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UConn gives coach Kevin Ollie new 5-year deal

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UConn gives coach Kevin Ollie new 5-year deal

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) Connecticut has given men's basketball coach Kevin Ollie a new contract that runs through the end of the 2017-18 season.

The deal, signed Saturday, is worth just under $7 million and begins Jan. 1. When Ollie was hired in September, he was signed for just one season.

``As I said in my first press conference, I want to be here a lifetime and this is a step, hopefully a great step, in the program moving forward,'' Ollie said.

Ollie, who turned 40 on Thursday, was hired after Hall of Fame coach Jim Calhoun retired. His original deal had a pro-rated value of just over $465,000, the school said.

Ollie has led UConn to a 10-2 record, including a win Saturday against Washington, despite losing five underclassmen from last year's team after it was announced that the Huskies were academically ineligible for the upcoming postseason.

``He's shown that he can coach, that he can lead this team on the court, and academically,'' athletic director Warde Manuel said. ``He's the epitome of an UConn Husky.''

Ollie was greeted with a standing ovation as he walked on the court Saturday night and the student section chanted his name.

``We got excited for him, and we wanted to give him his first career win as UConn's new long-term head coach,'' said guard Shabazz Napier, who scored 13 points and grabbed eight rebounds in Saturday's 61-53 win.

Ollie, who played point guard for Calhoun from 1991-95, was his former coach's hand-picked successor. He became an assistant at UConn in 2010, after 13 years as an NBA journeyman.

But, he had never been a head coach on any level. Manuel said that's why he waited before tendering a multi-year offer, even though he knew it could have a negative impact on recruiting.

``I'm sure it didn't help, the short-term nature of the deal,'' Manuel said. ``But I wanted the opportunity to see Kevin and get a sense of who he was for the long term.''

Ollie has quickly established himself with his upbeat and energetic style, running practices that focus on conditioning and accountability.

``Kevin moved gracefully and seamlessly into this position of immense responsibility over the course of the fall,'' school President Susan Herbst said. ``He demonstrated to us that he is a genuine leader of extraordinary talents.''

The contract also includes some stiff penalties should UConn in the future again fail to meet the minimum standards for the NCAA Academic Progress Rate.

Ollie would forfeit two weeks' salary and all postseason payments. Two consecutive years of substandard APR scores would be grounds for termination.

``I agreed to it because I have a belief system in my student athletes,'' Ollie said. ``We're students first and we're going to get it done.''

Those sanctions would be eliminated from the contract once UConn's four-year APR climbs above 930, Manuel said.

Ollie will receive $1.2 million in 2013. His base salary will be $400,000 and rest will be for speaking and media appearances. The payments increase annually to $1.34 million by 2017.

Calhoun, who is vacationing in Florida, issued a statement saying the hiring makes him feel ``very good about the future of UConn basketball.''

UConn women's coach Geno Auriemma, who is making $1.8 million this year and is in negotiations for an extension, said Ollie remains in a tough position, but will have the support of the entire athletic department.

``He's going to do the right thing. He's already proven that,'' Auriemma said. ``And now he's going to get an opportunity to recruit and he's going to get an opportunity to coach.''

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AP Sports Writer Janie McCauley in Stanford, Calif., contributed to this report.

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When will the NFL kick off play? NFLPA head DeMaurice Smith not ready to predict

When will the NFL kick off play? NFLPA head DeMaurice Smith not ready to predict

A world without sports was impossible to imagine just a few weeks ago.   

Even under the worst circumstances, sports brings us together, provides hope during times of adversity, heals the broken and offers a glimpse of better times to come. That isn’t available now to help us distance ourselves from the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.  

The NBA, NHL, and MLS seasons are suspended. MLB’s season is delayed. College spring sports are cancelled. This is the new reality of social distancing and quarantine.  

In these trying times, the NFL has provided some sense of normalcy because its offseason could go on despite some necessary adjustments. Free agency went off without a hitch and the NFL Draft is expected to do the same later this month. But what happens after that? Will the season begin on time? 

NFL Players Association Executive Director DeMaurice Smith is taking the cautious approach.  

“I think it’s hard, if not impossible, to make concrete projections on what things might look like three, four, five, six months from now,” Smith said.  

Where we are today could not have been predicted months ago, leaving uncertainty in its wake. Yes, sports fans are desperate for football. But this scenario is just bigger than the business of the game. So, we pause. 

“The country is in desperate need of good leadership right now to make sure that we halt the spread of the virus, that we try to make sure that we are doing everything to make the peak of this outbreak happen as quickly as possible,” Smith said.  

Teams are not allowed to meet with players currently. And while the league has yet to cancel off-season training activities, Covid-19 is disrupting day-to-day business. Virtual contact is expected soon, but when players and coaches meet for the first time in person may not come until training camp in July.  Even that is in question. The 2020 Summer Olympics were scheduled for the same time in Tokyo and they were postponed weeks ago.  

While we don’t know when football will return, we do know it will.  But will it be different?  It’s been suggested games could be played without fans. Smith says contingency plans are coming together, but games without fans seems unlikely.  If the virus hasn’t been contained, don’t expect players to come out first and play alone.  

“I certainly am a fan, like everybody else out there,” Smith said. “Whether it was being a fan of basketball, baseball, or being a fan of hockey – all of that got cancelled because it was in the public’s best interest.” 

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A team could test all of its players and be in the clear, but what about when they go home to their families?  Or resume normal activities outside of football?  It’s too much of a risk.    

“Football certainly has a strong and meaningful place in American culture, whether it’s played in high school, college, or played on the professional level,” Smith said. “But first and foremost, we have to make decisions that are in best interest of the public and best interest of the players.” 

The NFL and the NFLPA have gathered the best doctors they can to monitor the safety of their players and organization staffs.  The biggest determining factor on when football, and all sports, return is what you do at home to help slow the spread.  

Do your part, stay home and don’t expect football to return before it returns with you, the fan, who hopefully will be cheering from the stands, from your homes. Soon enough it will be safe to return. And when that happens, the players will be ready, too.  

“I know that there is going to be a group of people that are going to love to play football on the field,” Smith said.  

Stay connected to the Capitals and Wizards with the MyTeams app. Click here to download for comprehensive coverage of your teams.

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John Carlson is enjoying family time but gets glimpse of what his wife 'had to deal with' at home

John Carlson is enjoying family time but gets glimpse of what his wife 'had to deal with' at home

This time of year is typically one of the busiest times for a hockey player, especially for a team like the Washington Capitals. Had the season not been put on pause by the coronavirus, this would have been the first week of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. That means a lot of travel, a lot of practice, a lot of games and not much time for family.

While stuck at home, John Carlson is taking full advantage of the extra time to just be a dad.

“Yeah, it’s interesting and great," Carlson said on a video conference Wednesday. "I think just being able to see what my wife’s had to deal with for the last couple months is pretty sobering, I would say. But, yeah, it’s fun to get to do a lot of things. Although we are quarantined to the house, it is fun to see them more. Hearing my name screamed around the house a lot more is fun."

Carlson and his wife are the parents of two boys: Lucca, who will turn 5 in June, and Rudy, who will turn 2 in May.

More family time is great, but it also comes with challenges. Those are difficult ages for kids to be stuck inside. Carlson noted he had to do his workout early in the morning or his kids would make it difficult.

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Findings ways to keep them occupied is a frequent struggle as well which is bad news for their Easter baskets.

"We've been doing our best trying to come up with as many activities as we can," Carlson said. "I think we're almost down to none of our Easter stuff that we got the kids just from pulling things out and trying to find some ways. It's been great to spend a lot of time with them, but it's a change."

As every parent knows, the days are long, but the years are also short. As exhausting and trying as it may be to try to parent with everyone stuck at home, Carlson knows this is time with his kids he would not have otherwise gotten.

While no one is happy about the coronavirus or how it has disrupted all of our lives, more time with the family is a blessing and is something Carlson is very thankful for.

"I think when we look back," Carlson said, "and hopefully this thing turns around and everything is going to be able to finish out like it was, it will definitely be a moment that I’ll remember, that I got to spend that much more time with them and see them kind of grow and turn into real human beings. It’s pretty special."

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