Red Sox

Rondo credits Dooling with helping Celtics locker room

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Rondo credits Dooling with helping Celtics locker room

BOSTON -- Keyon Dooling sat at a locker as Jeff Green, Jason Terry, and Chris Wilcox listened with somber expressions on their faces. The Celtics had just lost a game in early January and their struggles with consistency continued.

As the media began to fill the locker room, Dooling ignored all distractions and continued to speak. He stayed seated to deliver his message. He stood up to demonstrate his advice. All the while, he never took his eyes off the trio of players, and they didn't break their attention from him.

Dooling never wanted to leave the game completely when he retired from the NBA in September. After an emotion-filled summer, he walked away from the Boston Celtics as a veteran guard and re-joined the organization as a player development coordinator.

Just months into his new role, he is already being credited for delivering the motivation and positivity he was so passionate about bringing during his career.

Since Jan. 4, the Celtics have gone from a 14-17 team on a four-game losing streak searching for an identity to 20-17 club that has won six straight. Following the C's 100-89 victory over the Charlotte Bobcats, Rajon Rondo credited his former teammate and close friend for helping the team rediscover their swagger.

"Keyon Dooling has actually helped, actually," said Rondo. "Hes been in the locker room, amping guys up. His personality, I think it started with him."

Dooling earned the nickname "The Reverend" last season for his inspirational and impassioned talks. His trademark question, "What's driving you?" has forced countless athletes to look within and realize what they were playing for each day.

Rondo has noticed a change in the locker room since Dooling began infusing his personality within the walls. The point guard has seen his teammates playing more loosely on the court, with role players like Courtney Lee and Jeff Green smiling more often since the team began hitting their stride.

Our spirits are better, obviously," said Rondo. "It's not fun losing, and since we've been winning, the locker room has been a little bit more relaxed and not so tense. Guys are smiling again and joking, so it's back to where weve been from the start.

"We lost a couple games, but we never got down."

Just the type of optimistic sentiments Dooling would express, too.

Brad Ausmus interviews with Red Sox, but Alex Cora appears frontrunner

Brad Ausmus interviews with Red Sox, but Alex Cora appears frontrunner

BOSTON — Brad Ausmus was the second person to interview to replace John Farrell as Red Sox manager, baseball sources confirmed Monday afternoon. The Sox are expected to interview Ron Gardenhire, the Diamondbacks' bench coach, as well.

But the net might not be cast too wide. More and more, it sounds like the Sox already know whom they want.

Astros bench coach Alex Cora, who met with Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski in New York on Sunday, appears the frontrunner to take the reins next year. The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal has reported that to be the case multiple times, and for some inside the Sox organization, that's a growing feeling as well.

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The criteria the Sox value most isn't hard to guess: a strong connection with players, an ability to incorporate data and analytics; and someone who can handle the market.

"I knew Alex for a couple of years before getting a chance to work with him and had tried to recruit him to work a few years ago and he had other options," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said Monday in New York, before Game 3 of the American League Championship Series against the Yankees. "To watch him develop relationships with the players, he's all about baseball. He's all about the competition and small advantages within the game, one of the brightest baseball intellects that I've been around. And to see him pass some of that on and transition from player to TV personality to coach, he's had a ton of impact.

"He challenges people. He challenges me. He's someone who's all about winning. And I think to watch our players respond to him, he's got a lot of respect in that clubhouse because of the work he puts in and the attention to detail that he brings. That's why he's the hottest managerial candidate on the planet and deservedly so."

Cora joined the Astros before this season.

Ausmus, whom Dombrowski hired in Detroit ahead of the 2014 season, grew up in Connecticut and went to Dartmouth. The 48-year-old spent 18 seasons as a big-league catcher, the last in 2010. He was working for the Padres before Dombrowski gave him his first shot at managing the Tigers. 

Ausmus went 314-332 in four years managing the Tigers, a more veteran team than might have been ideal for him as a first-time manager.

Ausmus pulled out of the running to interview with the Mets, per Jon Heyman of Fan Rag while Cora was expected to interview with the Mets on Monday or Tuesday, per the New York Post's Mike Puma.

What could change from here? One baseball source indicated a second interview with Cora was expected. Asked if he plans a second round of interviews generally, Dombrowski did not say.

"We have started the interview process," Dombrowski wrote via email. "I do not have any specific time frames at this point. Will wait and evaluate as we go through the process."

The Boston Herald's Chad Jennings first reported Ausmus' interview.

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Smart, Celtics unable to agree on contract extension prior to deadline

Smart, Celtics unable to agree on contract extension prior to deadline

CLEVELAND – For the third year in a row, a first-round pick of the Boston Celtics is unable to come to terms on a contract extension prior to the deadline.

That means Marcus Smart will become a restricted free agent this summer. Last year it was Kelly Olynyk (now with the Miami Heat) and in 2015 it was Jared Sullinger (now with Shenzhen Leopards of the Chinese Basketball Association).

Both the Celtics and Smart's camp intensified their discussions in recent days as the October 16th 6 p.m. EST deadline drew near.

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While there was progress made, there wasn’t enough to get a deal done.

Smart has repeatedly indicated that he wants to re-sign a long-term deal to stay in Boston.

And the market for the 6-foot-4 guard became clearer based on the contracts that some of his fellow rookie class of 2014, were receiving.

Denver’s Gary Harris agreed to a four-year, $84 million contract after establishing himself as one of the better young two-way talents in the NBA last season. And at the other end of the financial spectrum, you would have to look at Phoenix’s T.J. Warren who signed a four-year, $50 million contract.

More than likely, Smart’s deal next summer will fall somewhere between the deals those two players received.

As much as Smart would have preferred to get a deal done heading into the season, it’s not something that he’s going to cause him to lose any sleep.

“Get it done now, or get it done in six months, I’m OK either way,” he told NBC Sports Boston. “I’m not worried about it.”

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