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USC fires basketball coach O'Neill

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USC fires basketball coach O'Neill

LOS ANGELES (AP) Kevin O'Neill took over a troubled Southern California basketball team, getting the Trojans back to the NCAA tournament after NCAA issues kept them out in his first season while producing winning records twice in 3 1/2 years. It wasn't enough.

He was fired on Monday, with the Trojans 7-10 overall and 2-2 in the Pac-12 after splitting their road trip last weekend.

``We just didn't win enough last year and this year. That's what this business is,'' O'Neill told The Associated Press by phone. ``We tried to do as well as we could, tried to get the program to the highest level. My goal every day going in there was to try to win a national title.''

He had a 48-65 record at the school known primarily for its powerful football program after going 6-26 last year while setting a USC record for losses.

Athletic director Pat Haden said the program needed new leadership.

``Despite a nice road win in our last game, I felt it was best to make a change now, with most of the Pac-12 season still ahead of us, in order to re-energize our team,'' he said.

O'Neill was hired by Haden's predecessor, Mike Garrett, who said at the time, ``Hopefully he's here forever.'' O'Neill took the USC job after spending a season as an assistant with the Memphis Grizzlies.

``Nothing in this business surprises me,'' O'Neill said, adding that he and Haden ``really didn't have any discussions other than how the team is doing.''

Veteran assistant Bob Cantu will serve as interim coach while USC searches for a successor. Cantu took over for O'Neill during a Pac-10 tournament semifinal game against Arizona in 2010-11 when the coach was suspended after getting into a verbal confrontation with a Wildcats booster. He has remained on the staff through four coaching changes and is the longest tenured assistant in the Pac-12.

``Couldn't be more excited and anxious to get started with (hashtag) coachbobcantu,'' tweeted senior center James Blaszyk.

The Trojans lost at Colorado before winning at Utah to snap a 14-game road skid over the weekend. USC has lost nine of its last 13 games, which included a five-game skid.

``There's been a lot of challenges in it but I really enjoyed my time,'' O'Neill told the AP. ``I'm thankful for my opportunity. I'm going to cheer for them every day.''

Upon arriving at USC in June 2009, O'Neill had to deal with the fallout from an ongoing NCAA investigation and school-imposed sanctions involving star O.J. Mayo, who played one season under Tim Floyd before leaving for the NBA.

The Trojans went 16-14, including a sweep of crosstown rival UCLA, and were in the hunt for the conference title until the final two weeks of the season. Sanctions imposed by the school in response to the NCAA investigation prohibited them from postseason play.

The next season, O'Neill lost three starters and four of his top six players from the rotation, but he guided the Trojans to a 19-15 record and an NCAA tournament berth. They lost in the first round to Virginia Commonwealth. That team included Nikola Vucevic, a first-round draft pick who now plays for the Orlando Magic.

Last season, the Trojans were hard-hit by injury, leaving O'Neill with just six scholarship players for nearly half the season who managed to keep the team in most every game. The biggest blow was losing point guard Jio Fontan, who tore his ACL after scoring 57 points in two exhibition games in Brazil. Forward Aaron Fuller (shoulder) and big man Dewayne Dedmon (torn MCL) also went down with season-ending injuries at different points.

``It got really pronounced because we didn't have freshmen or sophomores when I got here. Those classes were blank,'' said O'Neill, who dipped into the ranks of junior college players and transfers to fill out the roster. ``I thought our team was starting to come around and play better.''

He had a full complement of 13 scholarship players who were healthy this season.

``It was hard for me to evaluate him as a head coach until this year when he had enough players and veterans to compete,'' Haden said.

O'Neill said he's given no thought to his immediate future.

``Take a little time off, chill out a little bit,'' he said. ``I might go to New York and visit my dad. I really don't have any regrets, none at all.''

O'Neill, who turns 56 on Jan. 24, was hired by coach Lute Olson as an assistant at Arizona before the 2007-08 season, and became interim coach when Olson took a medical leave of absence.

O'Neill led the Wildcats to a 19-15 record and the school's 24th consecutive NCAA tournament appearance, at the time the nation's longest active streak. He was designated Olson's permanent successor, but when the Hall of Famer returned that spring he announced O'Neill would no longer be part of the program.

O'Neill had previous head coaching jobs at Marquette, Tennessee and Northwestern. He has a 219-245 record in the college ranks.

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10 Training Camp Questions: How dangerous is the Brandon Scherff contract situation?

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USA Today Sports

10 Training Camp Questions: How dangerous is the Brandon Scherff contract situation?

The Redskins report to training camp on July 24th, and for the next 10 days, JP Finlay will count down the 10 biggest questions the Redskins face going into the 2019 season.

10) Will the Redskins develop depth on the D-line?

9) Can the Redskins count on Montae Nicholson?

8) Want better offense? Get more out of the tight ends 

7) Will Jimmy Moreland actually win the slot CB job from Fabian Moreau?

6) After losing Reuben Foster, how's the Redskins LB situation?

5) Will potential match production for Redskins WRs?

When a team picks in the Top 10 of the NFL Draft, folks around the NFL expect that player to become a Pro Bowler. For Washington, that exact scenario unfolded with right guard Brandon Scherff. 

Mostly. 

Selected fifth overall in 2015, the Redskins took Scherff to play right tackle and anchor the offensive line opposite Trent Williams. That idea quickly faded, helped by the emergence of Morgan Moses, and Scherff moved inside to play guard. For four years, it's worked out great, with Pro Bowl selections in 2016 and 2017. 

Scherff is a mauler in the best sense of the word. He has great footwork and Redskins head coach Jay Gruden has called the former Iowa Hawkeye the best pulling guard in the NFL. Scherff is strong and nasty, words that won't win beauty pageants but absolutely win in the trenches of the NFL. 

Considering all of that, a contract extension for Scherff should be easy. Right?

Wrong. 

Currently in the final year of his rookie deal, multiple reports stretching over the last six weeks indicate that the organization is way off in their extension offers to Scherff. He might not command the biggest contract in the league, but he will get paid like a top three guard. In 2019, that means a lot of money.

Cowboys guard Zach Martin makes $14 million a year. Jaguars guard Andrew Norwell makes $13.3 million a year. Scherff might not get to Martin's salary, but he will probably get to Norwell, whether Washington pays it or not.

That means the Redskins need to pony up the cash now because as each day passes, the team is approaching an ugly set of options. Scherff and his representatives might continue to negotiate during the season, but it doesn't make a lot of sense. Once free agency becomes in view, players tend to wait for it. Just ask Kirk Cousins. 

In fact, the situation between Scherff and the Redskins has some resemblance to the Cousins saga from a few years ago. 

In that case, Washington low-balled their homegrown quarterback in their first set of negotiations. From there, things went sideways, and the team used consecutive franchise tags on Cousins before he finally left via free agency. 

If the Redskins can't get a deal done with Scherff, the team could use a franchise tag in 2020. But that's a dangerous game of roulette. 

The time to get a deal done with Scherff is now, if not last month. Redskins team president has said in the past that deadlines drive deals, but with Scherff, there is no exact deadline. He can decide to stop working on a contract extension at any moment, particularly once the pads come on at training camp. 

The Trent Williams holdout might be complicating things a bit, if Williams only wants more cash and the issue isn't about much more than that. The truth is a Scherff extension would actually free up cap space in the short term, as his signing bonus would be spread out over the life of the contract, and some of that salary cap relief could go to Williams right away. 

Williams' status isn't the hold up between Scherff and the Redskins. Whatever is the actual holdup best be resolved soon. or the Redskins are beginning down an all too familiar franchise path.

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The 10 best dog parks in the Washington D.C. area

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The 10 best dog parks in the Washington D.C. area

During one of the hottest summers on record, getting the dog out to exercise amid the 100-degree heat has become a daunting task. The sidewalks burn their oh-so-adorable paws and canines living in the big city don't have ample space to expend their energy. 

Fortunately, the D.C. area offers several dog park options for pups to run around, play fetch and cool down with a splash while their owners unwind in a nice shady spot. For anyone looking to switch things up from the everyday walk around the neighborhood, these locations are worth taking a look at. 

10 best dog parks in the D.C. area 

1. Swampoodle Dog Park

3rd and L St NE

Less than a year old, this dog park has become a fun location for both dogs and children. The park is entirely turf so dogs don't get dirty or muddy, and there's a multiple-level jungle gym for kids to swing around on. For a family with young kids and dogs, this park has something for everyone. 

2. Bundy Dog Park

470 P St NW

One of the biggest parks on this entire list, this is the spot for those high-energy dogs that could run all day. It provides plastic bags for easy doggy doo-doo cleanup, but there are no water fountains so make sure to bring your own. 

3. Shaw Dog Park

1651 11th St NW

Like Bundy Dog Park, this location is one of the biggest in the D.C. area. Double gated entry keeps the dogs from running off, and the availability of bags and water bowls keep the area healthy and clean. It's got lights installed for an evening excursion, and there's a separate area designed for smaller dogs. 

4. Shirlington Dog Park 

2710 S Oakland St

Although a little far for D.C. residents, this park is worth the trip. It spans the length of several football fields, has a puppy specific enclosure plus poop bags and water bowls to make sure everything is clean. For those extra hot days, there's a stream for dogs to play in and even a washing station adjacent to the park. It doesn't hurt there's a dog-friendly brewery next door either. 

5. Newark Street Dog Park

39th St NW and Newark St NW

One of the highest-rated parks on Yelp, it has separate play areas for large and small dogs complete with water fountains and bowls. It also features a Children's Garden with monthly learning sessions, picnic tables, and children’s garden equipment.

6. Glencarlyn Park

301 South Harrison St

This is a peaceful haven for dogs and owners who want to get back in touch with nature. There's a stream and waterfall for dogs to douse themselves on hot days, and a small playground for kids to enjoy as well.  The park is unenclosed, however, so this isn't the best spot for dogs who don't obey voice commands well.

7. Lincoln Park

East Capitol and 11th St

Smack-dab in the middle of Washington, D.C., Lincoln Park is ideal for city residents who want to branch out from their usual walk around the block. There are two playgrounds for children and a mile-long circle dirt path for those owners who love to run with their dogs. 

8. Langdon Dog Park

2901 20th Street NE

One of the newer parks on this list, the word is still spreading about Langdon Park. It's spacious and fenced-in, giving dogs ample space to run around and there's a separate area for the especially little balls of fur.  

9. S. Street Dog Park

S St at 17th St NW Washington

Another AstroTurf option for minimal mess, this park even offers wading pools for dogs in the summertime. It can get fairly busy during the evening hours, but it's a great place for dogs to play while owners find a spot on one of the many benches. 

10. Montrose Park

R St and 32 St NW

Although not strictly a dog park, this is still a great location to take your pup. It's recommended to keep dogs on-leash here as it's got tennis courts, a children's play place and picnic areas bustling with people. Traditionally a best-kept secret of D.C. residents, this is the perfect space to escape the sights and sounds of the city. 

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