Bohn has whiffed on his 2 football hires so far


Bohn has whiffed on his 2 football hires so far

BOULDER, Colo. (AP) Colorado athletic director Mike Bohn famously called his first head football coach a home run hire. Turns out, he whiffed on Dan Hawkins and again on Jon Embree.

Bohn just might be down to his last strike. Miss again and he could find himself on the hot seat.

``I recognize the pressure,'' Bohn said. ``The pressure's immense.''

Hawkins was one of the hottest coaches in the nation when he took over at Colorado in 2006 after going 53-11 at Boise State. He replaced Gary Barnett, who lost his job after two scandal-plagued years and a 70-3 loss to Texas in the Big 12 title game in 2005.

Hawkins went 19-39 before getting the axe, and Embree was fired Sunday after going 4-21 in two seasons, including 3-15 in the Pac-12.

Despite Bohn's first two hires combining for 60 losses in seven seasons and costing nearly $4 million in buyouts, Chancellor Phil DiStefano defended Bohn's track record.

``It's not an exact science, as far as hiring coaches,'' DiStefano said. ``If you look at coaches that Mike has had the opportunity to hire, especially in men's basketball, women's basketball, soccer and volleyball, there have been some extremely good choices there.''

Athletic directors, though, aren't judged by the soccer coaches they hire but by the success of the man they choose to lead the football team.

``Right, and I have the same challenge that leaders across the country, general managers, presidents of professional franchises have,'' Bohn said. ``And when it doesn't work out, it really is disappointing and it hurts you, it's frustrating and disappointing to all our fans, to all of us, and most importantly, to me.''

Bohn said it's equally important, however, to recognize when a change, and not patience, is needed, ``and we never want to be in a situation where we have to settle.''

Asked if Bohn is down to his last strike now that he's whiffed on his first two football hires, DiStefano said, ``To be honest with you, I think we all have to get this one right, not so much from the standpoint of having a job or not having a job. We have to get this one right because it's important for the university. It's important for our competition in the Pac-12 and so it's not just that Mike has to get the right person or his job is on the line.

``I think the university has to look at our commitment to being competitive in the Pac-12 and athletically and if that's where we want to go, we need to go out and get the best coach and I think it's all of our responsibility.''

DiStefano demurred when asked if he was prepared to re-evaluate Bohn's own job status at this point. ``We do that on a yearly basis and will continue to do that on a yearly basis,'' he said.

Bohn, who engineered the school's relocation from the Big 12 to the Pac-12, a move that brings in more than $20 million in annual TV revenue, fired Embree two years into a five-year deal, meaning Embree is due a $1.65 million buyout, just shy of what Hawkins' buyout cost.

``Obviously, it's significant when you have to buy out a head coach,'' DiStefano said. ``The only silver lining in all this is it's a one-time thing.''

Bohn said he expects to have to pay the next coach more than the $3.7 million deal Embree received over five years but is confident the administration would step up and pay whatever it takes to get the right man to come to Boulder.

Bohn and DiStefano both added that in order to compete in the Pac-12, the new coach will need help with enhanced recruiting efforts and upgraded football facilities.

The quick hook Embree received points to an administration that will have little patience in turning things around even with a young team and a late start on recruiting.

Embree suggested he would have had to cut corners academically and athletically to engineer the turnaround his bosses wanted in the short time he was given.

``I thought he was being honest and that's what I respect a great deal about Jon,'' Bohn said, adding, ``Shortcuts are not going to be an answer, and we're not going to hire a coach that expects to use shortcuts.''

Bohn bristled when asked if the pressure to win right away would put the program on a slippery slope.

``When you look at the trajectory we were on, we were already on a slippery slope,'' he said. ``So, at what time do we change that trajectory? And you look at the erosion of our fan base and the challenges that we're having on the perception of the program, it's difficult to change that. And often the best way to change that is to have a change in your leadership.''

Floyd Keith, executive director of the Black Coaches and Administrators, said Embree, who was the first black football coach at Colorado, should have received at least another year after taking over a program that had endured five losing seasons under Hawkins.

``They pulled the plug a little early on the guy,'' Keith said. ``Granted, they were getting beat pretty bad. But you have to have some wisdom to let him build it. He inherited three classes that had already proved they couldn't win, and he was playing a bunch of freshmen and only had eight seniors.''

When asked what message Embree's quick firing sent to minorities, DiStefano said diversity remained a priority at the school and in the athletic department.

``We didn't hire Jon because he's an African-American and we didn't fire Jon because he's an African-American,'' DiStefano said.

Embree, though, suggested he faces long odds in getting another head coaching job at this level, noting that of all the black head coaches in college football, only Tyrone Willingham, who went to Washington from Notre Dame, got another chance to coach in the FBS after getting fired.

``I made the comment to Mike, we don't get second chances,'' Embree said. ``... Eventually, that'll change. And that's OK. Although I didn't succeed, maybe I created an opportunity for someone else.''

Former Buffs football coach Bill McCartney, who coached Embree in the 1980s and won a national title at Colorado in 1990, blasted Embree's firing during an interview on 102.3 ESPN in Denver, saying the school didn't give Embree as much time to succeed as it would have a white coach.

McCartney said the reason he was given more than two years was because he's white.

``Men of color have a more difficult road to tread. It didn't happen to me. Why should it happen to a black man?'' McCartney asked.

McCartney went 7-25-1 in his first three seasons, including 1-10 in his third year, before turning around the program. He read a letter on air asking Buffaloes fans to ask the administration to bring back Embree.


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John Wall goes through full practice for first time since left knee surgery

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John Wall goes through full practice for first time since left knee surgery

John Wall crossed one of the biggest hurdles of his months-long recovery from arthroscopic left knee surgery on Saturday by participating in his first full practice.

That means Wall went through 5-on-5 scrimmages with teammates that included contact. He is free of restrictions.

Now it is only a matter of days before Wall is ready to return to game action.

"John did everything, he did an entire practice which was great," head coach Scott Brooks said. "I thought he did a great job offensively and defensively."


Wall, who last played on Jan. 25 against the Oklahoma City Thunder, has missed the Wizards' last 24 games. He has been absent for 35 of their 72 total games this season.

In the months he has been out, Wall has slowly worked his way to this point. He still has to get a few more practices under his belt before the Wizards can outline a target date for his return.

Wall was aggressive in testing his knee by attacking the basket, according to Brooks. Wall was moving around well and even lost a few pounds during his time off.

"He looks great and that's not easy with time off," Brooks said. "He will be back in no time."


The Wizards have gone 14-10 since Wall went down, an impressive mark especially considering how tough their schedule shook out. Most of those games came against teams with winning records either holding playoff spots or fighting for them.

The shine, though, is wearing off. They have lost two straight games and seven of their last 11. Their offense has stalled in recent defeats and it's become more and more clear they could use Wall's presence.

"He gives us that edge," Wall said. "When you have him on the floor, you get a lot of easy shots. John creates a lot of attention when he drives to the basket... I think [his teammates] have always appreciated it, but when you don't have him around you definitely miss it."

While the Wizards continue to wait for Wall to return to games, just having him in practices helps. Brooks explained how guarding a player of Wall's caliber, a five-time All-Star, raises the intensity level of their scrimmages. If his teammates do not bring their best effort, Wall can very easily expose them.


There is also something intangible about Wall's presence. The media sees it once the doors open at practice. He is talkative and energetic on the court.

Some of his teammates even described him as "loud."

"Sometimes I tell him that he's a little too loud," guard Bradley Beal said. "But that's the energy that we've missed."

"He brings the juice. He brings the energy level up," Brooks said. "You miss his spirit. You miss the way he interacts with guys. He's fiery and competitive. He gets after guys. He cheers guys on. I like that. I like guys that show emotion and passion on the court."

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Wizards display lack of urgency in loss to Nuggets and Scott Brooks is frustrated

Wizards display lack of urgency in loss to Nuggets and Scott Brooks is frustrated

Following their seventh loss in 11 games and another lackluster performance in key areas, Wizards head coach Scott Brooks reverted back to a critique that characterized many defeats months ago. He called into question the effort of his team, more specifically their urgency. How they could overlook the stakes at this point of the season and with so much on the line had escaped him.

Brooks wasn't pleased following Washington's 108-100 loss to the Denver Nuggets on Friday night. He didn't like their three-point defense, their inability to force turnovers and their lack of zip on offense. But overall, it was the apparent lack of realization that time is running out in the regular season and off-nights cannot be afforded.

"We have to play with more spirit [and] we have to take some pride in our home court," Brooks said. "We’re building our habits going into the playoffs and these are moments where we need to take advantage because it’s playoff implications in every game."


Pride is something Brooks has referenced after the Wizards' worst defeats since he took over. This one didn't qualify, as they only lost by eight points and had opportunities late to write a different ending. But they were playing a team fighting for their own playoff position in the opposite conference and for the most part did not match their intensity.

The Nuggets, to put it plainly, are among the worst defensive teams in basketball. They were missing their leading scorer, Gary Harris. And they tightened their rotation to just eight players.

Yet the Wizards only managed 100 points, six below their season average, and committed 17 turnovers. Aside from their 33-point third quarter, the Wizards' offense was effectively stalled. 

"We can’t have guys that are not going to participate with hard cuts and hard setups and good screens. We need everybody. It’s not one person, it’s all," Brooks said.


The Wizards only forced 10 turnovers on the Nuggets and only three in the first half. That held back their offense in the sense they had few opportunities for fastbreak buckets.

"That’s where we get most of our offense from anyways, getting stops, getting out in transition," forward Otto Porter said.

The Wizards have lost two straight games. Meanwhile, the Cavaliers and Pacers both won on Friday night.

The Wizards are sixth place in the East and just 1 1/2 games out of fourth, but there is a huge difference in those spots. Sixth could mean meeting the Cavs in the first round and they have won three straight since Kevin Love returned from injury.


The Cavaliers could quickly become the most dangerous team in the Eastern Conference. Their record is deceiving due to Love's injury and they still boast LeBron James, the best player on the planet. No one can control a playoff series quite like he can.

An argument could be made the Wizards would be better off moving down than up, as the seventh spot would match them up with the injury-riddled Boston Celtics. The Wizards are just 1 1/2 games ahead of the seventh-seed Miami Heat.

The Wizards, though, would prefer to move up and they still have a chance to get into fourth, which would mean home court advantage.

John Wall will return at some point, likely soon. In the short-term, Brooks would like to some urgency and for his team to get back to the trademark ball movement that allowed them to go 10-3 in their first 13 games when Wall went down.

"We can get it back, but it’s not going to come back. We have to go get it. It’s time to do it; it’s time," Brooks said.

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