MIAMI (AP) Mario Cristobal took over a winless team at Florida International and wound up leading the Panthers to consecutive bowl appearances.
One bad season later, Cristobal is looking for work.
The Panthers fired Cristobal on Wednesday, a somewhat surprising move that came nearly two weeks after FIU finished an injury-filled season with a 3-9 record. Cristobal was told by athletic director Pete Garcia of the decision in a morning meeting, one that caught both the sixth-year coach and his team by surprise.
``Stunned. Sad,'' Cristobal said. ``We did a lot of good things. We graduated kids. We sent kids to the NFL. We turned a lot of things around. We had one bad year.''
Garcia called the season ``a total collapse,'' noting that FIU had 19 returning starters from a year ago and was expected to contend for a Top 25 spot this season, its last before going to Conference USA. He also said the fact that FIU's three wins this season came against teams that combined to win a total of six games was a factor.
``We will now turn our attention to attract the very best candidate to fill the position of head coach,'' Garcia said.
Garcia has close ties to Butch Davis, the former Miami Hurricanes and Cleveland Browns coach who last was working on North Carolina's sideline. Davis would figure to be a candidate at FIU, especially because Garcia has made splashy hires before - including Basketball Hall of Fame player Isiah Thomas, and then Richard Pitino, the son of Louisville coach Rick Pitino, after Thomas was fired earlier this year.
Cristobal was 27-47 at FIU, though took the Panthers to their first two bowl games - and turning around a troubled program that had lost 23 straight games in one stretch - before the disappointing campaign in 2012. FIU won the 2010 Sun Belt title and Little Caesars Bowl that season.
The Capitals return home to play the Chicago Blackhawks (7 p.m., NBC Sports Washington) after a successful road trip (3-1-0), but will still be without forwards Evgeny Kuznetsov and T.J. Oshie (upper-body injuries), who remain day-to-day, according to coach Todd Reirden.
Here are four things to watch:
After missing three games with an upper-body injury of his own, Caps goalie Braden Holtby was thrown into the fire down 4-2 at Montreal on Monday. But he played lights out and matched Habs goalie Carey Price save-for-save, finishing with 22 as Washington rallied for a 5-4 overtime win. Holtby now feels good enough as he will start against the Blackhawks tonight. In his past four appearances, Holtby has stopped 116 of 122 shots on goal.
Chicago’s slow start cost Joel Quenneville his job on Nov. 6. An NHL coach getting fired is rarely news. But when it’s a guy who’s been in his post for more than a decade and has won three Stanley Cups it is still jarring. The results are mixed since Jeremy Colliton took over. Chicago lost his first two games behind the bench, but is 2-0-2 in its past four games. That’s a small step in the right direction, but the Blackhawks are in sixth place in the Central Division.
This was supposed to be the day Tom Wilson returned to the lineup after his 20-game suspension. An arbitrator cut that short last week so Wilson played on all four games of the road trip and had a goal and four assists. Not a bad start. Wednesday he gets his first home game of the year and what should be a raucous reception from the faithful at Capital One Arena.
On Monday, the crowd at Bell Centre booed former Canadien Lars Eller, who promptly took the puck up ice and scored the game-winning goal in overtime. It was a great moment for a player who felt Montreal gave up on him way too soon when trading him to the Capitals. Michal Kempny knows how he feels.
Languishing on the bench for most of last season in Chicago as a healthy scratch – he played just 31 games - Kempny sees his old team for the first time since helping Washington win a Stanley Cup. Quenneville is gone, but the defenseman would love to show the rest of the organization trading him was a mistake.
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The Washington Wizards are set to add power forward, Okaro White to their NBA roster. Here are five things to know about the newest Wizards player.
1. White, 26, is a 6-foot-8, 205-pound power forward who played two seasons for the Miami Heat. In 41 total games, White averaged 2.9 points, 2.3 rebounds and shot 38.8 percent from the field. Though he never appeared in games with them, White also spent time with the Cavs, Hawks and Spurs. He also played Summer League for the Mavs and Grizzlies.
2. He has a decent outside shot for a big man. White has shot 35.6 percent from three in the NBA and made 37.5 percent from long range as a senior at Florida State. The fact he's an excellent free throw shooter is also a good sign. White made 79.9 percent from the line in college and has shot 86 percent in the G-League and 88 percent in the NBA.
3. White played with former Wizards first-round pick Chris Singleton in college. White was a freshman, while Singleton was a junior and the star of the team. White was also a starter on the 2011-12 team that won the Seminoles' first-ever ACC championship.
4. Though he's a bit undersized for a big man, White can block shots. He once had four in a game against the Nets on Jan. 25 of 2017 and three against the Sixers in March of that year.
5. White's mom, Charmaine, was an Olympic athlete who represented Jamaica in track and field.
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