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Cincinnati coach makes trip to see Boilermakers

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Cincinnati coach makes trip to see Boilermakers

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) One of Purdue's top coaching candidates visited campus Sunday.

But will Butch Jones be coming back on a permanent basis?

One day after Cincinnati clinched a share of its second straight Big East title, the Bearcats' coach got a look at the facilities in West Lafayette while meeting with school officials. A person with knowledge of the trip but who requested anonymity because the athletic department was not providing coaching search updates told The Associated Press that Jones was on campus.

Jones is considered one of the nation's hottest coaching prospects. He reportedly met with Kentucky officials about their job opening last month and reportedly will be at the University of Colorado on Monday - if he doesn't take the Purdue job first.

But Jones has attempted to downplay interest in any jobs other than the one he currently has.

``I'm not going to talk about that,'' he told reporters following Saturday's 34-17 victory at Connecticut. ``That's absolutely ridiculous. It's about our kids tonight. You know what, it'll all work out, but this is a night for the kids and for our football program.''

The Boilermakers are looking to replace Danny Hope, who was fired last Sunday after going 22-27 in four seasons. The Boilermakers (6-6, 3-5 Big Ten) won their last three regular-season games to qualify for the postseason - a run that still couldn't save Hope's job.

Purdue found out Sunday it would play Jan. 1 in the Heart of Dallas Bowl and held a short news conference to discuss the bid. Athletic director Morgan Burke gave an opening statement but again did not take questions about the coaching search.

Jones went 27-13 and won two Mid-American Conference titles at Central Michigan after replacing Brian Kelly, and when Kelly left Cincinnati for Notre Dame job three years later, the Bearcats turned to Jones, too. He's gone 23-14 in three seasons and earned a share of the last two Big East crowns.

If Jones leaves Cincinnati, he would become the third straight coach to leave after just three seasons. Kelly and Michigan State's Mark Dantonio did the same thing.

Purdue receivers coach Patrick Higgins, who has been calling the plays since offensive coordinator Gary Nord hurt his back, has already been named the interim coach for the bowl game.

Higgins, quarterback Robert Marve and defensive tackle Kawann Short were more focused on their next game rather than the rumors and speculation swirling around Purdue.

``We're preparing to win a game, as we always do,'' Higgins said Sunday. ``We can work on fundamentals and get back to basics and we have two weeks to put in a game plan, which is great.''

Getting Jones is no slam dunk, though.

The 44-year-old coach was reportedly a candidate at Illinois, North Carolina and UCLA last year but opted instead to accept a three-year contract extension in Cincinnati.

This week, The Cincinnati Enquirer reported Bearcats athletic director Whit Babcock was so intent on keeping Jones that he was willing to redo the contract again.

Jones' guaranteed compensation this past season was $1.575 million, and he will get $1.6 million in guaranteed money in 2013 if he stays in Cincinnati. The buyout will reportedly cost $1.4 million if Jones takes a new job before Jan. 1.

Hope earned a Big Ten-low $950,000 in guaranteed compensation last year, and Burke has already acknowledged he is willing to spend more on his next coach.

Jones has quickly become the fans' favorite choice, a key factor, too, as Burke tries to rebuild interest in a program that has seen attendance dwindle from an average of roughly 54,000 per game in 2007 to about 37,000 last season.

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Friday's trade for Trevor Ariza was wild, but nothing surprises Scott Brooks or John Wall

Friday's trade for Trevor Ariza was wild, but nothing surprises Scott Brooks or John Wall

Follow the NBA long enough and one learns to expect the unexpected. Participating inside the lines removes the shock value almost entirely.

The three-team trade between the Wizards, Suns, and Grizzlies, an otherwise ordinary deal involving good but not All-Star-level players became social media’s favorite child for a stretch Friday night. The deal died on the vine because of miscommunication over which player with the same sir name was included in the deal.

Unusual, certainly. Awkward because the report broke publicly mere moments after the Wizards’ latest road loss, unfortunately.

“The first time I've ever seen a trade go dead and guys are on a bus talking about it,” Wizards guard John Wall said Saturday. “Kind of devastating for those guys.”

That doesn’t mean the situation moved the needle on Wall’s personal Richter scale of shock.

“Nothing surprises me now, nine years in,” Wall said. “I’ve seen a guy get traded at halftime. Nothing can surprise me now.”

That guy wasn’t Wall’s current head coach, Scott Brooks, but former Wizard guard Kirk Hinrich. Turns out Brooks has his own personal traded-at-halftime tale from his playing days. He’s also been on teams that entered a season with high expectations only to struggle with reaching those forecasted heights. That’s happening now for the 11-18 Wizards.

Friday’s failed trade resurrected Saturday morning as Washington traded Kelly Oubre Jr. and Austin Rivers to Phoenix for ex-Wizard Trevor Ariza.

Some crazed situation that left Brooks speechless? Actually at the moment, yes, but only because the coach was not at liberty to discuss the transaction. The trade remains unofficial until the league office reopens Monday.

It’s unclear what level bombshell must occur to astonish Brooks. Even the current frustrations, while disappointing, aren’t revelatory for a man now in his 25th NBA season as a player and coach.

“I've been in the league long enough. Nothing surprises me,” Brooks said moments before his point guard uttered almost the exact same phrase. “That's part of being in this league. You have to expect things not to always go your way. I know one thing. The only way to get out of it is doing it together, figuring it out together. Nothing surprises me. It's just part of the business.”

The Houston Rockets conducted some business on Feb. 23, 1995 by trading Brooks to the Dallas Mavericks for guard Morlon Wiley and a second-round draft pick. Deals happen. This one stood out for the timing.

“That was one of the bad days of my life in the NBA,” Brooks revealed on a radio show last year. “At halftime of the game, we go back, Coach [Rudy] Tomjanovich makes some halftime adjustments. … We come onto the court and we’re in the layup line, and all of a sudden the general manager grabs me out of the layup line and says, ‘Hey, Scott, I gotta talk to you.’ So he pulls me out of the line, brings me back to the locker room and he says, ‘Hey, you’ve been traded.’ I was like, ‘What?’ ”

That personal experience altered Brooks’ surprise quotient going forward.

“I look at things different,” he said Saturday. “There a lot of tough things in the world right now. I was traded at halftime. That was tough on me, but that’s really not tough on me. I was still making a lot of money and the next team, Dallas, still paid me in cash.”

Brooks keenly remembers his halftime trade. Wall didn’t have the exact details correct on Hinrich’s departure; he recalled his backcourt partner playing in the first half of the Feb. 23 contest against the Philadelphia 76ers but the box score says otherwise. Hinrich did learn about the trade to the Hawks between the second and third quarter. That’s wild enough.

“I’ve seen everything you basically can see,” Wall said.

That now includes a trade falling through in such a public and awkward way. Once Ariza joins the squad, all that matters is whether his old/new team turns around this clumsy season that began with high hopes. It won’t surprise anyone if Ariza’s veteran presence sparks a rally. After watching the opening 29 games, who can say for sure.

“We're not playing nowhere near what we're capable of,” Wall said. “Maybe that's the move we should have made to make it happen, I don't know. We don't know until we get out there.”

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A must-win? Looking at the Ravens' playoff picture

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A must-win? Looking at the Ravens' playoff picture

The Baltimore Ravens come into Week 15 hanging on to the final playoff spot in the AFC by the slimmest of margins.

Baltimore, Indianapolis, Tennessee and Miami all sit at 7-6 with three games remaining. The Ravens hold the tiebreaker by virtue of win percentage in common and conference games. With the resurgent Cleveland Browns lurking just a game behind at 6-7-1, the Ravens can’t afford a let up today against the struggling Tampa Bay Buccaneers. 

Rookie quarterback Lamar Jackson gets the start once again Sunday with Joe Flacco slated as the backup.

Having won three out of four and a play or two away from a win last week in Kansas City, the Ravens are counting on riding the momentum Jackson has sparked to earn a very important win today at M&T Bank Stadium to stay in the drivers seat for a playoff berth. And with division leader Pittsburgh all of a sudden hitting a bump in the road of their season, and facing the New England Patriots later today, the Ravens have a chance to take the lead in the division, something that was unthinkable a few weeks ago. 

None of these scenarios will matter if business is not taken care of today against Tampa Bay. The coaching staff has put their trust in Jackson, and now he must respond by leading the team to victory in must-win games. 

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