From Comcast SportsNetSTORRS, Conn. (AP) -- As Jim Calhoun stood in his office at Gampel Pavilion, waiting for his final news conference as Connecticut's basketball coach, Pat Calhoun turned to her husband and gave him one final piece of advice."Don't change your mind," she said.Calhoun had stayed on at UConn through cancer and a recruiting scandal. He refused to retire after winning a third national championship in 2011 because he didn't want a new coach to serve his NCAA suspension. He came back again to finish last season after another absence, this one for spinal surgery.But on Thursday he finally retired -- on his own terms, with a hand-picked successor and no apologies."I never, ever, ever said that I was mistake free," Calhoun said. "But I was always trying to do the right thing. It didn't always work that way, but I was always trying to do the right thing."The 70-year-old Hall of Famer, on crutches after breaking a hip last month, made the announcement on the court in Storrs where he racked up many of his 873 total wins.He thanked everyone associated with the Huskies program -- administrators, players, fans and his family -- for his team's success, and played down both his health problems and troubles with the NCAA."There have been some bumps in the road," he said. "But we are headed in the right direction."Calhoun will take a transition appointment through next spring as a special assistant to athletic director Warde Manuel. When fully retired, he will become head coach emeritus.Calhoun has been slowed repeatedly by illness and accidents in recent years, including the fractured hip. He said the injury didn't cause him to retire, but gave him time to reflect on whether this would be a good time to leave."As I looked at everything. So many things are in place for us to even go farther that we have already," he said. "So I thought it was an excellent time."With just a month to go before the start of practice, there also was no time for a national search for a replacement. Assistant coach Kevin Ollie, who played point guard for Calhoun from 1991-95, but has never been a head coach at any level, will be the Huskies' new coach.Athletic director Warde Manual, who had balked at Calhoun's suggestions earlier this year to name Ollie as a coach in waiting, decided not to tag him with an "acting coach" label. He instead offered Ollie a contract that runs only through next April 4, with a pro-rated value of 384,615."I haven't seen him coach," Manuel said. "He's never been a head coach. This is a commitment to him to see what he is like as a head coach."Ollie, who played his way from the USBL to a 13-year NBA career, said he's not afraid of the challenge."I'm used to it," he said. "My first six years in the NBA, I didn't have no guaranteed contract. This is easy. This is exactly where I want to be at."Ollie takes over a team that returns only five players who saw significant playing time a year ago and failed to qualify academically for the 2013 NCAA tournament.Guard Ryan Boatright said the team didn't want to play for anyone other than Ollie, and will take it upon themselves to make sure his new coach gets to keep the job."He's a great person, and he loves us," Boatright said. "I wouldn't rather have nobody else than KO."Ollie is one of more than two dozen players whom Calhoun sent to the NBA, a list includes everyone from Reggie Lewis at Northeastern, to Cliff Robinson, Ben Gordon, Emeka Okafor, Rudy Gay, Ray Allen and Kemba Walker.Walker, who attended the news conference, said that will be a big part of Calhoun's legacy."He's showed us how to work," Walker said. "He's pushed me to be the best player and person I could be. He's one of the most special men in my life."Calhoun also will be remembered for turning a regional program into a national power -- winning an NIT championship in 1988, national titles in 1999, 2004 and 2001, 10 Big East regular-season championships and seven Big East Tournament titles."The thing that stands out to me is it's one thing to take over a Duke or a Kentucky and build it and win games and win championships," said Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim, who went into the Hall of Fame with Calhoun in 2005. "But 26 years ago Connecticut wasn't even thought of in the college basketball world. He's turned them into one of the top programs in the country. I think it's really, to me, the greatest building job that anybody's ever done."Stony Brook coach Steve Pikiell, who played for Calhoun from 1987 to 1991 said his influence goes beyond the basketball program. Calhoun, he said, made people aware that there was a University of Connecticut."When I went here, the number-one question we got, everywhere, was: Where is UConn? Isn't that in Alaska?" he said. "Nobody asks that anymore."
Leftover notes and observations from the Nats' 4-2 win over the San Francisco Giants on Thursday night...
Papelbon pulled: Jonathan Papelbon has been causing trouble for the Nationals in the ninth inning lately, having gone back to his shaky ways of pitching to hard contact with a fastball that tops out at 89-90 miles per hour. Many fans have not felt confident this year in Papelbon's ability to do his job as closer. Now we know the Nationals feel the same.
Manager Dusty Baker pulled Papelbon after the 35-year-old veteran faced just three batters on Thursday night. He got Brandon Crawford to fly out, then gave up a single to Brandon Belt and a walk to Mac Williamson. By the end of his first at-bat, Baker had Oliver Perez warming.
Papelbon was ultimately charged with one earned run as Perez allowed Belt to score on an infield grounder. That gave Papelbon his third straight appearance with at least one earned run allowed, with seven of them total during that stretch.
His troubles go beyond the numbers, though. First place teams who have their closer's back simply do not take him out that early in such a big spot in such an important game. If any more indication was needed the Nationals could use an upgrade at that position by Monday's non-waiver trade deadline, there it was. Now, the question is how the Nats can bring in a new closer. Will they give up the farm for an Andrew Miller, or hope for the same results with a Alex Colome or Jeremy Jeffress, who would conceivably be cheaper? Either way, they should do something, or else it could cost them a lot down the road. They know it, we know it, everyone knows it.
Zimmerman gets two hits: In his third game back from the disabled list, Ryan Zimmerman had a solid outing with a single, a double and a run. That followed Wednesday's game in Cleveland where he had a single, two runs and a steal. Zimmerman is now 6-for-20 (.300) with five runs, a double and a homer in his last five games, though those are split by his stint on the DL.
Espinosa drives in a run: Hits have been few and far between for Espinosa, who has fallen off a bit in July after his exceptional month of June. But the Nats shortstop did get a big one on Thursday night with his RBI single with two outs in the top of the second inning. Espinosa now has just three hits in his last 10 games across 38 at-bats with 17 strikeouts. He has a .318 OPS during that stretch. Maybe Thursday was a sign he is about to get going again.
Solis shines again: Sammy Solis continued to look strong in his second appearance since returning from the disabled list on Tuesday. he tossed a scoreless eighth inning after working around a leadoff walk. Solis has now pitched 1 2/3 innings with no runs and three strikeouts since coming back. Beyond going after closers, the Nats have also been linked to left-handed relievers, guys like Zach Duke and Boone Logan. With Solis back pitching well, though, it's not a major need.
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For the second year in a row, Wizards second-round draft pick Aaron White will play overseas, league sources tell CSNmidatlantic.com on Friday, but this time it’ll be in Russia.
White, who was drafted 49th overall in 2015, signed a two-year deal –- the second is a team option and there is an NBA buyout clause –- with Zenit St. Petersburg.
White played for the Wizards at Las Vegas summer league and started all five games. Projected to be a stretch option as a 6-8 forward, he averaged 7.2 points and only shot 29.4% from three-point range.
He bypassed competing for a roster spot with the Wizards last season when there weren’t any roster spots up for grabs and went to Germany to begin his pro career. The Wizards have two spots open as they remake the roster this year, but Jarell Eddie (non-guaranteed) and Danuel House (undrafted free agent) are in a better position entering camp to gain those spots.
If White decided to attend camp with the Wizards he could force them to cut him which would make him a free agent and he could try to play in on another NBA team. But if he did that, those international offers would be off the table since camp doesn’t open until Sept. 27.
By taking the offer with St. Petersburg, White will earn more than he would even if he made the Wizards playing for the rookie minimum ($543,471).
"I'm really excited to continue my career in Europe and play at this high level for St. Petersburg," White told CSN via text.
"Zenit is a very successful team and I look forward to contributing to them."
The quest for the Stanley Cup doesn't begin on the ice, but during the offseason as general managers build their teams for the upcoming campaign.
The Caps have made a number of moves this summer to try to make their team better and get over the playoff hump.
Let's break down and grade each move the team made this offseason to help figure out whether it was the right move for the team.
Today's move: Re-signing Marcus Johansson
Just one year after going all the way through the arbitration process, the Caps and Marcus Johansson looked poised to do it all over again this summer.
Johansson tallied 46 points in 2015-16, just one point shy of the 47 he posted the season before. No doubt he sees himself as a top-six player, but he will likely find himself playing wing on the third line. So for the second year, the Caps had a different value of Johansson than what he could find on the open market.
Both sides began talking seriously on the day of the hearing, howver, and Johansson agreed to a three-year deal worth $13.75 million which carries a yearly cap hit of $4.583 million.
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“I'm just happy we could figure it out in the end,” Johansson said after narrowly avoiding arbitration. “To be able to be part of this team for three more years, that's important to me. I think both parties are happy with it. There's obviously the cap in the NHL and you have to find a way to stay under it and we finally came to the agreement that made both parties happy.”
Johansson is one of the most polarizing figures in the organization when it comes to the fans. There are two main reasons for this. First, when he first came into the NHL, he was touted as the solution to the Caps’ hole at center on the second line.
Did he live up to that billing? No. Johansson was not able to cement himself in that position—proving to be more effective as a winger than a center—and joined a long line of failed “solutions” for the position including Brooks Laich, Mikhail Grabovski, Mike Ribeiro, Jason Arnott, Brendan Morrison, Eric Belanger and Michael Nylander.
The second reason Johansson is so heavily criticized is his perceived lack of physicality. While it would be fair to say that the physical aspect of the game has never been his strong suit, it would also be fair to say Johansson was noticeably more physical in 2015-16 than we had previously seen. No one is going to mistake him for Tom Wilson, but he at least showed improvement.
In terms of production, Johansson has proven himself to be a 40+ point player with 44, 47 and 46 points in his last three seasons. With Jason Chimera’s departure, Johansson is now most likely the fastest player on the team. As speed is so important in today’s NHL, that certainly ups Johansson’s value.
Johansson was also one of the few players willing to screen and crash the net this season, one of the few noticeable weaknesses of the Presidents’ Trophy winning Caps team. Again, that is not his strongest suit, but it should be noted that he was at least willing to fight for the dirty goals.
Yes, I know this one is going to spark some disagreement.
Johansson may not be Washington’s favorite player, but he does clearly provide the Caps with speed and offensive production. The fact that he can also play wing and center is also a valuable asset. When Jay Beagle was out with injury last season, Johansson played well in his place at third line center. That kind of flexibility brings value that most NHL players do not.
Let’s also consider where the team stands and what Johansson’s role will be next season. The Caps are in it to win it. With several contracts expiring and several prospects nearly ready to become full-time NHL players, this team may look very different next year meaning this may be the last year that championship window is open for Washington.
With that in mind, the Caps need players who provide value now. Johansson most likely will play wing on the third line next season. Even his staunchest critics have to admit that having talent like that on the third line is an asset.
Does it come with a hefty price tag? Perhaps. When comparing his contract to other players with a comparable cap hit, Johansson’s production is a bit underwhelming. Mats Zuccarello of the New York Rangers is signed through 2019 with a $4.5 million cap hit and tallied 59, 49 and 61 points over the last three seasons. Clearly Johansson does not stack up to that comparable.
The Caps were not going to walk away from Johansson in the offseason, however, because there is zero benefit to walking away from a player of his caliber for nothing in return. Of course they were going to re-sign him because it would have been foolish not to.
Is his cap hit a bit high? Yes, but Brian MacLellan was able to sign him and still add Lars Eller and Brett Connolly while keeping the rest of the roster largely intact.
Plus, his contract is not immovable if they decide to move on after this season. Johansson has a modified no-trade clause after the first season of the deal, but he can only name five teams in which he does not wish to be traded. It also does not offer him automatic protection in next year’s expansion draft.
With the Caps still gunning for the Stanley Cup, this team is better for having a player like Johansson on the third line. If after this season the team decides his value is greater as a trade asset, then moving him becomes an option thanks to his multi-year deal. For now, however, it makes all the sense in the world to have a player like Johansson back for at least one more run at a championship.
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