NCAA

AP Source: Panthers owner to meet with Rivera

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AP Source: Panthers owner to meet with Rivera

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) Carolina Panthers owner Jerry Richardson has scheduled a meeting with Ron Rivera Saturday morning to discuss the coach's future with the team, said a person familiar with the situation.

The person spoke to The Associated Press Friday on condition of anonymity because the meeting has not been publically announced.

It's uncertain if Richardson will inform Rivera whether he will remain Carolina's coach at the meeting or gather input from Rivera and then make a determination at a later date.

Rivera has two years remaining on a four-year contract.

He's 19-32 in two seasons as the Panthers coach.

Richardson hasn't spoken to the media since firing GM Marty Hurney after Carolina's 1-5 start. Rivera said that's when Richardson informed him the Panthers needed to be ``trending upward'' for him to keep his job.

The Panthers went 6-4 the rest of the way closing the season by winning four straight games, which would seem to bode well for Rivera.

However, Richardson has not said anything definitive on whether or not he'll bring back Rivera, a former Chicago Bears linebacker who won a Super Bowl ring playing alongside Walter Payton.

The Panthers went 6-10 in 2011 and 7-9 this season under Rivera.

Richardson's Panthers have not been to the playoffs since 2008 and have not won a playoff game since 2005.

``What I was told is Mr. Richardson and I will sit down and discuss things and we'll go from there,'' Rivera said at his season-ending press conference Monday. ``I can't tell you anything more than that. I do look forward to the opportunity to meet with him and discuss this.''

The person who spoke with the AP said Richardson has spent the week lining up potential candidates for the team's vacant general manager position and is expected to proceed on a coaching decision without the input of the new GM.

Those interviews with potential GMs are expected to begin next week.

Richardson hired former New York Giants general manager Ernie Accorsi to serve as a consultant for the GM search and the team has already received permission to interview two members of the New York Giants staff - college scouting director Marc Ross and senior pro personnel analyst Dave Gettleman - and others are expected to meet with him as well.

Rivera didn't discuss his future with his players during their brief 10-minute meeting Monday morning at the team's facility.

``He didn't mention it,'' offensive lineman Geoff Hangartner said. ``He just said thanks for the hard work this season and finishing the season on a strong note. That's kind of where it was left.''

Among the Panthers five wins in their final six games included a convincing 30-20 victory over the NFC's top seeded Atlanta Falcons. Carolina's four-game win streak to close the season came despite having five starters and 14 players overall on injured reserve.

``I like where we are and I like the things that we have done,'' Rivera said. ``I believe we are better now than when I first got here. And it's a job that I would like to have.''

Rivera was hired to replace John Fox in 2011 after a coaching search led by Hurney and team president Danny Morrison.

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Wolfpack overcomes 10-minute scoring drought to top Virginia

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Wolfpack overcomes 10-minute scoring drought to top Virginia

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. -- D.J. Funderburk scored 14 points before fouling out and North Carolina State overcame a second-half scoring drought of more than 10 minutes in a 53-51 victory against Virginia on Monday night.

C.J. Bryce added 13 points for the Wolfpack (14-5, 5-3 Atlantic Coast Conference), including a jumper with 27 seconds left after allowing the shot clock to race to near 0:00. The victory ended an eight-game losing streak against the Cavaliers.

Viginia (12-6, 4-4) used a 15-0 run during the N.C. State scoring drought that lasted 10:13 to take a 46-42 lead, bringing the crowd at John Paul Jones Arena back into the game. But Jericole Hellems hit a 3-pointer for N.C. State with 3:38 left and, after a free throw by Mamadi Diakite for Virginia, Markell Johnson hit a 3-pointer and then Hellems' putback gave the Wolfpack a 50-47 lead.

Johnson and Bryce both missed the front end of one-and-one free throw opportunities, and Kihei Clark hit a pair for Virginia. Braxton Beverly made the first and missed the second for the Wolfpack with 7.2 seconds left, and the Cavaliers Casey Morsell was short on a contested 3 at the buzzer.

Clark led Virginia with 10 points, seven rebounds and five assists.

The Wolfpack had used an 8-0 run to go ahead 42-31. Virginia helped out by going scoreless for more than 6 1/2 minutes. Francisco Caffaro, who had just been inserted into the game, ended the drought with 11:13 left.

BIG PICTURE

N.C. State: The Wolfpack seemed on their way to a solid victory until the drought, during which they were 1 for 8 from the field with five turnovers and repeatedly let the shot clock run down into single digits, forcing bad shots.

Virginia: In the Cavaliers' continuing search for scoring help, freshman Casey Morsell had as many as three field goals for the first time since a 65-56 victory against Navy on Dec. 29. He was 4 for 20 from the field in his last five games. He finished the night 4 for 9 and his buzzer-beater attempt was closely guarded.

UP NEXT

The Wolfpack remains on the road and plays at Georgia Tech on Saturday.

The Cavaliers go on the road and play at Wake Forest on Sunday.

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Despite place in standings, Wizards believe playoffs aren't a pipe dream

Despite place in standings, Wizards believe playoffs aren't a pipe dream

WASHINGTON -- This may be the most realistic and self-aware Wizards team we have seen in a while. It wasn't long ago they had a penchant for talking big about what they believed they could accomplish. Nowadays, knowing where they are in the standings, their expectations are much more measured.

They know they are 12th in the Eastern Conference, even after beating the Pistons on Monday. They know their 14-28 record, which is 14 games under .500 and has them on pace to win 27 total games, isn't good.

But the Wizards are allowed to dream and they say making the playoffs is still something they would like to do.

"That's the goal, that's every day for us. [It's] in the back of my mind," shooting guard Bradley Beal said.

"I watch the games, I watch the standings and everything. We're not talking about it," head coach Scott Brooks said. "If that comes into play [we'll see]. The seventh and eighth seeds, the records aren't great."

There is certainly a case for that. The two teams currently occupying the bottom two playoff spots in the East have sub-.500 records. The seventh-ranked Magic are 20-23 and the Brooklyn Nets are in eighth with an 18-24 mark.

Last season, the Charlotte Hornets held up the Eastern Conference playoff bracket with a losing record as the eighth seed. They went 39-43, not good but still a much better pace than the Wizards are currently on. To win 39 games, they would have to go 25-16 the rest of the way.

Though they have shown some positive signs, going 4-4 in their last eight games, that would require going to a completely different level in the second half of the season. Still, there is no harm in maintaining their goals.

Beal, for one, has envisioned a way it can happen.

"Especially once All-Star hits, that second half is just flying. We have to tighten up and try to get some wins here before the break because that's usually the time when teams like to ease off the pedal a little bit. We have to take advantage of [that], that advantage of our schedule, take care of our bodies, and rally together," he said.

If the Wizards really, really wanted to go for the playoffs, they could try to add some pieces before the Feb. 6 trade deadline. But that should not be expected. In fact, this year's deadline for the Wizards likely won't be affected much at all by the playoff picture.

It's hard to envision them being buyers and they may not be able to be true sellers, either, due to injuries and other factors. Also, there is a belief in the front office that keeping a close distance in the playoff race could be a nice incentive for their young players, that having something to work for later in the season could help their development.

If the Wizards did somehow make the playoffs or even get close, that would be quite the surprise and it would say a lot about the direction of the organization. But in the long-term, it would seem to be more beneficial if they continue on their current course and end up with a top draft pick.

The Wizards right now have the fifth-worst record in the league. That would net them a lot of ping-pong balls for the draft lottery.

It seems likely that's where this season will end. But it doesn't hurt to try.

"We just want to play. We just want to finish the second half of the season playing better," Brooks said.

The Wizards are only 4 1/2 games back in the playoff race. Stranger things have happened.

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