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Arkansas' Smith optimistic about coaching future

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Arkansas' Smith optimistic about coaching future

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (AP) John L. Smith hasn't given up hope of returning as Arkansas' coach quite yet.

The interim coach also said Monday, two days after a 38-20 loss to South Carolina, that he's not concerned about the ongoing coaching search by athletic director Jeff Long.

The Razorbacks (4-6, 2-4 Southeastern Conference) started the season ranked in the top 10, but they are now on the brink of missing a bowl game. Arkansas must now win its final two games to earn bowl eligibility for a fourth straight season, beginning this week at Mississippi State (7-3, 3-3) before closing out the regular season at home against No. 8 LSU.

``I'm the most optimistic guy you could imagine,'' Smith said. ``So, I'm always optimistic. I'm optimistic on us going to Starkville and getting a win this weekend. The other stuff can take care of itself. I'm not overly worried about any of that.''

Smith was hired to replace the ousted Bobby Petrino in April, just weeks after the scandal that erupted following Petrino's April 1 motorcycle accident that involved his mistress.

The former Michigan State and Louisville coach was signed to a 10-month contract, and Long said last month that Smith was still a candidate to remain with the Razorbacks - even after an early four-game losing streak crushed Arkansas' preseason championship hopes. Long added that it would be apparent at the end of the season whether Smith was his choice, a question that has likely long since been answered.

Smith, however, is still holding out hope. He also said he's not about to start reflecting on his 40-year coaching career - or the likely finality of his coaching career at Arkansas - with two games remaining.

``No. That's way over my head, mentally,'' Smith said. ``I have trouble just concentrating on today and this part of our season and where we are. I'm going to love every day that we go do the practice field, because that's the best part of my day and being around those guys is what it's all about. And thank God I've had the opportunity to do that.

``I'm just knocking on wood, stretch it as far as we want or as far as we can.''

The Razorbacks were 21-5 the last two seasons under Petrino, but injuries and the post-Petrino turmoil have proved too much to overcome this season. They are last in the SEC in pass defense, allowing 291.1 yards per game, and Smith has been unable to live up to his preseason talk of competing for a national championship.

Making matters worse, and much more personal, Smith filed for bankruptcy in September - revealing $40.7 million in debt following land deals gone wrong in Kentucky.

Still, despite the personal troubles and Arkansas' mounting losses, Smith's upbeat personality has remained constant. He was a welcomed hire in April by the Razorbacks, who praised his colorful ways following Petrino's heavy hand, and nothing has changed since then.

``This situation is tough, for anybody,'' Arkansas quarterback Tyler Wilson said. ``He's done everything that's been asked of him, so he's done an incredible job. I think tremendously high of him, obviously, and the rest of our coaches on our staff. They've done their jobs.

``Now, at times, we've got to go out there and do a better job of doing what we do. And in that, you create some more wins.''

Razorbacks kicker Zach Hocker was one of the closest to Smith the last three seasons while the 63-year-old coach was an assistant coach under Petrino. Hocker, a junior, said he would ``absolutely,'' welcome Smith back next season.

``I love coach Smith to death,'' Hocker said. ``He's doing his job. It's just on our plate now for the players to do our job and hold our own and win games. I think as long as our team starts to show some leadership and step up and win games, I think we'll be fine as far as the coaching situation.''

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Wizards vs. Hornets: TV, live stream and radio info, things to watch

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USA TODAY Sports

Wizards vs. Hornets: TV, live stream and radio info, things to watch

Bradley Beal, Otto Porter, Kelly Oubre, Jr. and the Washington Wizards battle Kemba Walker, Dwight Howard, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and the Charlotte Hornets on Friday night.

Here is all you need to know: TV, live stream and radio info, tip-off time, plus three things to watch:

WASHINGTON WIZARDS VS. CHARLOTTE HORNETS

Where: Capital One Arena
Tip-off: 7 p.m.
TV: NBC Sports Washington (coverage begins at 6 p.m.)
Live stream: NBCSportsWashington.com
Radio: 1500 AM

On a roll

The Wizards have some serious momentum going right now. With an impressive win over the Cavs on Thursday, they have now won three straight games and eight of 10 since John Wall went down with a left knee injury. They had a week off due to the All-Star break, but didn't show any rust at all in their first game back.

The Wizards are now 34-24, 10 games above the .500 mark. They are fourth in the East and could move into third on Friday if they win and the Cavaliers lose. Even with Wall out, things continue to look up for Washington.

PODCAST: BIGGEST STORYLINES COMING OUT OF ALL-STAR BREAK

Hornets have had their number

The Wizards haven't done so well against the Hornets so far this season. Charlotte has taken both meetings and that includes a 24-point win on Jan. 17. That game featured Dwight Howard taunting the Wizards late in the fourth quarter.

Howard has killed the Wizards through two games with averages of 22.0 points and 14.0 rebounds. Jeremy Lamb (20.0 ppg vs. Wizards) has been a big factor as well as All-Star Kemba Walker (21.5 ppg vs. Wizards).

The last time these teams played about a month ago frustrations boiled over in an incident that got Tim Frazier ejected. Michael Carter-Williams picked a fight with Jason Smith and Frazier went off:

RELATED: BEAL IMPRESSED BY LEBRON AT ALL-STAR GAME

Hornets coming in hot

The Hornets are outside the playoff picture at the moment at eight games below .500, but they have won two straight games and Walker and Howard are coming off huge games. In a win over the Brooklyn Nets on Thursday, Walker dropped 31 points and Howard grabbed 24 rebounds.

Those guys will be riding a high coming into Washington on Friday. But it should be noted that Howard complained after the game how tired he is at this point in the season. That exhausion could affect him more in the second game of a back-to-back.

RELATED: LATEST NBA POWER RANKINGS

 

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5 must-see moments from Wizards' huge road win over Cavaliers, including Markieff Morris' alley-oop

5 must-see moments from Wizards' huge road win over Cavaliers, including Markieff Morris' alley-oop

Here are the five best plays or moments from the Washington Wizards' 110-103 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers on Thursday night...

1. The Wizards didn't start out well, as they trailed by nine points at the end of the first quarter. Kelly Oubre, Jr. stumbled early by missing four of his first six shots and it looked like a carryover of his slump before the All-Star break.

But Oubre got hot in the second quarter and helped the Wizards turn the game around. This was one of his best plays, a two-handed slam that he celebrated with an emphatic scream to the crowd:

RELATED: BEAL IMPRESSED BY LEBRON AT ALL-STAR GAME

2. Tomas Satoransky was one of the stars of the game. He had 17 points to go along with eight assists, four rebounds and two steals. 

Here's one of his dimes, a perfect alley-oop lob to Markieff Morris, who finished with nine points and eight rebounds:

3. Satoransky has reached double-figures in six of the 10 games since John Wall went out with an injury. This was a very impressive move, a stepback fadeaway that was super smooth:

RELATED: GET TO KNOW NEW WIZARDS FREE AGENT SIGNING

4. Ian Mahinmi made some key contributions including four offensive rebounds and a steal. This was his best basket, a powerful slam that came at a key time:

5. This play helped seal the victory. It was a smart after-timeout set drawn up by head coach Scott Brooks and it worked to perfection:

RELATED: LATEST NBA POWER RANKINGS