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Gesser introduced as interim Idaho coach

Gesser introduced as interim Idaho coach

MOSCOW, Idaho (AP) Two years ago, Jason Gesser was coaching a high school football team. On Monday, he was introduced as the interim head coach at Idaho.

Gesser, 33, will coach the Vandals in their remaining four games, replacing Robb Akey, who was fired on Sunday. Gesser said he would like to be considered for the permanent job.

Gesser teared up and he struggled to speak as he recalled how Akey plucked him two years ago from Eastside Catholic High in Sammamish, Wash., to be the Vandals' running backs coach. Gesser was promoted to offensive coordinator prior to this season.

``He gave me a chance to become a college coach and a coordinator. I owe my life to the guy,'' Gesser said. ``This is not an easy situation.''

Akey was 20-50 as head coach of the Vandals, including 1-7 this season. Idaho was blown out 70-28 by Louisiana Tech on Saturday.

That loss prompted the change, athletic director Rob Spear said Monday. He said he spoke with university President Duane Nellis shortly after the loss to Tech and the decision was made to fire Akey.

``We've been evaluating the program the entire season,'' Spear said. ``At the end of the day, his record was 20-50.''

Spear indicated that Gesser will have an opportunity to land the job on a full-time basis, but also said he plans a nationwide search and will make a decision on a new coach as soon as possible.

Asked if he had a list of candidate names, Spear said: ``Sure I do.''

He declined to disclose them.

Idaho plays in the Western Athletic Conference, which is dropping football after this year. The Vandals will play as an independent next season, and Spear is trying to get them into a conference.

Idaho has a bye this week, and then hosts San Jose State.

Gesser was a star quarterback at nearby Washington State. His time at Idaho is his only college coaching experience.

``Obviously, I want to become a head coach,'' Gesser said. ``That's something I get a chance to do now.''

He said he would be disappointed in himself if he did not try to earn the permanent job.

Asked about rising from the high school ranks to an FBS head coaching job in two seasons, Gesser described the trip as ``very, very, very, very crazy.''

``Things are going fast,'' he said.

He said the circumstances were not ideal, but that college football is a business.

``One of my friends may have to fire me,'' he said. ``It's a business.''

Gesser believes the Vandals, who have beaten only New Mexico State this season, can win some of their remaining games. He said Akey would want the team to come together and play its best. The Vandals also have games at BYU, at Utah State and home against Texas-San Antonio.

He acknowledged that at this point he is an interim coach.

``But it may be my only time as a head coach,'' Gesser said. ``I've got to take it for what it is worth.''

``I'm going to recruit here and coach here for the next five weeks,'' Gesser said. ``I'll do it like I was going to be here for the next 20 years.''

Gesser plans a team meeting on Wednesday to allow players to express their feelings.

``It's not going to be a pity fest,'' he said. ``We're going to put our best foot forward and go on.''

Akey's teams were 3-17 over the past two seasons, and the Vandals have had only one winning season in the past 13.

Akey's buyout calls for him to receive his base salary of $165,000 a year through December 2014, or until he is hired by another program.

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Capitals Faceoff Podcast: On to Vegas!

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Capitals Faceoff Podcast: On to Vegas!

The Capitals are the Eastern Conference Champions!

After dispatching Tampa Bay in Game 7, the Caps claimed the conference crown for just the second time in franchise history. But they're not done yet. Now it's on to Vegas to face the Golden Knights for the Stanley Cup.

JJ Regan and Tarik El-Bashir break down the Caps' win over the Lightning and look ahead to the matchup with the Knights.

Check out their latest episode in the player below or listen on the Capitals Faceoff Podcast page.

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Michigan's Moritz Wagner could be Wizards' solution for a stretch-five

Michigan's Moritz Wagner could be Wizards' solution for a stretch-five

The pre-draft workout process can be an exhausting journey for players, with so many flights, hotel rooms and NBA arenas that they can all blend in together. Michigan big man Moritz Wagner, though, may have felt a sense of comfort in Washington for his pre-draft workout for the Wizards on Wednesday.

It was just over a year ago that his Michigan Wolverines cut down the nets at Capital One Arena as champions of the Big Ten conference.

"It was good memories, man. Never gets old," he said while glancing around the stadium.

Wagner, 21, will be seeing a lot more of Capital One Arena once he joins the NBA ranks and it is conceivable he ends up in Washington. They hold the 15th pick in the first round and the 44th pick in the second round and Wagner could be within their reach.

Wagner had an impressive workout in Washington and could provide what the Wizards need. He is a big, mobile and can spread the floor. Wagner was terrific at stepping out to hit threes off pick-and-rolls at Michigan and that ability would work well with Wizards All-Star point guard John Wall.

Wagner measured in at just under 7-feet at this month's NBA Combine, fifth-tallest among those who attended. He averaged 14.6 points as a junior this past season and made 39.4 percent of his threes on 4.1 attempts per game.

With three years of college experience and an NBA-ready jumper, Wagner believes he can step right in and help the Wizards.

"I think what we did at Michigan, sharing the ball and playing as a team, very organized basketball, that can help big-time," he said. "It's basically pro basketball I was playing on a different level."

As Wagner will tell you, he is very confident in his abilities. He is comfortable in his own skin and that includes openly discussing his faults. He feels good about his ability to score at the next level. Defense is where he needs to prove himself.

Despite his size, Wagner wasn't much of a rim protector in college. He averaged just a half-block a game as a junior. The Wizards need rim protection badly and he likely would not provide that.

Wagner, though, believes he can bring more to the table defensively than the numbers would suggest.

"I think I've been an offensive guy all of my life, but the more that you mature as a player, you understand that both sides are important. Without defense, you aren't going to play at any level," he said.

"I think the most important thing that I wasn't able to show in college is that I'm able to switch the ball-screen, especially with the way the league is going. Switch on everything and stay in front of guards as a big guy."

Wagner is from Germany and looks up to Mavs legend Dirk Nowitzki, who is entering his 21st season and will be in the Hall of Fame someday. Nowitzki's game has always been built around shooting and, though he developed into a decent shot-blocker in his prime, was never an elite rim protector.

Wagner hopes to follow in his footsteps playing a similar style.

"He was my MJ. He kind of shows you 'okay, this is possible and this is doable.' It's just basketball," Wagner said. "It gives you a lot of hope. It gives you a lot of belief and motivation."

Hear more from Wagner in his one-on-one interview with Chris Miller in our latest Wizards Tipoff podcast. His interview can also be found in the video above:

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