Redskins

Pitt coach Paul Chryst downplays Wisconsin buzz

Pitt coach Paul Chryst downplays Wisconsin buzz

PITTSBURGH (AP) Pittsburgh football coach Paul Chryst understands why his name popped up as a candidate for the open job at Wisconsin.

He's also through discussing the prospects of him returning to his hometown and alma mater to replace Bret Bielema, who bolted suddenly last week for Arkansas.

``I'm not going to talk too much about stuff that really,'' Chryst said Friday as the Panthers began preparations for next month's BBVA Compass Bowl against Ole Miss.

Chryst is from Madison, Wis., and both played and coached for the Badgers before taking over at Pitt last December. Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez, who put in a few calls to help Chryst land his first head coaching job, said it wouldn't be right for Chryst to leave after just one year.

That's just fine with Chryst, who endured an up-and-down season this fall as Pitt went 6-6 and earned its third straight trip to Birmingham, Ala., for the Compass Bowl. Chryst called the job speculation ``a natural part of the profession'' but downplayed the notion there was ever any real chance he would force the Panthers to search for their fifth head coach in two years.

``I think there's a lot more buzz surrounding (the Wisconsin job) than there was (with) myself and with the guys that we know,'' he said.

Still, Alvarez appears to be in no rush to make a hire. He's already announced he'll coach the Badgers in the Rose Bowl, buying him time to find the right candidate. On paper, Chryst would appear to be a natural fit.

Then again, so was Bielema, who was Alvarez's hand-picked successor. While the move to leave a program he led to three straight Rose Bowls stunned many - particularly Wisconsin alums - it didn't shock Chryst.

``I think that Bret's a smart guy and made an informed decision and I don't think stunned would be the right word,'' Chryst said. ``I think it's good for him. He's probably very happy and that's good. There are opportunities. There's a new challenge.''

And Chryst is content about the challenge that lies ahead at Pitt, which will move to the Atlantic Coast Conference next fall. The Panthers were an enigma this fall, beating Virginia Tech and Rutgers while nearly upsetting undefeated and top-ranked Notre Dame. Yet they also lost to Youngstown State and Connecticut and failed to build any real sense of momentum.

Still, the fact he is apparently out of the mix at Wisconsin drew a sigh of relief from a fan base and a roster that's going through a bit of coaching fatigue. Chryst received a standing ovation from the student section at a Pitt men's basketball game last week. He appreciated the gesture. He was just a little stunned by it.

``That was a little cheesy,'' Chryst said with a laugh before adding, ``I haven't earned it.''

Chryst isn't one to get comfortable in the spotlight anyway. He'd prefer to let that shine on his players, who remain the main reason he's sticking around.

``I feel fortunate to be here and I like what we're doing and I love doing it with the guys that we're doing it with,'' Chryst said. ``That's a pretty good feeling.''

That sense of loyalty is one of the reasons he's become so popular with his players. It's also why redshirt sophomore defensive end T.J. Clemmings - who is experimenting at offensive tackle heading into the bowl game - felt a little bit of angst when Wisconsin suddenly opened up.

``I was a little bit worried,'' Clemmings said. ``This is my third year. I can't do the whole coaching thing again. I think Coach Chryst will hang around.''

Clemmings just isn't certain. When asked if he's convinced Chryst will be on campus when spring drills begin, Clemmings just smiled.

``I hope so,'' Clemmings said. ``I don't know what the man is going to do. I can't say, but I hope he's around.''

Chryst would rather stop talking about a job he doesn't have and start talking about the one he does. Though this will be Pitt's third year spending New Year's Day in Alabama, he doesn't expect there to be a motivation issue considering the Panthers are playing a quickly improving team in Ole Miss (6-6).

Besides, if the Panthers are frustrated, they have no one to blame but themselves. A few more wins and their postseason prospects would have offered a different destination.

``This is where you should be,'' Chryst said. ``This is what we earned. I think we've earned the right to go to a bowl. This is where it's slotted and we've got a chance to play a really good opponent I believe.''

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Follow Will Graves at www.twitter.com/WillGravesAP

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Dwayne Haskins reflects on bond with Kobe Bryant from pre-draft workouts

Dwayne Haskins reflects on bond with Kobe Bryant from pre-draft workouts

Terrible news hit America on Sunday when word came out that basketball legend Kobe Bryant died in a helicopter crash along with his daughter and seven others. 

A tragic event for a man and a player that made an impact far beyond basketball. Bryant was known for many things, but more than any, it might have been his competitive spirit. A five-time NBA champion and an 18-time All-Star, Bryant's play was defined by a fluid game and an unstoppable spirit. 

For Redskins quarterback Dwayne Haskins, he got to see some of Bryant's spirit up close. Last year, before the NFL Draft, Haskins trained at Bryant's gym in Los Angeles, and their encounters made an impression on the signal-caller. 

"He's definitely a guy that brings a lot to the table as far as how he trains, how he prepares and what he expects out of his teammates. Very, very demanding," Haskins said of Bryant. "I want to be able to have that other tool, being able to have that edge that Kobe had. Of course, I play like that, but I'd be able to lead like that. That's why I studied Kobe."

Haskins is one of many young athletes that grew up watching Bryant, and for plenty, idolizing Bryant. 

After the news broke Sunday, Haskins reacted on Twitter.

Haskins said it well: RIP to a legend. Gone too soon. 

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Scott Brooks has a simple reason for why Bradley Beal should be an All-Star

Scott Brooks has a simple reason for why Bradley Beal should be an All-Star

WASHINGTON -- Bradley Beal was not picked as a starter for next month's NBA All-Star Game through a voting process that included fans, the media and fellow players. Now it is up to NBA head coaches, who select the seven reserves for each conference.

Wizards head coach Scott Brooks is not allowed to vote for his own player, but believes Beal has a good chance to be picked based on one simple reason. He can tell how much opposing coaches respect Beal each and every night the Wizards play a game.

"Brad's an All-Star. I know that because every night I get to see it. Every night I get to see the defensive schemes against him. He gets double-teamed I want to say every game. That tells me that coaches feel the same way," Brooks said.

Brooks doesn't lobby other coaches to vote for his players, but said others have tried to persuade him in the past. He will "respectfully listen," he says, but believes it is important to do his own research and make his own choices.

"We all take pride in our choice," Brooks said. "It's an elite group and it's hard to get in."

Though Beal isn't a starter, he has a good case for being a reserve. This season he is averaging 28.1 points (third in East), 6.3 assists (10th in East) and 4.5 rebounds per game. 

If Beal doesn't make the All-Star team, it will likely be blamed on the Wizards' record. They are 15-30 and some of his competitors could get credit for being on better teams.

Brooks, though, believes other coaches should consider the circumstances Beal has been in. He says he takes that stuff into account with his own vote.

"There's a lot of factors that go in," Brooks explained. "It's situations. Guys that are on teams that are not playing well... are they not playing well because of him or are they not playing well because they have a lot of young guys, or because they're injured? A lot of players are injured. We've had a lot of injuries this year."

Beal has been an All-Star each of the past two years. We will find out on Thursday if he is in for the third time.

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