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NC State fires O'Brien after 6 seasons

NC State fires O'Brien after 6 seasons

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) North Carolina State coach Tom O'Brien entered the season with hopes of contending for the Atlantic Coast Conference championship. Instead, his program continued its up-and-down ways of the past six years - which ultimately cost him his job.

The school fired O'Brien on Sunday, ending a tenure that was good enough to reach four bowls yet never could reach the ACC championship game.

Athletic director Debbie Yow made the announcement one day after the Wolfpack finished a 7-5 regular season with a win over Boston College. During a news conference, Yow said she met with O'Brien on Friday to discuss the future of the program, then notified him of her decision Sunday before meeting with the coaching staff and players.

``I told them it's really fairly simple,'' Yow said. ``Coach O'Brien and I agree on the goal of becoming a Top 25 program. We just don't agree on what it takes to do that, how to get there.''

O'Brien went 40-35 after coming to Raleigh from Boston College following the 2006 season. He took the Wolfpack to three bowl games, but won't coach in a fourth when N.C. State receives its bid next week. Yow said O'Brien's buyout would be $1.2 million over four years.

``I appreciate the opportunity to have coached at North Carolina State University and I feel that the program is in a better place now than when I started,'' O'Brien said in a statement issued by the school.

The 64-year-old O'Brien, who went 75-45 in 10 seasons at B.C. with eight consecutive bowl berths before his departure, said at his December 2006 hiring that it was ``N.C. State or bust for me.''

In his statement Sunday, O'Brien said he is looking forward to life after football.

N.C. State says offensive coordinator Dana Bible will be the interim coach for the bowl game. All other assistants are staying to continue bowl preparations.

``He's proud of the program we've built both here and at Boston College,'' said Bible, a longtime assistant to O'Brien. ``He's very proud of the way he and we have gone about the business of football. And he'll let his record stand as it may.''

O'Brien's teams were just 22-26 in ACC play and finished above .500 in the league just once, going 5-3 in 2010. He was 1-14 in Atlantic Division road games.

Only three ACC teams - No. 13 Florida State (10-2), No. 15 Clemson (10-2) and rival North Carolina (8-4) - had better overall records this season than the Wolfpack, who were 4-4 in the league.

That was good for third in the Atlantic Division behind Florida State and Clemson - exactly where they were picked in the preseason poll.

But consistency was a problem all season.

They opened with a 14-point loss to a Tennessee team that went on to finish 5-7. They blew a late 10-point lead and allowed an ACC-record 566 yards passing in a loss at Miami. They followed their first loss to rival North Carolina in six years by being routed at home 33-6 by a last-place Virginia team that had lost six straight. They also gave up 62 points in a loss at Clemson.

Not even a thrilling upset of then-No. 3 Florida State on Oct. 6 could save O'Brien's job.

Perhaps it's no coincidence that Yow said the school had lost about 1,000 season-ticket holders for football - a loss of $1.4 million - in the past six seasons.

Safety Earl Wolff said Sunday evening that he didn't think O'Brien deserved to be fired.

``We've had a lot of kind of mental breakdowns during the season ... so it's not all on the coaches at all,'' he said. ``It's on us players, too.''

O'Brien also faced some questions in the spring of 2011, when he parted ways with three-year starting quarterback Russell Wilson, who was attempting to play both minor league baseball and football at the high FBS level.

Wilson transferred to Wisconsin for his senior season, led the Badgers to the Rose Bowl and wound up winning the starting job with the NFL's Seattle Seahawks as a rookie this year.

O'Brien's choice certainly appeared justified when Mike Glennon - who took over for Wilson - led the ACC in passing this season, averaging 304 yards.

The school says a national search for O'Brien's replacement will begin immediately, though Yow said the list of candidates won't include Vanderbilt coach James Franklin. Franklin was an assistant to former Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen and named coach-in-waiting while Yow was athletic director there, but Yow said she's ``assuming'' Franklin wouldn't be interested in the job.

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Braden Holtby puts loss to Tampa solely on his own shoulders

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USA TODAY Sports

Braden Holtby puts loss to Tampa solely on his own shoulders

The mood in the Capitals locker room following a 4-2 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday was one of frustration. Forty minutes of strong play from Washington amounted to nothing because of a disastrous opening first period in which the Lightning jumped out to a 3-0 lead.

No one in the locker room was more frustrated than Braden Holtby.

"Obviously you don't want to go down three," he told reporters after the game. "That's on no one else but me. The third goal, especially the third, fourth goal, that's the difference in the game. I thought we played a really strong game against a really good team. We should have got a better result and that's on me why we didn't."

Tampa scored three goals in the first off of only eight shots. For the game, the Lightning managed to pierce Holtby four times off of only 19 shots.

RELATED: WHY THE CAPS LOST TO THE LIGHTNING

Frustration seemed to boil over on the fourth goal when a normally stoic Holtby was visibly upset after allowing Nikita Kucherov to beat him on a breakaway in a play similar to what we saw in the All-Star Game.

See for yourself:

"The key to getting better is learning from your mistakes and obviously I didn't do that," Holtby said. "I was just trying to play it patient. I wasn't trying to cheat towards that move and he came at it a different way. That's on me for not recognizing it. That's not a goal I can give up in that situation after our team battled the way they did, especially in the third."

The frustration Holtby feels likely is not the result of one goal, but the culmination of a recent slump that continues to plague the Vezina winner.

Holtby has lost four straight starts and has given up at least four goals in each of those games.

While Holtby was quick to take the blame for Tuesday's loss, head coach Barry Trotz was quick to defend his netminder.

"No one takes the loss," he said. "We all take a loss. I take a loss, the group takes a loss and Braden's part of the group. ... He's had a little tough stretch. It's no different than, we've got guys that haven't scored in 15, 20 games. It's no different than a player."

The challenge now is overcoming that slump.

For a slumping skater, Trotz could try different line combinations or play someone in different situations over the course of the game. Getting a starting goalie out of a slump, however, is more difficult. Most of the work has to be done in practice with the hope that it will carry over into the next game.

"You analyze how the goals are going in, what you're doing differently," Holtby said. "There's always some stuff that you can't control and stuff that you can and it's focusing on those contrallables that you can make a difference at. Like the first goal in Chicago, the last two goals here, those are goals that I could and should stop. You get to practice the next day and you focus on that and work hard until you figure it out so you don't do it again."

MORE CAPITALS: CHECK OUT THE 3 STARS OF THE GAME FROM CAPS-LIGHTNING

Part of the problem in Washington is that team defense is the Caps' biggest weakness. For most of the season, and even in years past, Holtby has made up for much of the team's mistakes on the backend. Now that he is slumping those mistakes become much more glaring and costly.

"The goaltenders in this league are erasers," Trotz said.

Lately, Holtby has not been able to erase those mistakes.

But the team has already moved to address the defense. Brian MacLellan added a puck-moving defenseman in Michal Kempny to help the team get the puck out of the defensive zone more quickly. Waiving Taylor Chorney could also signify another move may be coming before Monday's trade deadline.

As for Trotz, even during the slump, he made clear his confidence in Holtby has not wavered.

"He has been a rock since the day I've been here the last four years and he's been an elite goaltender and I look at him that way."

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2018 Olympic Hockey Results: Czech Republic eliminate U.S. men in shootout winner

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USA Today Sports

2018 Olympic Hockey Results: Czech Republic eliminate U.S. men in shootout winner

GANGNEUNG, South Korea -- Pavel Francouz stopped all five shooters and Petr Kouka scored the shootout winner as the Czech Republic eliminated the United States with a 3-2 victory in the quarterfinals Wednesday.

Jan Kovar and Tomas Kundratek scored in regulation for the Czech Republic, which was fresher after winning its group and getting a bye into the quarterfinals. The U.S. looked fatigued after facing Slovakia in the qualification round and was outshot 29-20.

Ryan Donato and Jim Slater scored for the U.S, which again was led by its youngest players, including speedster Troy Terry. U.S. goaltender Ryan Zapolski allowed three goals on 29 shots and one in the shotoout, while Francouz stopped 18 in regulation and overtime.

Koukal was the only player to score in overtime. Chris Bourque, Ryan Donato, Marc Arcobello, Terry and Bobby Butler couldn't beat Francouz.

RELATED: OVECHKIN HAS LITTLE DESIRE TO WATCH 2018 WINTER OLYMPICS