Cardinals fire coach Whisenhunt, GM Graves


Cardinals fire coach Whisenhunt, GM Graves

TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) The Arizona Cardinals have fired coach Ken Whisenhunt after six seasons that included the long-suffering franchise's only Super Bowl appearance.

The team also ousted general manager Rod Graves, who had been with the franchise for 16 years. He'd been general manager since 2007.

The housecleaning by Cardinals President Michael Bidwill, son of team owner Bill Bidwill, followed a season that saw the team start 4-0 but lose 11 of its last 12 to finish 5-11.

Bidwill wasted no time in identifying possible replacements, saying at a Monday news conference that the team had reached out to Andy Reid, fired earlier in the day after 14 years as coach of the Philadelphia Eagles. Bidwill also said he had received permission to interview Denver Broncos offensive coordinator Mike McCoy.

Bidwill also said Cardinals defensive coordinator Ray Horton was a candidate for the head coaching job and would be the first to be interviewed. Horton is believed to have interviews with other teams, too.

And Bidwill identified Steve Keim, Cardinals vice president for player personnel, as a candidate to replace Graves as general manager.

The 50-year-old Whisenhunt had more wins than any other coach in Cardinals history, going 45-51, 4-2 in the playoffs. He had a year worth about $5.5 million left on his contract.

Of the team's three winning seasons the past 28 years, two came with Whisenhunt as coach.

But the lack of success the past three seasons led Bidwill to make the changes.

``It came down to wins and losses and the direction I felt like the team was going,'' Bidwill said. ``...It was a decision that I made over the last several weeks and came to a final decision last night.''

In the last three seasons, Arizona won 18 games, only four on the road.

``When you look at the other teams in the NFC West, they were making dramatic improvements, especially the 49ers and the Seahawks,'' he said, ``so I felt like we've got to get back to where we're competing at the highest level to win the NFC West.''

Those dismissed included assistant head coach/offensive line coach Russ Grimm, offensive coordinator Mike Miller, offensive quality control coach Chad Grimm, quarterbacks coach John McNulty, wide receivers coach Frank Reich and running backs coach Tommie Robinson. Tight ends coach Freddie Kitchens was the only coach on the offensive staff not fired.

None of the defensive coaches were dismissed.

Despite its overall lack of success, the team finished among the league leaders in several defensive categories.

In a statement released by the team, Whisenhunt thanked the Bidwills for the opportunity.

``I'm very proud of what we as a team and as an organization achieved during that time,'' he said. ``Collectively we accomplished some very special and unprecedented things. That's a testament to the dedication, hard work and talent of so many coaches, players and people throughout the organization.

``But we all understand this business and when you don't win enough games changes are made. That doesn't mean it's easy but you definitely don't have to look far to find people that have it much worse.''

Whisenhunt's six seasons were tied for the longest tenure for a coach in the Cardinals' long, largely unsuccessful history

In his second year with the team, the Cardinals finished the regular season 9-7, then mounted a stunning run to the Super Bowl, beating Atlanta, Carolina and Philadelphia along the way. They lost a thriller to Pittsburgh 27-23 in the Super Bowl in Tampa.

The following season, Arizona won a franchise-record 10 games in the regular season and defeated Green Bay 51-45 in overtime in one of the most exciting playoff games of all time. But the New Orleans Saints pounded the Cardinals 45-14 the following week, and quarterback Kurt Warner decided to retire.

Things were never the same again as Whisenhunt went with an assortment of quarterbacks but could never find the offensive magic that Warner created.

The Cardinals went 5-11 in 2010, but after a 1-6 start regrouped to finish 8-8 in 2011.

Arizona started 2012 at 4-0 but it was a fool's gold record. The Cardinals lost nine straight and 11 of their last 12 to finish 5-11 for the second time in three seasons.

Quarterback was again the main issue. Most of the success came with Kevin Kolb at the position, but he went down with what turned out to be a season-ending rib injury in Week 6 and, with John Skelton, Ryan Lindley and, in the finale, Brian Hoyer, at the position, and with a woeful running game, Arizona's was the worst offense in the NFL.

Kolb remains under contract although the Cardinals may want to try to renegotiate since he's to make $9 million plus a $2 million roster bonus next season. Bidwill, though, was supportive of the quarterback.

``That's one of the questions that we need to really focus on with the coaching staff candidates is how do we see about Kevin and his performance and how we can turn him into the quarterback of the future here for the Cardinals,'' Bidwill said, ``and make that decision - if he's the right guy. That's a question that needs to be answered but I'm not ready to give up on Kevin Kolb yet.''

Kolb played for Reid, mainly as a backup, with the Eagles before he was traded to the Cardinals.

Offense was supposed to be Whisenhunt's specialty.

The Georgia Tech graduate with a degree in engineering played nine seasons as an NFL tight end.

Whisenhunt worked his way through the coaching ranks to become tight ends coach for the Steelers in 2001 and was promoted to offensive coordinator in 2004. After three seasons in that job, he was hired in Arizona to replace Dennis Green, who was fired after three losing seasons.

Graves joined the franchise as assistant to the president in 1997. He became vice president for football operations in 2003 and general manager in 2007.

``Working with talented others to build and enhance our brand over the past 16 years has been an awesome and totally enriching experience,'' he said in a statement released through the team. ``It has been the opportunity that others only dream of. Every day I came to work I viewed it as the ultimate privilege and never once lost sight of that. ``


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

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

Bradley Beal, Otto Porter, Kelly Oubre, Jr. and the Washington Wizards battle Victor Oladipo, Myles Turner, Bojan Bogdanovic and the Indiana Pacers on Saturday night.

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


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

Season series on the line

The Wizards and Pacers square off for the third and final time this season on Saturday night and the game will represent the tiebreaker for the season series. The Wizards beat the Pacers in their first meeting on Feb. 5 and Indiana then got even on March 4. The first game did not feature Victor Oladipo. John Wall didn't play in either of them.

Whichever team wins on Saturday night will own the playoff tiebreaker, meaning that team will get the better seed in the even they finish with the same regular season record. Right now only one game separates the teams, so that could definitely come into play. With a win over the Pacers, the Wizards could also move into third place in the East. They would tie the Pacers by record and own the head-to-head series. The one variable there is the Cavs play the Bulls on Saturday. If they win and the Pacers lose, the Cavs will be in third.


Wizards have been struggling

The Wizards won their last game on the road against the Celtics, but have lost five of their last eight overall. They remain in good shape in the big picture, but could use some positive momentum. A win over the Pacers would certainly give them that with three off days awaiting on the other end before they head out to San Antonio to face the Spurs.

Defense has been the problem. During this eight-game stretch, they have allowed the second-most points in the paint per game (53.8), the ninth-most points per game (111.0) overall and the fourth-highest opponents shooting percentage (49.3). 


Pacers are tough

The Pacers may be missing two of their best big men on Saturday as Domantas Sabonis has been ruled out and Myles Turner is questionable. Both are nursing sprained left ankles. That bodes well for the Wizards' defense in the paint, but Indiana still has plenty of firepower.

Oladipo is having a terrific season with averages of 23.5 points, 5.3 rebounds, 4.2 assists and 2.2 steals per game. There's also Bojan Bogdanovic, a former Wizards player who is averaging 14.0 points and shooting 46.9 percent from the field and 39.4 percent from three this year. Bogdanovic has scored 20 points or more in each of his games against the Wizards this season. The Pacers as a team have won six of their last eight.


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No. 16 UMBC shocks No. 1 Virginia to make NCAA history

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No. 16 UMBC shocks No. 1 Virginia to make NCAA history

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Senior guard Jairus Lyles scored 28 points, and the University of Maryland-Baltimore County pulled off the most shocking upset in NCAA Tournament history, defeating Virginia 75-54 on Friday night to become the first No. 16 seed ever to beat a No. 1 seed.

Virginia entered the NCAA Tournament as the No. 1 overall seed after going 31-2 this season, including 20-1 in ACC competition.

But the Cavaliers couldn't get anything generated on offense and the nation's top-ranked defense couldn't contain American East Conference champions.

The 74 points were the most Virginia had allowed this year.

Lyles was the catalyst.

He diced up Virginia's defense in the second half, getting the hole easily on six different occasions and making easy layups. He also knocked down a pair of 3-pointers as UMBC built a 16-point lead.

Lyles finished with 23 of his points in the second half and Joe Sherburne finished with 14 points.

The game was tied at halftime, but the Retrievers came out confident and motivated in the second half and built a double-digit lead that Virginia could never erase.

Sherburne scored on an and-one drive and then knocked down a 3-pointer from the top of the key after a behind-the-back pass from KJ Maura. After Virginia made a foul shot, the shifty 5-foot-8, 140-pound Maura drove the lane for uncontested layup.

A Tony Bennett timeout couldn't stop the bleeding, as Lyles hit two more 3's and Sherburne hit one to extend UMBC's lead to 14 with 14:57 left in the game. Lyles was fouled on a 3-point shot and suddenly the Retrievers led by 16.

A corner 3-pointer and a layups off a fastbreak by Arkel Lamer gave UMBC its biggest lead at 67-48. From there, the party was on as chants of "UMBC" rang through the arena.

It was yet another early exit for the Cavaliers in a season that seemed to hold so much promise.


UMBC: Despite being undersized and unknown, they shocked the world and made history with an epic game.

Virginia: This isn't the first time Virginia has struggled as the No. 1 seed. The Cavaliers trailed by five at halftime in 2014 to Coastal Carolina but went on to win 70-59.


UMBC: Will face No. 9 seed Kansas State on Sunday in the second round.