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Auburn hires ex-assistant Malzahn as head coach

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Auburn hires ex-assistant Malzahn as head coach

AUBURN, Ala. (AP) Gus Malzahn stepped off the plane in Auburn and rushed over to a waiting throng of fans, exchanging high-fives and smiles.

He trumpeted ``a new day'' for the Tigers an hour or so later at his introductory news conference as head coach Tuesday night, but really he's hoping to return them to days only recently gone by.

Malzahn brings his fast-paced offense back to Auburn two years after that style - and quarterback Cam Newton - helped the Tigers win a national title.

``It will be fun for our fans and we will get this thing turned around and play championship football like Auburn expects,'' he said.

Malzahn was the Tigers' offensive coordinator during their 2010 national championship run before heading to Arkansas State for his first college head coaching position. He led the Red Wolves to a 9-3 record, a Sun Belt Conference title and a berth in the GoDaddy.com Bowl, then parlayed that into a job in the powerhouse Southeastern Conference.

The 47-year-old Malzahn received a five-year contract worth $2.3 million annually to try to get Auburn back on solid footing with players he already knows and some he recruited. He replaces former boss Gene Chizik, who was fired one day after a 49-0 loss to No. 2 Alabama to complete a 3-9 season.

Malzahn hasn't ruled out coaching in the bowl game for Arkansas State, which said he had a $700,000 buyout. He said he would talk to Arkansas State administrators about that Jan. 5 game with Kent State but that Auburn is his top priority.

Auburn athletic director Jay Jacobs declined to say whom else he interviewed, but said Malzahn was ``the clear unanimous choice of our search committee.''

``The characteristics that he brought to the table were head and shoulders above everybody else,'' Jacobs said.

The offense especially is in dire need of a makeover after struggles in transitioning to a pro-style system.

Auburn had the nation's 115th-ranked offense last season, averaging 305 yards a game. The Red Wolves were ranked 19th in total yards under Malzahn.

``We will be a fast-paced, attacking-style offense and defense,'' Malzahn said. ``In this day and age, I believe you have to.''

It's the second straight time Auburn has turned to one of its coordinators from an unbeaten team. Chizik ran the defense for the 13-0 team in 2004, and was hired by the Tigers despite a 5-19 record in two seasons at Iowa State.

The search committee was comprised of Jacobs, Auburn Heisman Trophy winners Pat Sullivan and Bo Jackson, and former Tigers player Mac Crawford.

Jackson said he was confident that ``we got the right man.''

``We talked to a lot of talented coaches, a lot of coaches that are going to be Division I coaches other places, and they're all stars in their own right,'' said Jackson, the 1985 Heisman winner. ``Gus shined a little bit brighter than those guys in the interview process.''

Malzahn said his first priorities will be recruiting and hiring coordinators, but didn't mention any candidates.

Auburn owes more than $11 million in buyouts to Chizik and his coaching staff.

The Tigers are hoping Malzahn can return them to success after a winless SEC season.

But Auburn is also looking for a coach to instill discipline to a program plagued with off-field problems the last few years, including the arrest of four players for armed robbery after the 2010 season.

The NCAA has been investigating the recruitment of signee Jovon Robinson, who was ruled ineligible after a guidance counselor admitted to creating a fake transcript.

``I feel very confident that everything is fine, and that's my understanding,'' Malzahn said.

The hiring was welcome news for players who just endured Auburn's worst season in 60 years.

``I know coach Malzahn, and he's an amazing man,'' defensive end Nosa Eguae said. ``He's a standup guy. I'm looking forward to the future. I can't wait to get started and turn this thing around and get some wins.''

Malzahn was earning $1.3 million a year with the Tigers and interviewed with Vanderbilt after the national championship season. He took a substantial pay cut to join the head coaching ranks with the Sun Belt Conference team. Malzahn replaced Hugh Freeze, who also left after one season at Arkansas State to take over at Mississippi.

Malzahn also made a couple of decisions with players that didn't pan out. Tailback Mike Dyer transferred from Auburn - where he was suspended - to Arkansas State. He was then dismissed by Arkansas State in July after a state trooper found marijuana and a gun in a car the national title game MVP was driving.

However, Jacobs said discipline was a factor in choosing Malzahn.

``The wins and losses and all of that comes into play,'' he said. ``When Gus came in and laid out his plan to the committee, he touched on everything that we thought was important and then some. It is all important.''

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Blackhawks fans tossed after directing racist remarks at Washington's Smith-Pelly

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NBC Sports Washington

Blackhawks fans tossed after directing racist remarks at Washington's Smith-Pelly

CHICAGO—Four fans were ejected from United Center on Saturday night for taunting Devante Smith-Pelly as the Capitals’ winger sat in the penalty box.

The fans, according to a team spokesman, yelled “basketball, basketball, basketball” at Smith-Pelly, who is black. Smith-Pelly was in the box for fighting in the third period of an eventual 7-1 loss to the Blackhawks.

The taunts were confirmed by an off-ice official, the spokesman said, and the fans were subsequently removed from the arena.

Smith-Pelly did not speak with reporters after the game but is expected to address the incident at the team’s next media availability. The team is scheduled to practice Sunday at KeyBank Center in Buffalo.

Caps Coach Barry Trotz did not hold back when asked about the fans' comments.

“There’s absolutely no place in the game of hockey or our country for racism,” Trotz said. “I think it’s disgusting, and there’s no place for it. …It just shows ignorance.”

The Blackhawks responded on Twitter with an apology to Smith-Pelly, who is one of roughly 30 black players in the NHL.

February is Hockey is For Everyone month in the NHL.

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3 stars of the game: Caps suffer ugly loss to scuffling Blackhawks

3 stars of the game: Caps suffer ugly loss to scuffling Blackhawks

Just about everything that could go wrong did for the Capitals on Saturday in a 7-1 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks.

The Caps were coming off a strong 5-2 win over the Minnesota Wild on Thursday, but none of that carried over in the trip to Chicago. The Caps took on a Blackhawks team that had lost eight in a row, but Chicago quickly took control in the first period and never looked back.

Washington gave up 21 shots on goal in the first period and found themselves down 3-1 after the opening frame. Things did not get much better from there as they gave up another three goals in the final four minutes of the second.

Here are the three stars of the game.

1. Jonathan Toews: Toews opened up the scoring in the first period with a quick shot from the corner that caught Braden Holtby by surprise.

Later in the first, he recorded an assist as his pass sparked a breakout that led to Brandon Saad's deal that gave Chicago back the lead. The Caps tried to make a game of it in the second period, but Toews intercepted a pass from Brooks Orpik that led to a 2-on-0 with himself and Patrick Kane that Kane netted to give the Blackhawks a 4-1 lead and signaled to everyone that the rout was on. Saturday was only the second three-point night of the season for Toews.

2. Patrick Kane: Toews helped the Blackhawks take control early, but Kane helped provide the knockout punches in the second period. A bad pass from Orpik was intercepted by Toews that led to a 2-on-0 with Kane. Holtby made the initial save on Toews, but Kane was able to knock in the rebound for the goal.

Kane also added an assist on Artem Anisimov's power play goal which extended Chicago's lead to 6-1.

3. Tom Wilson: Before this one got out of hand, it looked like Wilson had erased the tough start for the Caps as he deflected a shot from Matt Niskanen into the net to get Washington on the board.

Saturday's tally was his third goal in two games and his 10th of the season, marking the first time in his career he has reached double digits in goals.