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New Nebraska AD Eichorst: Pelini on right track

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New Nebraska AD Eichorst: Pelini on right track

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) Nebraska coach Bo Pelini needn't worry about having the support of his new boss.

Shawn Eichorst, who took over as athletic director Jan. 1, said in an interview with The Associated Press that he admires how Pelini runs the Cornhuskers' program and he believes Pelini is on track to win a championship.

The Huskers were 10-4 this past season, finishing with a 39-point loss to Wisconsin in the Big Ten championship game and a 14-point loss to Georgia in the Capital One Bowl. Pelini is 49-20 in five seasons, never having won fewer than nine games but never losing fewer than four.

Nebraska hasn't won a conference title since 1999 or played in a BCS game since the end of the 2001 season.

``Nobody is going to have higher expectations for this place than me, nor coach Pelini, so that's a given,'' Eichorst said. ``I've yet to be at a place at this level that doesn't want to win championships. So I get that. So we'll just keep pounding the rock and trying to close the gap. We're not far away, and I think there are a lot of folks out there that feel the same way.''

Eichorst, hired away from Miami in October, succeeded the retired Tom Osborne after spending two-plus months as special assistant to chancellor Harvey Perlman. Eichorst signed a five-year contract that pays him $973,000 to start.

He takes over after a spate of major building projects. Football stadium expansion will raise capacity to more than 90,000 this fall, the new downtown basketball arena opens next season, and an academic center and basketball practice facility opened in 2011.

Eichorst said he plans to ``look and listen and learn'' the next few months.

``I'm really not coming in with any sort of preconceived agenda,'' he said. ``I just don't think that's something that would be successful.''

In an email, Perlman said he was impressed with the way Eichorst interacted with university leaders during his first few weeks on campus.

``There have been no surprises on my part,'' Perlman wrote. ``He understands the role of athletics within the broader university and I suspect he will be a good partner that will produce benefits for both athletics and academics.''

One of the main questions upon Eichorst's arrival was how he would view Pelini and the football program, which generates about 85 percent of the revenue in a department with a $95 million budget.

Osborne, who hired Pelini in 2008, set a high standard during his 25 years as coach. The program has not come close to recapturing the aura of Osborne's mid-1990s teams, which won national championships in three of his last four years. The team hasn't finished a season in the top 10 since 2001.

Eichorst said Pelini has the Huskers on the right track.

``I think that our head football coach is an excellent coach, character-based, fundamentally sound,'' Eichorst said. ``I'm impressed with his staff. I'm impressed with our players, their attitude, how they go about their business, their academics.''

Eichorst said many programs would love to play in conference championship games three of the last four years and in New Year's Day bowl games, as the Huskers have done.

``I know the expectations and the tradition and history here,'' he said. ``Everybody's got room to grow unless you're winning that (national) championship game.''

The new AD, who played defensive back at Wisconsin-Whitewater, said the 70-31 loss to Wisconsin in the Big Ten title game didn't raise any red flags with him.

``That happens in football,'' he said. ``I've been around it long enough. Just one of those days. But again, we're there. We'll break through.''

Osborne, who turns 76 next month, keeps an office one floor above Eichorst's, and serves as a sounding board and consultant.

``He parks in the same spot and all that stuff,'' Eichorst said. ``He's around, he's visible, and I'm glad because there are things I have to bounce off him on occasion. And folks - student-athletes, staff members - really like to see him and are energized to see him.''

Osborne wears the title of athletic director emeritus and is scheduled to stay on through July 31 to ease the transition to Eichorst.

The best advice Osborne gave him?

``Be yourself,'' Eichorst said. ``Do what you think is right and continue to ... lead with values and treat people with respect and understand what it is we're trying to get done. Provide a situation where student-athletes can be successful and have a better life and can make our communities better and all those sorts of things.''

Eichorst said he considers it a privilege to succeed a man of Osborne's stature, and he hopes Osborne maintains a presence in the department and around campus.

``I hope he's here for as long as he wants to be here,'' Eichorst said. ``He and I have talked about that, because it's important to me and important to all the folks in this building and the state.''

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Oshie gets warm All-Star welcome on St. Louis return, scores with dad in attendance

Oshie gets warm All-Star welcome on St. Louis return, scores with dad in attendance

Former St. Louis Blues forward T.J. Oshie was welcomed back to Enterprise Arena fondly by the NHL All-Star crowd that included his family.

At the end of Oshie's entrance on to the ice, the camera showed plenty of Blues players cheering for him. In seven seasons with St. Louis, Oshie played 443 games and talled 310 points (110 G, 200 A) and a +71 plus/minus rating. He even served as an alternate captain for his final two seasons before being traded to the Capitals for Troy Brouwer, Pheonix Copley and a 2016 third-round draft pick. 

That wasn't all for Oshie's All-Star performance -- he scored 5:29 into the first period to give the Metropolitan Division team a 3-2 lead.

Oshie is the eighth Capitals player in franchise history to score in the NHL All-Star Game.

Oshie's family, including his dad, Tim, affectionately known as "Coach Osh," was in attendance to witness his first All-Star appearance, making the moment even more special.

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Rookie Rui Hachimura does full practice with Wizards, return not far away

Rookie Rui Hachimura does full practice with Wizards, return not far away

WASHINGTON -- The long-awaited return of Wizards rookie Rui Hachimura is getting closer, as he participated in a full practice on Saturday for the first time since suffering a groin injury back on Dec. 16.

Hachimura, 21, had no limitations, per head coach Scott Brooks. He went through all of their drills and full-contact scrimmages.

"He did well. He went through everything. That's another good day," Brooks said.

The final hurdle for Hachimura at this point involves getting into game shape. His conditioning is not close to midseason form after missing seven weeks of games.

Brooks said Hachimura definitely will not return before the end of the team's current road trip, which ends on Tuesday in Milwaukee. After that, however, it could be a matter of days.

 

The Wizards will return to Washington after playing the Bucks for a six-game homestand. It seems likely he is back by the time it's over.

The ninth overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft, Hachimura has had a strong rookie season so far, averaging 13.9 points and 5.8 rebounds per game while shooting 48.2 percent from the field. The Wizards have gone 7-12 since he's been out.

Hachimura suffered the injury when he was inadvertently kicked between the legs by teammate Isaac Bonga. He required a minor procedure and was away from the team for weeks before slowly working his way back to basketball activities and then participating in practices.

Saturday was a big step in his recovery and it now puts the finish line into focus.

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