In Sports from United Press International

March 21, 2003 at 2:54 PM
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U.S. booed in Montreal

MONTREAL, March 21 (UPI) -- Opposition to the United States-led invasion of Iraq has filtered into the sports world.

Hockey fans at the Bell Centre in Montreal booed the American national anthem Thursday night.

The vocal protest by the sellout crowd of 21,273 occurred before the NHL game between the Montreal Canadiens and New York Islanders. It rankled American-born members of the Islanders.

"The fans in Montreal don't show us any respect," said backup goaltender Rick DiPietro, who is from Massachusetts. "I was upset by the booing. A hockey game is no time to boo the United States. This really aggravates me. I am so embarrassed to be a hockey player. How low can these fans get to boo a song?"

Teammate Mark Parrish, who is from Minnesota, added, "I think if it wasn't for America, God knows what language they'd be speaking right now."

The NCAA Tournament started Thursday, and was moved to ESPN from its traditional broadcast home on CBS, which is committed to war coverage, but began the day Friday with game coverage.

Nearly all broadcast networks are providing wall-to-wall news coverage.

On Wednesday, CBS reached an agreement to move some the games to ESPN and ESPN2. That came one day after NCAA President Myles Brand announced the games would not be postponed, relocated, or otherwise altered in any way.

Billy Tubbs back at Lamar

BEAUMONT, Texas, March 21 (UPI) -- Just 10 months into his tenure as Athletic Director at Lamar

University, Billy Tubbs will add the title of men's basketball coach.

The school made that announcement Thursday.

Tubbs will replace Mike Deane, who is being reassigned after posting a 52-62 record in four seasons. Deane led the Cardinals to a 13-14 record this past season.

It looked like Tubbs' highly successful coaching career was over after last season when he retired following an eight-year stint in which he rebuilt the Texas Christian program.

The 68-year-old Tubbs has decided to return to the sidelines at his alma mater, where he coached from 1976-80. He guided the Cardinals to a 75-46 record and the school's first two NCAA appearances.

"I've always said that I love coaching so much I would do it for free," said Tubbs, who returned to Lamar as AD last May. "I never realized, though, that I would actually get the chance to do it."

The school's president, Jimmy Simmons, persuaded Tubbs to return to the sidelines.

"Billy was very reluctant at first, but the more we talked about it, the more excited he got," said Simmons. "Taking this approach was our only real option in pointing the program in a different direction at this time. If this is the future and the direction we want to go, then I'm certainly delighted and happy. I'm excited about coaching this team."

In 1978-79, Tubbs led the Cardinals to a 23-9 record and an NCAA berth, where they upset Detroit in the first round before losing to eventual national champion Michigan State, which was led by Magic Johnson. A year later, he led the Cardinals to the "Sweet 16" of the NCAA Tournament.

After his stint at Lamar, Tubbs moved on to Oklahoma for 14 seasons, and brought a fast-break style of play to build the Sooners into a national power. He took Oklahoma to the title game of the 1988 Final Four, where his team was beaten by Kansas.

Tubbs continued his trend of rebuilding programs at TCU, where he guided the Horned Frogs to a 156-95 record. He took the Horned Frogs to the NCAA Tournament in 1998 for the first time in 11 years.

Overall, he has registered a 595-297 record in 28 seasons. His win total ranks 30th all-time in NCAA history, and his .667 career winning percentage ranks 76th.

Tubbs began his coaching career at Southwestern University in 1971. During his career, he has led his teams to 12 NCAA appearances, six NIT berths, eight conference championships, and 18 20-win seasons. He is a two-time national Coach of the Year.

Rising senior guard Terrell Petteway, this year's team captain, said he had mixed emotions about losing Deane and Tubbs coming back.

"Basically, we want to play basketball," Petteway told the Beaumont Enterprise. "That's life, though. Things change and you're put into situations where you have to go on with life and grow those experiences. I'm from Texas, so I'm really excited about the up-tempo style we're about to play. And since I'm a senior, I know what it takes and I know what I have to do get on guys when I have to. I'm excited about the style we're about to play."

Vikings sign Johnstone, Rosenthal

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn., March 21 (UPI) -- The Minnesota Vikings have re-signed defensive end Lance Johnstone and signed Mike Rosenthal.

Rosenthal started 16 games at right tackle last season for the New York Giants.

Terms of the deals were not released.

Johnstone started all 16 games last season, and led the Vikings with seven sacks and had a career-high 62 tackles.

The 6-4, 253-pounder is Minnesota's most experienced defensive lineman with 108 games and 77 starts.

Originally a second-round pick by Oakland in 1996, Johnstone spent six seasons with the Raiders before signing with the Vikings in 2001, and has 321 tackles and 41 1/2 sacks.

The addition of Rosenthal enables the Vikings to move Chris Liwienski, who started at right tackle last season, to move to guard, where he is best suited.

Rosenthal, 25, spent his first four seasons with the Giants, started nine games at left guard before becoming a full-time starter at right tackle in 2002.

Coach Mike Tice said that Rosenthal, 25, could form a long-term nucleus with McKinnie, Liwienski, and center Matt Birk, all of whom are 27 or younger.

"This gives us a very big and pretty athletic front," Tice said. "We think Mike is an ascending player. He had a good year last year and still has room to grow and improve."

The 6-7, 315-pound Rosenthal is the second starting offensive lineman to leave the Giants in the offseason, joining guard Jason Whittle, who signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

The Vikings signed defensive tackle Billy Lyon and cornerback Denard Walker previously this offseason.

Mitchell signs with Cowboys

IRVING, Texas, March 21 (UPI) -- The Dallas Cowboys have signed Donald Mitchell, who started nine games at cornerback last season for the Tennessee Titans, to a three-year contract.

Terms were not disclosed.

Mitchell likely will compete with Derek Ross and Pete Hunter, who were both rookies last year, for the starting left cornerback spot in Dallas.

"I just want the chance to compete," Mitchell said. "I feel I can play in the slot or on the outside."

In Tennessee, Mitchell served primarily as a nickel back before he had the opportunity to start last year because of injuries to Andre Dyson and Samari Rolle.

Mitchell, who grew up in Beaumont, Texas and attended SMU, becomes just the second free agent defensive player to sign with the Cowboys, joining linebacker Al Singleton.

Bills cut two veterans

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y., March 21 (UPI) -- The Buffalo Bills have waived Larry Centers, the NFL's all-time leader in receptions among running backs, and veteran outside linebacker Eddie Robinson.

Centers, who turns 35 in June, had 43 catches for 388 yards for the Bills last season, but with Travis Henry and Sammy Morris showing pass-catching ability in the backfield, Centers became expendable.

Robinson, who turns 33 in April, was third on the team last season with 102 tackles, but the offseason additions of outside linebackers Takeo Spikes and Jeff Posey squeezed him out.

Centers ranks ninth all-time in catches with 808 for 6,691 yards. No other running back in NFL history has more than 700 receptions.

The 13-year veteran signed as a free agent with the Bills in 2001, and caught 80 passes for 620 yards in his first season with the team. However, he caught barely more than half that total last season.

The three-time Pro Bowler set a single-season record with 101 receptions for 962 yards in 1995 for the Arizona Cardinals. He played nine years with Arizona and two seasons with the Washington Redskins before joining the Bills.

His departure means the Bills have lost 169 catches from last year's offense. Wide receiver Peerless Price had 94, and tight end Jay Riemersma had 32.

Buffalo signed Robinson as a free agent last April. He spent eight years with the Houston Oilers-Tennessee Titans franchise, and two seasons with the Jacksonville Jaguars, starting 148 games.

Often assigned to cover opposing running backs and tight ends, Robinson has recorded more than 100 tackles in a season six times. He had a career-high 165 for Jacksonville in 1996.

Jets bag Brien

HEMPSTEAD, N.Y., March 21 (UPI) -- The New York Jets filled a vacancy at placekicker Friday, signing unrestricted free agent Doug Brien.

Terms were not disclosed.

The Jets have been in the market for a kicker since John Hall signed with the Washington Redskins earlier this month.

The 6-0 Brien began last season with the Minnesota Vikings before being released on Oct. 23 after making five of six field goal attempts. He entered the league in 1994 with the San Francisco 49ers, and kicked in Super Bowl XXIX against San Diego, when he tied a Super Bowl record by making all seven extra points he attempted.

Brien enters his 10th NFL season in 2003, and also has played for San Francisco, New Orleans, Indianapolis, and Tampa Bay. He has 695 career points, and made 155-of-193 field goals.

The Newark Star-Ledger reported Friday that the signing of Brien, coupled with the addition of veteran punter Dan Stryzinski, gives the Jets a pair of veteran kickers who are coming off subpar seasons.

Stryzinski had a 37.8 yard average with a 31.2 net last season for Kansas City. Matt Turk handled the Jets' punting duties last season.

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