Cooley provides leadership for experienced Irish

Cooley provides leadership for experienced Irish

SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) Notre Dame coach Mike Brey can't believe how Jack Cooley has blossomed into a leader for the Fighting Irish, especially after wondering whether the 6-9, 245-pound forward would ever get serious about basketball.

``He's going to be better than I ever imagined as a leader. He's already been better than we thought as a player,'' Brey said.

Cooley had a breakthrough season last year, going from being a dependable reserve averaging 3.7 points and 3.1 rebounds a game as a sophomore to an integral player averaging 12.5 points and 8.9 rebounds in helping the Irish go 22-12, finish third in the Big East and earn an NCAA berth.

Brey is counting on Cooley to lead a squad that returns all five starters and adds 6-10 Michigan State transfer Garrick Sherman and freshmen forwards Cameron Biedscheid and Zach Auguste. The other returning starters are guards Jerian Grant and Eric Atkins, who both averaged more than 12 points a game last season, sixth-year player Scott Martin and Pat Connaughton.

There are high expectations for the Irish, who enter the season ranked No. 22 and are picked to finish third in the Big East. Brey wants the Irish aiming higher, though, and has them talking about trying to win their first Big East regular-season title before leaving for the Atlantic Coast Conference.

The Irish believe if they can do that, it will lead to bigger things.

``If we handle our business on the road to trying to win a Big East regular-season championship, the other stuff will fall in place,'' Cooley said.

Cooley's turnaround began about a third of the way through last season. After averaging less than five points and seven rebounds through the first eight games, Cooley averaged 15 points and almost 10 rebounds a game the rest of the season.

``All of a sudden to Jack, `Hey, basketball is important seven days a week, not every other day and video games in between.' He's really become a focused guy,'' Brey said.

Cooley concedes he didn't always put basketball first. When he saw the Irish needed him to step up, he decided it was time to get serious.

``I really just sat down and thought just get rid of all my other distractions because basketball is too big a deal, it's too important for this university, for me to have other things get in the way,'' he said.

He scored 22 points in back-to-back games against Maine and Dartmouth in early December. But his first big game against major competition came when he scored 18 points and pulled down 10 rebounds in a double overtime victory over then-No. 11 Louisville, playing 43 minutes.

``He was a guy we were worried about minutes and fatigue. In that game he was such a physical force and part of a big win and made big plays for us,'' Brey said. ``I thought that was the game he started to believe and started to get confidence.''

Cooley said that game showed him could play most of a game at a high level.

Cooley became a major force as the Irish won nine straight, starting with 17 points and 10 rebounds against a previously unbeaten top-ranked Syracuse team to start a school-record nine-game win streak against Big East teams. Cooley averaged 16 points and 11 rebounds a game during the run and finished the season with 13 double-doubles.

But there were also some down games along the way, too. He was held to two points and no rebounds in playing 25 minutes a 59-41 loss against Georgetown in the second last regular-season game and had nine points and one rebound against South Florida in the first round of the Big East tournament.

Cooley worked this season on making sure he's in better shape, so he'll be ready for the physical Big East play. He's also taken a more of a vocal role on the team. He said it was hard at times last season, but he realized it was something he needed to do. That's what has Brey so excited. He's seen Cooley continue to become a leader that teammates listen to.

``I never thought we'd get to that point. That was not a goal. I just wanted him serious about him,'' Brey said. ``I'm thrilled about the jumps he's made and he's going in really hungry.''

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Vernon Davis reacts to brother Vontae Davis' abrupt retirement


Vernon Davis reacts to brother Vontae Davis' abrupt retirement

Easily the most talked about story following Week 2 in the NFL was the abrupt retirement of Buffalo Bills' cornerback, Vontae Davis. 

Not once in the history of the NFL has there been a mid-game retirement, which caused plenty of reason for a stir.

Davis' brother Vernon, Redskins' tight end, took to social media Tuesday to address his younger brother's abrupt retirement via Instagram. An inspirational video containing photos of the two brothers and a voice-over was a fitting tribute to the younger Davis' time in the NFL.

"I feel like I retired because we’re so close and I look at him as he’s my son even though he’s my younger brother," Vernon said in the Instagram post.

Vontae was signed by the Buffalo Bills in February 2018 on a one-year deal. He had been in the NFL since 2009 with the Miami Dolphins and Indianapolis Colts. 

Despite the drama surrounding what seemed like an impulsive decision to many, Vontae was inactive for his first week with the Bills and did not see the field in Week 2. 

See Vernon's tribute to his brother on Instagram below:


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New head coach Todd Reirden gets nothing by rave early reviews from Caps players

New head coach Todd Reirden gets nothing by rave early reviews from Caps players

A defending champion will face a number of obstacles in its quest to repeat.

But for the 2018 Stanley Cup champion Capitals, the path back has an additional hurdle.

Gone is Barry Trotz, the head coach who helped lead the team to its first Stanley Cup. A team hoping to overcome a long postseason and a short offseason will now also have to do it with a new head coach.

Among all the challenges the Caps will face this season, however, no one seems to be worried about the transition to new coach Todd Reirden.

“This is probably going to be the smoothest transition of any coaching change that I’ve ever heard of,” T.J. Oshie said. “Everyone respects Todd, respects the way he coaches, respects how he treats people.”

Reirden was a member of Trotz’s staff as an assistant coach whose primary duty was working with the defensemen. His ability to develop relationships and bring out the best in the team’s blue-liners certainly endeared him to the players.

“Even with all of the D he worked really closely with, from day one, he sat us all down and kind of mapped us all out -- what you need to get better at, what's holding you back mentally or physically, your game, D-zone, O-zone, whatever,” John Carlson said.

“I think he's a good reader of people and really detailed about certain things that I know changed my game -- just little things to think about that you do so many times, but maybe you never work on them or you never think about improving in that area.”

Reirden’s coaching was on display last season when he took a fringe NHL defenseman in Michal Kempny at the trade deadline and turned him into a top-four defenseman for the Caps’ Cup run.

The expertise and proven results have players like Madison Bowey excited for how they can grow with Reirden now the man in charge behind the bench.

“I think we all just want to learn from [Reirden], myself included,” Bowey said.

“Last year was just a big learning curve for me and he helped be tremendously along that way. I just want to keep learning from him.”

Rave reviews from the defensemen should be expected given that is the main area of his experience and expertise. Since taking over the team, however, it is not just the defensemen who have taken notice.

Not to be outdone, the forwards appreciate both his hockey expertise and the personal relationships he develops with the players.

“He's got really good ideas and the way he's approaching us which I like,” Nicklas Backstrom said.

“[Reirden] is so good at creating relationships with people and talking things out,” Oshie said. “And that’s the thing that I think I like the best. He likes to hear from the players, what they think.”

Many players were also quick to point out that, while Trotz may have been the head coach and the main voice that helped the Caps reach the ultimate prize, Reirden had a big hand in that championship run as well.

“He was a huge influence on our success,” Tom Wilson said.” The whole coaching staff the last few years has been second to none. Todd is well deserving, he's well qualified, he's been right in the thick of things throughout the ride the last couple of years and I expect nothing less moving forward. He's a smart guy, a passionate coach and I think a lot of the guys are excited to get moving with it.”

“What a guy Trotzie is,” Oshie said.

“He’s going to be missed. But he’s on the other side now. We got a new year going and I’m excited to play for [Reirden] and just see what he has in store for the guys. It’s going to be a fresh voice for us – even though he had a lot of say before. But like I said, I’m excited to get going here with [Reirden] at the helm.”