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Embree suggests he would have needed shortcuts

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Embree suggests he would have needed shortcuts

BOULDER, Colo. (AP) A choked-up Jon Embree suggested Monday that the only way he could have turned around the University of Colorado's flailing football program in his two years as head coach was to take shortcuts in the classroom and on the recruiting trail.

``If you just hire the next guy and say you've got two years, keep your fingers crossed,'' Embree said at his farewell news conference a day after being fired.

Athletic director Mike Bohn, who fired Embree less than two years after he signed him to a five-year deal, said, ``Shortcuts are not going to be an answer and we're not going to hire a coach that expects to use shortcuts.''

What he does expect is a quick turnaround from a free-fall that saw the Buffaloes thumped by an average score of 48-17 in the Pac-12 during a 1-11 season that was the worst in the program's 123-year history.

In some ways, Embree's quick hook might have had a lot to do with the administration patiently sticking with his predecessor, Dan Hawkins, through five losing seasons, resulting in the proverbial bare cupboard.

Bohn bristled at that notion.

``Jon's results were extremely revealing in a very short period of time, and the prowess of the Pac-12 conference revealed it a lot faster,'' Bohn said.

Embree, who gets a $1.625 million buyout, suggested he got a raw deal, pointing out he only got 1 1/2 recruiting classes to turn around a program that had been down on its luck for several years.

Chancellor Philip P. DiStefano said he appreciated Embree's passion for the program but said it just wasn't working out.

``It's performance and progress. And unfortunately, this year, we didn't see either,'' he said.

Bohn pointed to a program that was headed in the wrong direction both on and off the field, going 4-21 under Embree, with so many blowouts leading to too many empty seats, though he insisted boosters had nothing to do with this decision.

``Our boosters' resources have never been a factor in my tenure,'' Bohn said. ``Although the erosion of our fan base and the ticket sales certainly doesn't help.''

Bohn said he had no preferred candidate in mind but acknowledged the school would have to pay more than Embree's incentive-laden deal that was worth $741,000 annually plus bonuses of up to $200,000 for reaching off-the-field goals and up to $1 million for meeting on-the-field benchmarks.

Bohn said he was still forming a search committee but wanted to make a hire as soon as possible.

Embree, a star tight end for the Buffs in the 1980s, was fired Sunday night, 48 hours after a 42-35 loss to Utah left them without a home win for the first time since 1920.

In a news conference at Folsom Field that lasted more than an hour, Embree began by addressing players who had packed the Varsity Room at the Dal Ward Center and telling them to keep up the good fight without him.

``You had the highest GPA the last three semesters that this school has ever had in the football program. You stayed out of trouble. You guys represented yourselves well,'' Embree said. ``You set a legacy and a standard, and as I told you guys when we're going through tough times, you're not judged by the scoreboard at the end of the day.

``I was. But you won't be.''

Even though he'd been stripped of his powers, Embree was still coaching his kids, using the first seven minutes of the news conference to speak directly to them.

Asked if the next coach can win in Boulder, Embree retorted, ``How long does he have?''

Embree embraced dozens of his players on his way out of the room and was followed at the microphone by Bohn and DiStefano with university President Bruce Benson listening in on speaker phone while on vacation.

``Jon is a dedicated alum of the university and the Colorado Buffaloes with a passion for his students and the athletic program as a whole,'' DiStefano said. ``And if this decision were based on passion for CU and dedication, there's no doubt that Jon would be coach for life.

``But it also has to be based on progress and results, which we simply did not see enough this year,'' DiStefano continued. ``And so we looked at the performance on the field and did not see the development and the cohesion nor progressive strategy that gave us confidence in the future, and that's why this decision was made.''

Embree said six of his coaches offered to resign in order for him to keep his job.

He said he was disappointed because had been given assurances when he was hired that he'd be given the time needed to turn around a downtrodden program. He said that support changed suddenly Saturday night in a phone call with Bohn.

``All I was told (Sunday) was the trajectory of the program wasn't what they wanted. And my response was, `Well, what was the trajectory of the program before I was hired?''' Embree said.

Defensive end Will Pericak said the players are angry over Embree's dismissal.

``Not a fair chance at all,'' Pericak said. ``Embree needed another year, absolutely.''

Most players filed out after Embree left, but kicker Will Oliver stuck around and didn't like what he heard when Bohn spoke about the importance of a third year in turning things around, a chance he didn't afford Embree.

``It seemed like a lot of political jabber,'' Oliver said. ``I don't know what I just listened to for 30 minutes, to be completely honest. He might figure this out. I guess we'll find out soon.''

Embree had just eight seniors on this year's team, and in addition to a staff makeover, he was planning to switch to a spread offense and tweak his defense next year.

``We went up against some really good teams that we weren't quite able to match up with,'' Embree said. ``And some of it was just physical differences. We were young. Some of it, we had injuries. But at the end of the day, there was never any quit. They fought to the last play. They did a good job of not looking at the scoreboard.''

The administration, though, sure did.

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AP freelancer Monica Costello contributed.

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Follow Arnie Melendrez Stapleton on Twitter:http://twitter.com/arniestapleton

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2017-18 Wizards roster review: Jodie Meeks

2017-18 Wizards roster review: Jodie Meeks

To wrap up the 2017-18 season, we are looking at each player on the Wizards' roster. Today, we evaluate Jodie Meeks' season...

Player: Jodie Meeks

Position: Shooting guard

Age: 30

2017-18 salary: $3.3 million

2017-18 stats: 77 G, 14.5 mpg, 6.3 ppg, 1.6 rpg, 0.9 apg, 0.4 spg, 0.1 bpg, 39.9 FG%, 34.3 3P%, 86.3 FT%, 49.1 eFG%, 111 ORtg, 112 DRtg

Best game: 11/29 at Sixers - 21 points, 4 rebounds, assist, steal, 5-for-11 FG, 3-for-6 3PT, 8-for-9 FT

Season review: The Wizards took a flier on Jodie Meeks last summer in what seemed at the time to be a low-risk contract with a potentially high reward, if he could stay healthy and play to his career norms. They were in obvious need of help at backup shooting guard and three-point shooting for their bench.

Meeks fell short of those expectations for a variety of reasons. Though he stayed healthy for the first time in years, he could not make shots at the clip the Wizards were hoping for. His field goal percentage was not far off from what he posted in recent years, but his three-point percentage was nowhere near the 38.8 percent he shot in his previous four seasons.

Meeks bottomed out midseason, shooting 28.9 percent from three in December and 28 percent in January. Those numbers ticked up beginning in February, but Meeks never fully gained the trust of his coaching staff. He rarely got hot enough to alter games and his best stat-lines often came in blowouts. 

There was a domino effect from Meeks' struggles, as starting shooting guard Bradley Beal had no one to spell him. As a result, Beal logged the fourth-most minutes of any NBA player this season.

For Meeks personally, it was a bittersweet year because staying healthy was no small feat. He had a run of bad luck and finally broke out of it this season. On the other hand, he never made the impact he felt he was capable of and that wasn't easy for a guy joining a new team and a new locker room.

Meeks' 2017-18 season was ultimately defined by more than his shooting woes. First, he expressed interest in a trade in February and did not get his wish. Then, he was suspended for allegedy using performance-enhancing drugs after the regular season ended. He was out for the playoffs and will miss the first 19 games of the 2018-19 season without pay as he waits out a 25-game ban.

Meeks may or may not serve that suspension as a member of the Wizards. He has a player option for next season worth $3.5 million. He has yet to inform the team of his decision, but the expectation is that he will pick it up. Given how poorly his season went and ended, it would likely be the smart move financially for him to opt in and hope for better results next season.

Potential to improve: Shooting percentage, perimeter defense, passing

More player season reviews:

John Wall, PG

Bradley Beal, SG

Otto Porter, SF

Markieff Morris, PF

Marcin Gortat, C

Kelly Oubre, Jr., SF

Tomas Satoransky, PG

Ian Mahinmi, C

Ty Lawson, PG

Tim Frazier, PG

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Want the Stanley Cup? Five ways the Caps can beat the Golden Knights

Want the Stanley Cup? Five ways the Caps can beat the Golden Knights

The Caps stand just four wins away from winning their first Stanley Cup. To get those four wins, however, they will have to beat the Vegas Golden Knights.

Here are the keys to the series that will give the Caps the win.

Figure out how to beat Marc-Andre Fleury

No player has been as important to his team this postseason as Fleury is to the Golden Knights. He is reason No. 1, 2 and 3 why they have made their improbable run to the Stanley Cup Final in the team’s inaugural season.

Fleury’s personal numbers are staggering. Through 15 games, he has a .947 save percentage and has recorded four shutouts.

Vegas has been a middle of the pack team in terms of offense this postseason scoring 2.87 goals per game. They have lost only three playoff games thus far, but, as dominant as they have been, they certainly are not blowing away the competition. Of their 12 wins, ten of them have come with a margin of victory of two goals or less.

This shows you just how important Fleury is to their success. They are not scoring opponents into submission, rather they are relying on Fleury to keep opponents at bay.

Fleury is the absolute key to the Golden Knights’ success. It’s easier said than done, but if the Caps find a way to beat him consistently, Vegas becomes exponentially more beatable.

Win the neutral zone battle

Much of this series will be determined between the blue lines. The Golden Knights are an incredibly fast team.

Just to get to this point, the Caps had to beat two other speedy teams in the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Tampa Bay Lightning. They did it primarily by slowing down the offense in the neutral zone with a 1-3-1 trap. With so many bodies defending in the neutral zone, opponents have struggled to break the puck cleanly into the Caps’ defensive zone. The Caps are cutting off passing and skating lanes, creating turnovers and generating odd-man breaks in the other direction by catching opponents’ defensemen playing too aggressively on the rush.

As fast as the Penguins and Lightning were, however, the Golden Knights are even faster. Will the trap be as effective against Vegas?

Limit obstruction penalties

When playing against a team with speed, penalties often become a major issue. When trying to defend against fast players, if you get caught flat-footed or out of position, this tends to lead to obstruction penalties like tripping and hooking. When a player realizes he’s been beat, he does everything he can to prevent that from costing his team, leading to those type of penalties.

Vegas’ power play has not been lights out by any means with a success rate of only 17.6-percent this postseason, but you cannot continually give the opposition chances to score by frequently having a player sent to the penalty box.

Positioning is going to make all the difference in the world in this series to make sure a player is not forced into taking an obstruction penalty just to slow down the Golden Knights.

Get off to good starts

Vegas is 10-1 in the postseason when scoring first. Their secret to success is a mix between goaltending and speed.

Fleury has been phenomenal in net and the Golden Knights are a quick breakout team. It is very hard to get much sustained offensive pressure against them because once they get the puck, they are going down the ice at a million miles an hour.

Having to play from behind against a team like Vegas is not a recipe for success. Just getting the puck and keeping up with them is exhausting. Having to then find a way to then beat Fleury when he has a lead to protect is all the more daunting.

Strong starts will be vital to ensuring the Caps are not frequently having to play from behind.

Depth scoring

Vegas head coach Gerard Gallant likes to roll his four lines. It makes sense since there drop-off between his top line and fourth line is not as dramatic as it is on most NHL teams.

Consider how this team was constructed. The expansion draft did not give Vegas access to superstar players, but they also did not have to take any fringe NHL/healthy scratch players to fill the fourth line either. They filled their roster with the best players available to them which gives them four lines of much more comparative strength than most NHL teams.

While this means the Caps have a stronger top six, it also allows Vegas to roll four lines and take advantage of other teams’ bottom six.

You can never take a shift off against Vegas. There is no weak line to exploit. The Golden Knights come at you with four lines and relentless pressure and forecheck for 60 minutes.

Washington will probably get more production from its top six than Vegas will, or at the very least it will be a push. The question is what kind of production will each team get from the bottom six? If the Caps have the edge in depth production as well, they will be in good shape.

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