NCAA

Bills fire Gailey after 3 straight losing seasons

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Bills fire Gailey after 3 straight losing seasons

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) Chan Gailey didn't work out after three losing seasons, leaving the Buffalo Bills looking for their fifth head coach since 2001.

The Bills fired Gailey on Monday after he failed to deliver on his vow to transform a losing franchise into a playoff contender. Gailey's entire staff was fired, too, but the status of general manager Buddy Nix remained uncertain, and could be decided as early as Tuesday.

Bills CEO Russ Brandon returned to Buffalo on Monday night after spending the day meeting with team owner Ralph Wilson at his home outside Detroit. Nix did not make the trip, and instead stayed at the team's facility.

The Bills have made tentative plans to have a team official address the media Tuesday.

The decision to fire Gailey was announced shortly after Brandon arrived in Detroit.

Gailey's teams lost twice as many games as they won, going 16-32 over three seasons. The Bills have now posted eight straight losing seasons, and closed with a second straight 6-10 mark after beating the New York Jets 28-9 on Sunday.

``I understand this is a business,'' said Gailey, who had at least one year left on his contract. ``We didn't get the job done.''

Gailey spoke for a little over a minute. He declined to take questions, while growing emotional at one point. Among the assistants fired were assistant head coach and defensive coordinator Dave Wannstedt.

``I've been called two other times to get things turned around, was able to do it,'' Gailey said, referring to previous stops with Dallas (1998-99) and Georgia Tech (2002-07). ``We weren't able to get this one done soon enough, and I understand that completely.''

It was a disappointing finish for a team that had much higher aspirations. The Bills spent much of the past 14 months securing their top players, re-signing receiver Stevie Johnson and quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick to lucrative multiyear contracts.

The spending spree reached its peak in March, when they signed defensive end Mario Williams to a six-year, $100 million contract.

``It's always disappointing,'' said defensive tackle Kyle Williams, one of the only players left in the locker room when the team announced Gailey's firing.

What frustrates Williams more is how the Bills keep making changes without getting any results.

``I get tired of losing,'' Williams said. ``More than anything, I get tired of putting in tons and tons of work. And it's hard sitting here talking to you guys at the end of December feeling like another one kind of slipped through your fingers.''

What's next remains unclear.

Nix was not available Monday, and canceled his weekly radio show on Friday.

Gailey's dismissal is a significant setback for Nix. The general manager announced in November that Gailey wasn't going anywhere, because another coaching change would stunt the team's development.

The Bills, however, closed by losing seven of their final 10 games.

Wilson had initially backed Nix's build-through-the-draft approach. Three years ago, the 94-year-old owner said he expected the rebuilding process could take as long as five years.

Brandon has been unhappy with the criticism leveled at the Bills, and how it's translated into poor ticket sales. Buffalo failed to sell out its three of its final four home games. And the fourth, against St. Louis on Dec. 9, wasn't a sellout until a local restaurateur purchased the remaining 10,000 tickets.

One option is for the Bills to make a splash in hiring their next head coach, as they attempted in their previous search.

After firing Dick Jauron in November 2009, Wilson expressed a desire to open his checkbook to lure a high-profile coach to Buffalo only to be rebuffed by Mike Shanahan, who instead landed in Washington.

The most high-profile candidates available include coach-turned-broadcaster Jon Gruden and Andy Reid, who was fired by Philadelphia on Monday. Then there's two candidates in the college ranks, Oregon's Chip Kelly and Penn State's Bill O'Brien, who had numerous friends and former colleagues on Gailey's staff.

An offensive specialist, Gailey was unable to spark the Bills popgun attack under Fitzpatrick. The Bills finished 19th in the NFL in yards gained and 21st in points this season. Gailey was faulted for under-utilizing the offense's most dynamic threat, running back C.J. Spiller.

``It's sickening,'' running back Fred Jackson said, referring to how the Bills failed to play up to expectations. ``As players, we had the highest hopes out of everybody. And for us to fall short of that, we don't like it at all. It's depressing.''

Ultimately, it was the Bills' porous defense that doomed Gailey.

The Bills allowed 400-plus points in each of the past three seasons, including 435 this year - the second-most in team history. Though Williams' presence improved the pass rush, Buffalo became the NFL's eighth team, and first since the 1986 Jets, to allow 45 points four times in one season.

Fitzpatrick's status is uncertain in part because he's due a $3 million bonus in March. He went 16-29 since taking the starting job three games into the 2010 season.

Fitzpatrick declined to speculate on his future. After speaking to reporters, Fitzpatrick hugged Johnson, and the two left with the receiver's arm over the quarterback's shoulder.

Reading from notes he jotted on a Bills pad, Gailey's eyes welled with tears when he credited Bills fans for their loyalty, and Buffalo for being a passionate football city.

``I think that the next staff will have a great opportunity for success, and make this another great football franchise,'' Gailey said. ``This will probably be, and I say probably, but I think it will be the first place that's ever fired me that I'll pull for.''

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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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