In Sports from United Press International

June 2, 2003 at 3:26 PM
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Larry Brown named coach of Pistons

AUBURN HILLS, Mich., June 2 (UPI) -- Veteran basketball vagabond Larry Brown, known for switching jobs in a heartbeat, Monday was named the new coach of the NBA's Detroit Pistons.

His hiring came just 48 hours after the team announced the firing of Rick Carlisle.

Brown, 62, resigned as Coach and Vice President of Basketball Operations of the Philadelphia 76ers last Monday. Surprisingly, he was freed from a clause that prohibited him from coaching another team before his contract expired.

"I think his credentials are unquestioned and his track record is unquestioned," said Detroit General Manager Joe Dumars, who told the New York Times before the hiring that Brown was the perfect guy to come in and establish a string base. "He's already in the Hall of Fame, and my personal feeling is that he is the pre-eminent coach in the league."

He gave up the final two years of his deal with the 76ers, worth $12 million. Now, he reportedly will get a five-year, $25 million deal from Detroit.

"I don't know how I wound up here to be honest," Brown said at news conference Monday afternoon. "It was just a week ago that I announced I was resigning. I didn't know what I was going to do, but we started to hear from a lot of teams and there were a lot of wonderful opportunities out there. Actually, it took one conversation with Joe (Dumars) and (Vice President) John (Hammond) and one other conversation and it was finalized on Saturday."

Ironically, his season was ended by Carlisle and the Pistons, who beat Philadelphia in six games in the Eastern Conference quarterfinals, marking the first time an NBA coach will take over a team that eliminated him from the playoffs the previous season.

"It's hard for me to sit here after we went through a series with Detroit, and I admired Rick for what he did with this team," Brown said. "I'll try to build on what Rick did. I'm sure many people will recognize the job he did here and give him an opportunity."

Brown spent six seasons with the Sixers, his longest tenure with any team in his 31 years of coaching. Nicknamed "Mr. Fix-it," the Hall of Fame coach turned a sagging franchise into a perennial contender.

There has been speculation that Brown left the 76ers because he tired of dealing with star guard Allen Iverson.

His success with the Sixers had been turbulent because of a tumultuous relationship with Iverson, who showed up just 30 minutes before tip-off, but had 38 points and nine assists, in Philadelphia's series-clinching Game Six loss to Detroit on May 16.

"I know I was at practice on time and even for the games," Brown said when asked about Iverson. "You know, Allen's like my son. There are going to be days you're going to love him and there are days he's going to give you heartache, but I'm proud of what he accomplished."

Brown spent six seasons with the Sixers, his longest tenure with any team in his 31 years of coaching. Nicknamed "Mr. Fix-it," the Hall of Fame coach turned a sagging franchise into a perennial contender.

In Detroit, he will coach a team of overachievers that won 50 games under Carlisle each of the last two seasons.

The Pistons were swept in four games by the New Jersey Nets in the Eastern Conference finals, but much will be expected from Brown with the team owning the second overall pick in the June 26 draft. Detroit is expected to select either 7-footer Darko Milicic or Carmelo Anthony of Syracuse.

The team's young nucleus features Ben Wallace, Richard Hamilton, and Chauncey Billups. Brown, known as one of the game's premier teachers, will be counted on to develop players such as Tayshaun Prince, the team's first-round pick in 2002, and Mehmet Okur.

His brother, Herb, also coached the Pistons, guiding them to back-to-back playoff appearances before being fired during the 1977-78 season. Larry Brown also was courted by the Houston Rockets and Washington Wizards.

Enshrined in the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2002, Brown is the only coach in NBA history to lead six different teams to the playoffs. He has over 1,000 wins in the ABA, NBA, and the college ranks, but has never won a pro title.

His resume also includes stints with the Denver Nuggets, Indiana Pacers, San Antonio Spurs, New Jersey Nets, Los Angeles Clippers, and the ABA's Carolina Cougars.

He also spent five seasons at Kansas, winning the NCAA title in 1988, and coached at UCLA for two years. His crowning achievement in Philadelphia came in 2001, when he was named NBA Coach of the Year after guiding the Sixers to the NBA Finals for the first time in 18 seasons.

In 1997, Brown took over a floundering franchise in Philadelphia. After going 31-51 in his first season, he built the franchise into a contender and amassed a 255-205 record with the Sixers, including five straight playoff appearances.

Overall in 20 seasons as an NBA coach, Brown has compiled a mark of 879-685. His career record as a coach is 1,285-853.

Brown also has a busy summer ahead. He will coach Team USA in the Olympic qualifying tournament in Puerto Rico this August, when the U.S. will compete to win a spot in the 2004 Olympics.

As a player, he was a member of the 1964 gold medal U.S. Olympic basketball team.

Silas is top contender for Cavaliers

CLEVELAND, June 2 (UPI) -- The Cleveland Cavaliers will hold a news conference for late Monday afternoon amid reports that Paul Silas will be named the team's new coach.

A team spokesman, when asked the nature of the event, would say only that team owner Gordon Gund and General Manager Jim Paxson will be making a "major announcement."

On Saturday night, ESPN reported Silas would be named coach of the Cavaliers as soon as Monday. He was fired May 4 after four-plus years with the New Orleans Hornets.

This is one of the most important months in franchise history for the Cavaliers. Silas is a key component of a rebuilding project that includes the selection of Ohio high school superstar LeBron James with the first pick in the June 26 draft.

The Cavaliers had interviewed Silas and former New York Knicks Coach Jeff Van Gundy, and the two were considered to be neck-and-neck in consideration for the job.

Silas is the all-time winningest coach in Hornets history, posting a 208-155 record and leading the team to the playoffs in each of his four full seasons.

In the final year of his contract, he guided New Orleans to a 47-35 record this past season, but the Hornets lost to Philadelphia in the first round after advancing to the conference semifinals each of the previous two seasons.

The Cavaliers were 17-65 this season, tying the Denver Nuggets for the worst record in the NBA. Keith Smart served as interim coach following the firing of John Lucas after an 8-34 start.

NBA schedules games in China

NEW YORK, June 2 (UPI) -- The NBA strengthened its ties to China on Monday when it announced preseason games will be played in Shanghai and Beijing in October 2004.

The league reiterated its commitment to support the development and growth of basketball in Asia, despite many sporting events being moved from that area because of the outbreak of the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS).

"We are excited about scheduling our first NBA exhibition games in China," said NBA Commissioner David Stern. "China has been our fastest growing global market, and with the extraordinary success of Yao Ming, we anticipate the development of more elite players as the 2008 Beijing Olympics approach."

Details and specific dates were not announced.

The NBA has had increasing presence in China, establishing offices in Hong Kong and Beijing as well as holding clinics and player tours. The connection dates to the 1978-79 season, when the NBA champion Washington Bullets (now the Washington Wizards), traveled to China to play two exhibition games against the Chinese National Team.

The association continued when Yao was drafted by the Houston Rockets with the No. 1 pick in the 2002 draft.

"We recognize that the NBA is committed to bring the action and excitement of the very best basketball in the world to the growing contingent of basketball fans throughout China," said Sun Kanglin, the Director of the Beijing Municipal Bureau of Sports.

"We are proud to bring home Yao Ming, and we extend our most sincere welcome to the Houston Rockets and Sacramento Kings to Shanghai," said the President of the Shanghai Municipal Bureau of Sports, Jin Guoxiang.

In addition to the two games in China in 2004, the NBA also announced its international preseason schedule for October 2003.

Dallas and Utah will square off in Mexico City, Mexico on Oct. 5; Miami will battle Philadelphia in San Juan, Puerto Rico on Oct. 7; San Antonio will face Memphis in Paris on Oct. 6; and Memphis will visit FC Barcelona on Oct. 10.

In addition, the Los Angeles Clippers and Seattle will open their 2003-2004 regular season with two games at Saitama Super Arena in Japan on Oct. 30 and Nov. 1.

The rest of the 2003-04 preseason and regular season schedules will be announced at a later date.

Ferrero reaches French quarters

PARIS, June 2 (UPI) -- Juan Carlos Ferrero, the men's No. 3 seed, annihilated friend and rival Felix Mantilla Monday to advance to the quarterfinals of the French Open.

Ferrero, the French runnerup last year, coasted to a 6-2, 6-1, 6-1 win in a match initially delayed by rain.

The 23-year-old Spaniard hit 53 clear winners and moved his compatriot all over the court. He broke Mantilla, the recent winner on clay at the Rome Masters, seven times to cruise into the quarterfinals for the fourth time in as many appearances.

Ferrero, a semifinalist in 2000 and 2001, improved to 20-3 all-time at the French Open. He has displayed strong claycourt form throughout 2003, winning 25 of his 27 matches on the surface, winning champion trophies in Monte Carlo and Valencia.

Mantilla lost for the seventh time in as many meetings with Ferrero, who now faces Fernando Gonzalez. The 22-year-old Chilean breezed past Jarkko Nieminen of Finland, 6-3, 6-3, 6-2.

Gonzalez rarely was troubled by Nieminen, who seemed out of sorts and needed treatment for a leg injury during the match.

Behind his powerful forehand, Gonzalez, the 1998 junior Roland Garros champion, matched his best career result in a Grand Slam, having reached the 2002 U.S. Open quarterfinals.

Smith released by Bengals

CINCINNATI, June 2 (UPI) -- As expected, the Cincinnati Bengals Monday released quarterback Akili Smith.

The drafting of Heisman Trophy winner Carson Palmer and the signing of veteran Shane Matthews over the weekend signaled the end for Smith in Cincinnati.

Smith, 27, never lived up to his billing as the third overall pick in the 1999 draft. He started 17 of 22 games, and completed less than 47 percent of his passes (215-of-461) for 2,212 yards and just five touchdowns with 13 interceptions.

The Bengals told Smith's agent over the weekend that he would be released.

"This is the best course for the Bengals and for Akili," said Coach Marvin Lewis. "We're pleased with the lineup of other quarterbacks we've put in place, and we know Akili will get another opportunity."

Cincinnati selected Palmer with the first pick in the April draft, but plan to keep Jon Kitna as the starter and wanted a more reliable backup than Smith.

On Saturday, the Bengals signed Matthews, who is familiar with Lewis. Matthews started seven games for the Washington Redskins last season when Lewis was the team's defensive coordinator.

He is the first of many big names that are expected to experience similar fates or be traded. Others included Denver quarterback Brian Griese, and wide receiver J.J. Stokes of San Francisco.

Packers ink Lamar Smith

GREEN BAY, Wis., June 2 (UPI) -- The Green Bay Packers have signed Lamar Smith, a former 1,000-yard rusher, to serve as a backup to Ahman Green.

Terms were not disclosed.

Smith, 32, rushed for a career-high 1,139 yards and tied for second in the AFC with 16 touchdowns in 2000 for the Miami Dolphins. He rushed for 968 yards the following year, but became expendable when the Dolphins traded for Ricky Williams in 2002.

Last season, he rushed for 737 yards and seven touchdowns in 11 games for the Carolina Panthers, but had personal problems and was given a paid leave of absence on Nov. 29. He eventually was placed on injured reserve with a shoulder injury on Dec. 18.

Smith participated in minicamp Monday, and will compete for a backup job to Green, who ranked fourth in the NFC with 1,240 yards rushing and also caught 57 passes for the Packers last season.

Green Bay also has signed receiver-returner Antonio Chatman, who broke the Arena Football League record for all-purpose yards with 3,678 in 18 games with the Chicago Rush. He caught 123 passes for 1,608 yards and returned 84 kicks for 2,062 yards.

Ducks try to pull even with Devils

ANAHEIM, Calif., June 2 (UPI) -- After winning in overtime Saturday, the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim seek to pull even with New Jersey Monday night in Game Four of the Stanley Cup Finals.

The home team has won the first three games of the best-of-seven series for the first time since 1987, and the Ducks hope the trend continues.

Home ice has been especially important for the Stanley Cup finalists. The Devils are 10-1 at home in the postseason. The Ducks are 7-1.

New Jersey outscored Anaheim, 6-0, in the first two games of the series at Continental Airlines Arena as Martin Brodeur recorded two shutouts.

Unfortunately for the Devils, Brodeur gave the Ducks a gift goal in Game Three and defenseman Ruslan Salei won it at 6:59 of overtime, wristing a shot from the top of the left circle past the glove of Brodeur.

"It's only one win, so we still got a lot of work to do," said Salei, whose other playoff goal came in Game Six of the Western Conference semifinals against Dallas.

Anaheim goaltender Jean-Sebastien Giguere made 29 saves and broke Patrick Roy's record by extending his overtime shutout streak to 167 minutes, 4 seconds.

Giguere was at the top of his game for the first time in the series, and he also became the first goalie in NHL history to win his first six postseason overtime decisions.

Brodeur mishandled a seemingly harmless dump-in by defenseman Sandis Ozolinsh with 5:13 left in the second, giving the Ducks a 2-1 lead. Brodeur had dropped his stick and was helpless as Ozolinsh's shot hit the stick and caromed through his legs.

It came just 45 seconds after Patrik Elias beat Giguere on a breakaway.

"That's the break we needed," said Anaheim Coach Mike Babcock. "Sometimes, that's what it takes to turn around a series."

Game Five is Thursday at East Rutherford.

Canadiens name Gainey GM

MONTREAL, June 2 (UPI) -- Bob Gainey was named General Manager of the Montreal Canadiens on Monday, replacing Andre Savard, who was demoted to Assistant GM.

Gainey, 49, who won five Stanley Cup rings, also was hired as the team's Executive Vice President.

He will assume the position on July 1, while Savard will carry on the duties of GM for the rest of the month. Both Gainey and Savard agreed to four-year contracts.

"The appointment of Bob Gainey marks a new page in the Canadiens history," said Montreal President Pierre Boivin. "His experience as a player, a coach and a general manager, his professional expertise and his personal qualities along with his profound knowledge of the National Hockey League will be a major contribution to the continued improvement of the Montreal Canadiens."

Gainey, a 16-year veteran who played his entire career with the Canadiens, built the Dallas Stars into an elite NHL franchise. He spent 10 seasons as general manager of the Stars, building teams that won five straight division championships, two Presidents' Trophies, and a Stanley Cup championship in 1999.

Now he hopes to restore the Canadiens to their former glory.

"I have fond memories of the 16 seasons that I played with the organization and of the Montreal fans," said Gainey, who will take over a team that went 30-35-8-9 last season. "The Canadiens have a great winning tradition and together with Andre Savard, we are going to do everything possible to develop a winning team."

Gainey stepped down as general manager of the Stars on Jan. 25, 2002.

"I appreciate everything Bob has done for me personally and professionally," said Dallas GM Doug Armstrong. "I wish him nothing but success with the Montreal Canadiens."

Gainey held the dual role of coach and GM from 1992-96. He was appointed coach in June 1990 and in 1991, led the Minnesota North Stars to the Stanley Cup Finals, where they lost to the Pittsburgh Penguins.

"Bob Gainey is a consummate professional and a winner," said Dallas owner Tom Hicks. "I talked to Bob last night and thanked him for everything he has done for our organization these past 12 years. I wish him the best in his new opportunity with the Montreal Canadiens."

Gainey, elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1992, was a four-time winner of the Selke Trophy as the league's best defensive forward. He collected 501 points in 1,160 games for the Canadiens, served as team captain for eight seasons, and won the Conn Smythe Trophy in 1979.

Blue Jackets ink Brathwaite

COLUMBUS, Ohio, June 2 (UPI) -- The Columbus Blue Jackets, seeking a reliable backup to starter Marc Denis, Monday signed veteran goaltender Fred Brathwaite to a one-year contract.

Financial terms were not disclosed.

Brathwaite spent the last two years with the St. Louis Blues. He appeared in 30 games last season, compiling a 12-9-4 record with a 2.75 goal-against average and two shutouts. In the 2001-02 campaign, he went 9-11-4 with a career-best 2.24 GAG.

"We are really looking forward to having Fred join our organization," said Columbus General Manager Doug MacLean. "Not only does he have a great reputation as a terrific team guy, but he has proven he can win games in the National Hockey League. I think he will be a great fit."

The 10-year veteran has also played for Edmonton and Calgary, and owns a career record of 77-88-36 with a 2.67 GAG and 15 shutouts. Since 1998-99, he is 72-71-32 with a 2.53 GAG.

Denis handled a heavy workload for the Blue Jackets last season, going 27-41-8-3 with a 3.09 GAG.

Blackhawks ink Vorobiev

CHICAGO, June 2 (UPI) -- The Chicago Blackhawks Monday signed right wing Pavel Vorobiev, their first-round pick in the 2000 draft.

Taken with the 11th overall choice, Vorobiev is one of Chicago's top prospects, but he injured his knee in Russia during the 2000-01 season and underwent surgery.

He returned to Russia toward the end of the 2001-02 season, collecting three goals and two assists in nine games with Yaroslavl in the Russian League. Last year, the 6-foot, 190-pounder scored 10 goals and added 18 assists in 44 games.

"Our signing him is a major step forward to our youth program," said Chicago General Manager Mike Smith, who did not release terms of the agreement. "It is also an indication of how he has overcome major knee surgery two years ago. We are optimistic that this is just one of several signings of our young prospects that we will announce this summer."

Vorobiev, born in Karaganda, Kazakhstan, played for Russia in the World Junior Championships three times. He had two assists in three games in 1998-99 in the under-18 World Juniors, but recorded eight points in six games in the tournament next year.

Two years ago, he had five points in seven games in the under-20 World Juniors.

The Blackhawks went 30-33-13-6 last season to finish in ninth place in the Western Conference, well out of a playoff spot.

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