 6.0 rebounds and 3.0 steals in a 3-0 week for the Rockets.

NCAA makes plan for BYU adjustment

INDIANAPOLIS, March 17 (UPI) -- Brigham Young will move to another region of the NCAA basketball tournament if it wins twice this weekend.

BYU is a Mormon school, and by law, is not allowed to play on Sundays. The Cougars, who stunned UNLV Saturday in the Mountain West Tournament championship game, have been seeded 12th in the South Region, and are scheduled for Thursday-Saturday games in the field of 65.

Because of the school's policy, if the Cougars advance to next week's regionals, the NCAA has determined it will send them to the Midwest Regional in Minneapolis, which is a Thursday/Saturday setup, instead of the South Regional in San Antonio, which is Friday/Sunday.

The Daily Herald reported Monday that the school's Athletic Director, Val Hale, sent a letter to the NCAA on Aug. 7, 2002, telling the organization of BYU's policy. The paper said Hale was able to speak with two members of the NCAA Selection Committee Sunday night.

"When I got ahold of one of the committee members, he said, 'Oh my gosh, that's right,'" Hale told the paper. "I talked to two (members), and obviously they were a little embarrassed."

"I think the key thing is no matter who we play, we're going to have to play our best basketball of the year to win," said Coach Steve Cleveland. "That's what we have to go in prepared to do."

Although the Cougars will be a heavy underdog, Connecticut Coach Jim Calhoun is concerned about them.

"I don't like the team we're playing," Calhoun said. "I don't think they're a 12 seed, and I do think we are a five. We got a tough draw, but I think that BYU feels like: `Just what we needed, Connecticut, after going 23-8.' You are going to have to beat some folks, somewhere and someway. We'll make it a two-day tournament and see if we can get ourselves advanced."

Another surgery for Grant Hill

ORLANDO, Fla., March 17 (UPI) -- Oft-injured Grant Hill of Orlando is headed for an expected fourth operation on his left ankle.

Hill has been sidelined since Jan. 16. He will have his ankle fracture addressed and re-aligned Tuesday. Orthopedic surgeon Dr. James Nunley will perform the procedure, which also will include re-shaping the heel.

Hill, 30, has had three surgeries to repair a stress fracture on the inside of his left ankle during the past three seasons. He sustained the injury in the 2000 playoffs while with the Detroit Pistons.

Now in the third year of a seven-year, $93 million deal, Hill played just four games in 2000-01, 14 games last season, and 29 of 67 games this season.

When he was healthy earlier this season, he formed a potent 1-2 punch with Tracy McGrady and the Magic got off to a good start, winning five of their first six games.

The Magic currently are 34-33 and in seventh place in the Eastern Conference.

The 6-8 Hill is averaging 14.6 points while shooting just under 50 percent from the field. He was voted an All-Star starter each of his first six years with the Pistons, and averaged a career-high 25.8 points in 1999-2000.

Basketball fever costs employers

CHICAGO, March 17 (UPI) -- The annual college basketball "March Madness" could cost U.S. employers as much as $1.4 billion in lost productivity, workplace experts Challenger, Gray & Christmas said Monday.

The Chicago-based international outplacement firm says just 10 minutes a day spent on the NCAA tournament instead of job duties would cost employers an average $2.56 per worker.

Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc., a recruitment specialist best known for its monthly job survey tracking corporate layoffs, calculated the loss per employee by dividing the average national hourly wage -- $15.38 -- by the average amount earned in 10 minutes by the number of U.S. employees with college degrees, about 36.6 million.

The tournament stretches over 15 workdays.

While $2.56 per worker may not seem a lot, researchers said 10 non-productive minutes for the entire workforce of 135,907,000 totals $347,921,921. However, not all workers are interested in the annual orgy of college basketball so Challenger used the number of employees with likely old-school ties to calculate a potential loss of $93.8 million for every minute of tournament distraction.

NIT schedule announced

NEW YORK, March 17 (UPI) -- Boston College, led by star guard Troy Bell, was one of six Big East teams invited to the 40-team NIT field late Sunday.

Boston College (18-11) expected to play in the NCAA Tournament after winning seven out of its last nine games, but the Eagles were snubbed and chose to accept a bid to the NIT. The semifinals and final of the event are held at New York's Madison Square Garden, his favorite place to play, from April 1-3.

"I'm going to play regardless," said Bell, who felt BC deserved an NCAA berth. "It's just not the same."

The tournament begins Monday night, with Iowa hosting Valparaiso. The Eagles will play at Fairfield in an opening-round contest on Tuesday.

Other first-round matchups include, on Tuesday, Georgetown at Tennessee, DePaul at North Carolina, Drexel at Temple, and Villanova at Siena, and on Wednesday, Illinois-Chicago at Western Michigan, Providence at Richmond, Wichita State at Iowa State, College of Charleston at Kent State, Nevada at Texas Tech, UC-Santa Barbara at San Diego State, Ohio State at Georgia Tech, Eastern Washington at Wyoming, Seton Hall at Rhode Island, Minnesota at St. Louis, Boston University at St. John's, Brown at Virginia, Louisiana-Lafayette at Alabama-Birmingham, and Hawaii at UNLV.

"Just to play another game would make me happy," said Virginia forward Elton Brown. "Even thought it's not the NCAAs, the NIT is another game. If you do good in the NIT, people look at you like, 'They won in the NIT. It wasn't the big dance, but they played some good teams.'"

Last season, Memphis beat South Carolina in the title game.

Denmon shot to death near Los Angeles

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas, March 17 (UPI) -- School officials at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi have announced that Lee Denmon III, a very good three-point shooter, has been shot to death outside Los Angeles.

He was 23.

Denmon, also one of the most likeable players in the school's history, was returning home from Morningside High School, where he served as freshman coach at his alma mater. He was shot in the chest and pronounced dead at a local hospital.

The news was devastating to Corpus Christi Coach Ronnie Arrow, who said it was a pleasure to have Denmon at the school for two years.

"Anyone who knew Lee will always remember that smile he had on his face," Arrow said. "Lee was a classy kid from a classy family. You couldn't help but root for him on and off the court because of the type of player and person he was."

After playing two years at Los Angeles Southwest College, Denmon accepted a scholarship to Corpus Christi in 1999, where he was a key member of the Islanders' first two teams.

"Lee was one of the kids who helped start this program," Arrow said. "It was a pleasure to have him here, and I can tell you that a lot of people in the area will be devastated with this news."

Denmon played in 54 games for the Islanders, averaging 12.3 points. He ranks first in program history in three-pointers in a season (69) and career (120), and shares the mark for steals in a game with six.

After using up his eligibility in 2001, he returned to the school for another semester to finish his degree before accepting the coaching job back in California.

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