Thursday, May 28, 2015

Hakstol's hiring reveals Hextall's dynamic

Thanks to
You've had to fire a head coach less than two years into his tenure. A man whom you inherited from the last guy in charge, who was a transitional option behind the bench which was clearly not progressing.

Sure, he's a good hockey man, worked his way through the organization as a minor league assistant, minor league head coach and NHL assistant before getting his shot, and it didn't pan out.

It's one of the more odious tasks as general manager, firing a head coach who has done nothing but faithfully serve his bosses. It's even worse when the person in question was a former teammate.

But the Philadelphia Flyers are in the business of re-shuffling under the watchful eyes of GM Ron Hextall, and he had a virtual smorgasbord of options at the ready.

There was a guy who mutually parted ways with his team after almost a decade of disappointment on the West Coast (Todd MacLellan), a hard-bitten son of the Canadian prairie who was given free rein to test the waters (Mike Babcock), a veritable Bond villain by looks (Guy Boucher), the free-floating choice on everyone's lips who was out of a job last season (Dan Bylsma) and their faithful servant coaching the primary affiliate an hour away who made no bones about wanting to return to the NHL (Terry Murray).

In the end, Hextall took a detour and chose the rarest of the rare, a head coach with no prior professional experience, but who logged more than a decade at a successful American Division I college program. When they said last week Hextall "found his man" they weren't kidding. It wasn't a choice so much as it was a one-sided pursuit initiated from the top down.

And Dave Hakstol might have known something would come along, eventually, since his six-year deal, signed in 2012, included a $100,000 out clause if he left North Dakota for an NHL job before the midway point of its duration.

"Well, I had some familiarity with Dave.  My son (Brett from the Phantoms) obviously played for him at North Dakota.  So in watching my son over the years I grew an appreciation for Dave, the way he coached.  I thought about him long before this as a head coach in the National Hockey League. I believe he was destined for it," Hextall admitted.

"I had a list of things that I wanted from a head coach, and went down the checklist in my mind and every box was checked except for the NHL experience.  Quite frankly, for me, that was one that was least important.  I feel very comfortable with where we’re at.  I won’t say it was early in the process because like I said, I had to get to know him I guess intimately, and as we went through the process it just kept coming to me that this is our guy."

Confidence in his process and his choice's track record aside, Hakstol is clearly Hextall's "safest" choice, given the roster above chock full of NHL experience. That's exactly the way he wants it -- a team whose roster needs to develop over time while he digs out of Paul Holmgren's salary-cap detritus, led by a man who needs time to develop and acclimate to his new surroundings and new league. The end result, if successful, would be fascinating. A coach and his roster blossoming simultaneously.

It's not hard to pick up with a little thought. Every single name mentioned above carries the personality, philosophy, system and ego of having pulled the reins in large markets and enjoyed the spoils of success. And with that, if Hextall would have sprung for any of the above, likely comes an uptick in expectations which this organization can't weather in the face of Ed Snider's interjections that he believes each team, each year, is capable of being a contender.

Hakstol's first hints to his management style really doesn't differ from the way Craig Berube conducted his business as coach, but it's a dead-on advertisement for strengthening the existing links in the front office chain:

"I can tell you the way I approach my business on a daily basis is in a very direct manner.  I think expectations are quite simple of myself, of my staff and our players.  Maybe to sum up in one word, accountability to one another, to our organization. Number one, winning is a mindset.  Our job as a staff is to win with the group of players that we have."

Those basic sentiments may contradict the attitudes of those like Babcock, Bylsma and McLellan, who, with Stanley Cup victories under their belts -- in the case of the former two -- might be inclined to throw their weight around and suggest to management the type of player which may work best within their own philosophy and system.

Hakstol, as an acolyte, seems to know his place in taking the leap over the minors and going straight to a major-market NHL team. Coach the players given, don't lobby for the ones you want. All the better to make Hextall's job easier from a personnel standpoint.

However, the following passage indicates a contradiction in terms. It's as if Hextall is nominally autonomous, but still feels the specters of the team president and chairman are forces which have to be regarded and appeased. It's also an indication that those higher in the chain extend benevolence without meddling, a sign of implicit trust -- something which has caused the club to find its way down the rabbit hole with moves like the triple free-agent signings of Streit, Emery and Lecavalier two Summers ago.

"I’ve been [able to do] from Day 1 what I felt was right for the program. Paul’s a great resource; Mr. Snider is a great resource. Obviously he’s my boss and I’ve talked to Paul a lot but in the end these are my decisions to make. Mr. Snider and Paul both said this right from the start a year ago and it’s truly been that way. They were both impressed with Dave from the first time they met and we all knew that this was our guy."

Does a GM with publicly-stated autonomy really need to run his decisions past his bosses if they talk about a policy of non-interference? It would be easier to digest if any one of the usual suspects, like the hotly-rumored Babcock, were brought into the fold as known quantities. Perhaps this time, with a selection Robert Frost might nod towards in approval, there was a necessary meeting and selling point which needed to be made.

In placing trust with Hakstol, Hextall's banking on a low-risk proposition, one which won't hurt his reputation if it doesn't work out. At the point where progressive thinking meets a traditional mindset, it's best that there's nothing much to lose.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Soul routs Tampa Bay

TAMPA – The Philadelphia Soul received an outstanding individual performance from Joe Goosby, while the entire Soul defense shut down the Tampa Bay Storm to cruise to an 71-27 victory in front of 13,421 fans at Amalie Motor Oil Field at Amalie Arena on Saturday night. 

The 44-point victory marked the worst loss in Tampa Bay’s 28-year team history.

“For a group of guys coming off a loss, battling through adversity – this team came out focused and won all three phases of the game tonight,” Soul head coach Clint Dolezel said.  “I couldn’t be prouder of these guys and really feel that we came together this week down here preparing for this game and it showed on the field.”

Goosby swept the postgame individual awards – Offensive Player, Playmaker and Defensive Player of the Game – the first time that has happened in team history since the expanded awards were given.

Ryan McDaniel led the Soul (8-1) receivers with seven catches for 61 yards and two touchdowns.  Shaun Kauleinamoku added five catches for 63 yards and one touchdown.  Marco Thomas had five receptions for 45 yards, while Lonnie Outlaw had four receptions for 85 yards and one touchdown.  Goosby, who pulled double duty as fullback and linebacker, added three rushing touchdowns for the Soul on offense.

Dan Raudabaugh finished the night completing 19-of-26 passes for 213 yards, three touchdowns and one interception.  In relief, Bryan Randall finished the game 4-of-6 passing for 57 yards and two touchdowns.  Tampa Bay’s Jason Boltus completed 12-of-30 passes for 133 yards, three touchdowns and three interceptions.

Goosby led the defense with 3.0 total tackles, a 6-yard interception for a touchdown, a blocked extra point returned for two-points and two forced fumbles.  Kent Richardson had 1.0 total tackle, a 10-yard interception for a touchdown and a fumble recovery, while James Romain had 4.0 total tackles and an interception. Bryan Robinson had two sacks for the night.

The Soul head to Atlantic City next to face the Las Vegas Outlaws in the DraftKings Boardwalk Bowl at 6 p.m. at the Boardwalk Hall on Saturday, May 30.  The game will be national televised on CBS Sports Network.

John McMullen talks PAT Rule Change on 97.3 ESPN FM

Friday, May 22, 2015

How the Flyers ruined my college graduation (and set me on the path as a pro)

Sleep deprived but satisfied, roughly 90 minutes after sunrise I drifted off to sleep in the comfort of my window-side bed in Rubenstein Hall, D62, on the morning of May 22, 2000.

In a few hours, I would drag myself out of bed, doff the ceremonial cap and gown, and slog through meaningless platitudes from acting Secretary of Something Tommy Thompson to emerge as a graduate of Boston College.

Once the fog subsided and the whirlwind of commencement speakers, individual honors, diploma reception, tearful goodbyes and complicated handshakes, clearing out the dorms and navigating the madness of the funereal line of cars snaking along the sole escape route ceased, I was ready for the inevitable.

The Philadelphia Flyers were going to beat the New Jersey Devils for the fourth time in five games, and gain a second berth in the Stanley Cup Finals in the last four seasons. They were closing out the Eastern Finals in front of a home crowd whose last impression of the Orange and Black was a come-from-behind 4-3 victory in Game 2 where their cascade of hats to celebrate a John LeClair trifecta was premature.

It would be magical, to finally witness the Red and Black Dragon slain after five long years.

'Round about the time Andy Delmore beat the Penguins with an overtime goal in Game 3 of the Eastern semis to save the Flyers from an impending state of wretchedness in the series, I came up with two brilliant ideas: to take the rest of the weekend off from studying for exams and visit a friend at Lafayette College, and to grow a "playoff beard" until the Flyers were eliminated.

Bear in mind, that college is that precious time in young adults' lives when new information falls into the categories of Wondrous Revelation or Utter Bullshit, with little gray area. Growing that postseason scruff, 18 days until graduation be damned, fell into the former category. So did any thoughts of losing three straight games after building up to 11 and needing only five more...

Did I deserve to exit Chestnut Hill with the best laid plans intact? I thought so. Six weeks earlier, my first foray into broadcasting ended with an emotionally-draining trip to Providence where BC lost to North Dakota in the NCAA hockey finals. My classmates (and future NHLers like Brian Gionta), who represented the hopes of a program on the upswing, disappointed thousands despite a valiant effort.

My school's team provided the ultimate letdown, so how could my hometown team do the same, needing only one stinking win? The Cup Finals were just the icing on the cake.

From the comfort of a hotel room just off the curved expanse of I-95 in the Western suburbs of Boston, the horror unfolded. The Devils played textbook smothering defense, the Flyers were spinning wheels all night, and Brian Boucher gave up three goals before the night was 22 minutes old. After an eventual 4-1 loss which I fell asleep on midway through the third period, the series headed up to New Jersey while I was headed back home to Philadelphia to begin a new life.

It was a long 7 hour ride, stewing silently as the rolling hills of the Poconos whizzed past. Just this one thing couldn't go right?!?!

Two nights later, Eric Lindros returned to the lineup after almost two months recovering from a Grade II concussion and the balanced attack which worked in Craig Ramsay's favor all postseason dried up. The ugly phenomenon reared its head and the rest of the club waited for their star to take over. Lindros came within tenths of a second of giving his team the lead at the second-period buzzer and he did score with 31 seconds left. Only problem there, Claude Lemieux and Alex Mogilny already put the Devils in the driver's seat on goals five minutes apart late in the third.

Philadelphia had already blown a 3-1 series lead in my lifetime, 12 years earlier against the Capitals. It's now been reduced to a single video clip, shown year after year, of Dale Hunter scoring in overtime, but when you're 10 years old, you get over things like that real quick. Back then, I used to use "thinking about hockey" as a go-to excuse for pulling B's and C's in school during the fourth quarter.

On the night of Game 7, Friday May 26, I was intoxicated and in Scranton. Both on purpose. A good friend of mine from high school was about to be extricated from the Jesuit university there, and I lent my support and last remaining cash for a weekend of celebration before his own walk into the real world.

Imagine if you will the flow of news without the internet, and without people 21-22 years old having cell phones attached at the ear. It was called patience -- and it was tested to the limit as my buddy, his Pittsburgh-native, Devils-fan girlfriend and I waited for a bus to take us downtown for the drunkening. Cut to the chase, it's 30 minutes later and we walk into the joint, this guy wired like a junkie knowing the game started and is an untold number of minutes along. It's dead quiet and half full, even with all available TVs on the game.

I ask the server why there wasn't a party atmosphere for an event of astronomical importance. She said, flatly, the Devils were already winning, and just before we walked in, there was a long break in the game because Lindros was hit by Scott Stevens and had to be carried off the ice. At that point, everything went white behind the eyes.

I remember pitchers upon pitchers of beer, and laughing, and trying to keep my eyes glued to the screen instead of hiding them in the palm of my hand. I don't remember Rick Tocchet's tying goal in the second period, and definitely don't remember how Patrik Elias scored the eventual dagger. All I recall was the feel, the feel of total silence and despair.

In trying to piece together what occurred when the night was over, it ended up feeling like that scene in The Simpsons when Homer dances around a May pole in a tutu intercut with slides which read "scene missing." Worse still, there were two more days to spend in Scranton.

Many years later, it became clear how the hockey gods operated. The Flyers couldn't get away with the Lindros concussion soap opera, a trade involving their second-line center and rumors of bedroom impropriety, a rookie goaltender who made a once-in-a-decade highlight-reel save, Craig Berube providing meaningful offense, a coach sidelined by cancer and have it all come out smelling like roses.

Did they have to go and blow it all up at once, in the span of four days?

In the end all the pictures from graduation day look terrible. Crooked smiles, dark circles around the eyes, and a scraggly proto-Amish-chinstrap deal that was in no way reminiscent of anything that can be called a beard. Regrets, I've had a few...
After sunrise, 5/22/00. Flyers up 3-1 on Devils. Author on left.

*        *        * 

In all seriousness, the events of the last full week of May, 2000 were the driving force in my conversion from a citizen fan into a cynical adult. That it was bracketed by my own graduation and that of a friend was merely coincidental.

Fifteen years ago, there was a clear division of labor: either you pursued a career in sports media through journalism and broadcasting and hoped to latch on somewhere at the bottom of the ladder in order to work your way through, or you took a job somewhere else and embarked on the adult version of the fan you grew to be.

For me, the timing was, for lack of any better word, serendipitous despite the terrible outcome. The Flyers wasting that three games to one lead and failing to make the Stanley Cup Finals, along with all the drama which shadowed the team's success to that point, represented a break in the social contract of franchise to this fan, as far as I was concerned.

Ed Snider dictated the Flyers would make the Finals in the first year in their new building -- which did happen thanks to the Legion of Doom and their cohorts, though, again, that loss in four straight to the Red Wings in 1997 was unpredictably unpleasant. Nonetheless, the events of '95 and '97 instilled hope and drew interest which didn't exist five years prior.

Bob Clarke had three years to try and re-stock for another run, but he destroyed the fabric of the top line with the Chris Gratton deal, then tore up the roster with 13 trades in 1998-99 then ultimately settled on depth with four solid lines and the twin behemoths of Eric Lindros and Keith Primeau at center. Problem was, Clarke waited too long to try and match the Devils' strategy, who embraced more of a dynamic style by 2000 compared to their trap-fueled Cup win five years before.

He shifted the coaching duties from laconic and overmatched Terry Murray to the befuddled Wayne Cashman to the stealth master Roger Neilson to an unemotional Ramsay and dared to question Neilson's sanity at one point when he wished to return to the bench following cancer treatments.

Those of us around then might fondly remember Snider's $50,000 outburst against what he perceived as biased officials following a first-round Game 6 season-ending home loss to the Maple Leafs in '99. What's pushed to the background is the Flyers -- Lindros or no -- failed to score a single goal in an elimination game and lost four one-goal games against a Toronto club which was completely offensive-minded that year.

The Summer of 2000 was filled with the toxic fallout of Lindros' concussion timeline and his announcement that he'd never play for the Flyers again, and a lot of ugliness was exposed on both sides to the point where a clean break -- if not from the daily rondo of discussion and arguments of who was right or wrong on either side, then from talking hockey altogether -- was desperately needed.

All of the endless shifting in personnel with the usual explanation of "doing what's best for the organ-eye-zation" was no longer cutting it. Hearing the same message no matter the disastrous result was a motivating factor in my own shift in perception regarding what the true goals of the club's power structure were. Over the ensuing years, nothing said in front of the cameras or done on the draft/trade/signing front shook me of that realization until Ron Hextall was hired as GM last Spring.

Within two days of that Game 5 loss, I began an internship with WIP. That first year in the real world, with Lindros holding out, life had no choice but to move on. I mined enough contacts to get a shot at broadcasting what is to date my first and only NHL contest, Flyers-Wild in March of 2001, and used that tape to get interviews in the minors.

After that one good opportunity to fly this coop -- a place with the Macon Whoopee in the CHL -- evaporated before my closing interview when the team was bought and elevated to the ECHL, I was forced to start over again. Four months later, I gained my first job in hockey as a stats assistant based in Reading. During the 2004-05 season, with the NHL dormant, I covered the AHL for the first time and the next season, made the leap to the Flyers and have kept a credential in some form or another since.

I've seen (and taken) plenty of opportunities to skewer the on-ice product and the men in charge over the years since, moreso than many others we read and whom draw more interest than I. The reward in that position is, nobody's seen fit to deny access due to anything I've said or written, because it was never borne of malice. I'd strongly suggest that tack to anyone who covers the NHL, anywhere, not to be blinded too much by that credential, and to think of game coverage anywhere in the chain more as a responsibility and less of wish fulfillment.

As Lester Bangs said to William Miller in Almost Famous, be honest and unmerciful. Truth is truth, and while it can be sweet, it is often harsh. I was lucky to learn at the right time in life, unprompted.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Former SJU softball player files federal law suit

More trouble ahead for the St. Joe's softball team, whose 2015 season was shut down midway through due to hazing allegations from a former player and now former student on Hawk Hill.

Reports emerged on Thursday that this same student has now filed a law suit in federal court in an attempt to get the university to answer her charges.

The Inquirer had a brief synopsis of the reasons for the suit, while Deadspin, to its credit, goes much deeper into the nature of the allegations and misconduct which precipitated the team's shutdown.

Union's C.J. Sapong cleared to return

Chester, Pa.  – Philadelphia Union forward C.J. Sapong has been cleared to return to play by MLS and has re-joined the Union for practice, the club announced Thursday.

He will be available to participate in game action - effective immediately. Sapong had been sidelined after being arrested in Philadelphia earlier this month and charged with reckless driving and driving under the influence.

“In compliance with MLS rules, C.J. has willingly participated in the necessary steps to get to this point,” Union technical director Chris Albright said. “We look forward to having C.J. back in the team and will continue to support him, as we're confident in his commitment both on and off the field.”

Sapong was acquired from Sporting Kansas City last December via trade. The forward has appeared in six games and started in three during the 2015 season. He scored the game-tying goal against NYCFC on April 16 at Yankee Stadium and assisted on Eric Ayuk´s goal against Columbus Crew SC.

Phils get back on winning track in Denver

Denver, CO -- Ryan Howard hit a solo home run among his three hits as the Philadelphia Phillies took down the Colorado Rockies 4-2 on Wednesday.

Severino Gonzalez (2-1) allowed a run on five hits in five innings. Gonzalez, who was making a spot start in place of the injured Chad Billingsley, threw 45 of his 65 pitches for strikes.

"He did a nice job. For a young kid, really handled the conditions well," said Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg.

Gonzalez did not allow a baserunner until the fourth inning, when Charlie Blackmon led off with a single to center. Blackmon stole second and scored on Carlos Gonzalez's RBI single, but that run only got the Rockies within 4-1.

Tuesday's hero Nick Hundley added a second run with an RBI groundout in the seventh inning. Then the back end of Philadelphia's bullpen did its job.

Ken Giles faced the minimum in the eighth inning and Jonathan Papelbon struck out two in the ninth to record his 11th save of the season in as many tries.

Philadelphia did all of its damage against Eddie Butler (2-5) in the first and third innings, pushing two runs across in each to account for its four runs.

Chase Utley and Howard hit consecutive two-out singles to extend the first inning for Maikel Franco, who grounded back to Butler and reached on his throwing error. Utley scored on that play, and Howard came around when Jeff Francoeur followed with a single to left.

"As crazy as it sounds, a play in the first inning, that was a pivotal play," Rockies manager Walt Weiss said of the error. "Even though it was the first inning, it was a big play."

Howard's solo homer to center in the third inning made it 3-0, and Odubel Herrera followed Francoeur's two-bagger with an RBI single to left.

Butler dropped his fourth straight start this month. He was charged with all four runs -- two earned -- on six hits in just three innings of work.

Notes: Philadelphia is 7-1 in its last eight games ... Earlier, the Rockies recalled outfielder Brandon Barnes from Triple-A Albuquerque and optioned outfielder Drew Stubbs to Albuquerque.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Undefeated super middleweight Antuwyan Aikens headlines boxing's return to Atlantic City

Atlantic City - Boxing returns to Atlantic City Friday when the Claridge hosts a 10-bout card headlined by
undefeated super bantamweight Juan "Baby Tito" Dominguez, and unbeaten super middleweight Antuwyan Aikens.

Dominguez will take on Mario Antonio Macias  in the eight-round main event while Aikens makes his return after a 13-month layoff to take on Edgar Perez in a six-round bout.

Aikens (9-0, 1 KO), an Atlantic City native, will be making his seventh appearance in his hometown.

"I had a good camp," he said.  "We weren't getting the right deals so we took the time off.  We reevaluated our career and wanted to see what direction we wanted to go in. We hope that this fight with King's Promotions will bring us better fights."

The veteran Perez has already squared off against 10 undefeated fighters and holds a win over previously undefeated Atlantic City-based light heavyweight Lavarn Harvell.

"I know that Perez is a brawler," Aikens said.  "I know he beat Harvell.  So for that I know it is a challenge and I look forward to that but I plan on giving him a boxing lesson."

Other fights scheduled are:

-Bryant Perella (11-0, 7 KOs) of Lehigh Acres, FL vs.  German Perez (11-1-3, 3 KOs) of Tijuana, MX in an eight-round welterweight bout.

-John Magda (9-0, 6 KOs) of Rutherford, NJ vs. Miguel Angel Manguia (31-32-1, 25 KOs) in an eight-round super middleweight bout.

-Gervonta Davis (10-0, 9 KOs) of Baltimore, MD vs. Alberta Mora (5-3, 1 KO) of Mexico City in an eight-round featherweight affair.

-Middleweight Caleb Hunter Plant (6-0, 5 KOs) of Ashland City, TN will fight an opponent to be named.

-Jamontay Clark (5-0, 3 KOs) of Cincinnati, OH vs. Jonathan Garcia (4-13, 1 KO) of Aguada, PR in a six-round welterweight clash.

-Jr. Welterweight Keenan Smith (6-0, 2 KOs of Philadelphia) vs. Luis Rodriguez (3-3, 2 KOs) of Carolina, PR in a six-rounder.

- Kareem Martin (4-0-1, 3 KOs) of Washington, D.C. vs. Marques Jackson (3-15, 2 KOs) of Atlanta, GA in a four-round welterweight battle.

-Pro debuting light heavyweight Carlos Gongora of Brooklyn, NY vs. Efigenio Perez (0-4) of Puerto Rico in a four-round affair.

Sixers get third pick in NBA Draft

Ohio State star D'Angelo Russell,
NEW YORK – D'Angelo Russell, come on down.

The Philadelphia 76ers were awarded the third overall pick in the 31st annual edition of the NBA Draft Lottery held Tuesday night, the second straight year Sam Hinkie's controversial "tanking plan" produced
the third overall selection.

Entering the lottery, the Sixers had a 15.59 percent chance of landing the third selection.

Minnesota, which had the best chance to land the top spot at 25 percent, did exactly that and will have its choice between big men Karl-Anthony Towns of Kentucky and Jahlil Okafor of Duke.

The Los Angeles Lakers leapfrogged both the New York Knicks as well as the Sixers to land the third spot and figure to take the loser of the Towns-Okafor debate in Minneapolis although it's at least conceivable that the Lakers could snare Russell, the Sixers perceived desire, before Sam Hinkie gets the chance.

In that case the SIxers would chose between another big man in Okafor, not a natural fit because of the presence of Joel Embiid and Nerlens Noel, or a much lesser prospect in guard Emmanuel Mudiay.

Los Angeles' good fortune further hurt the Sixers because if the Lakers pick had fallen outside the top-five, it would have been conveyed to Philadelphia as part of a prior trade. That pick now becomes top-three protected for the 2016 draft and likely will revert to Philly then because LA figures to be much improved next season.

Additionally Miami stayed at No. 10 in the Draft Lottery, meaning that selection also doesn't convey to the Sixers. Next year's Heat pick remains top-10 protected and becomes unprotected in 2017.

In addition, Philadelphia owns the protected rights to Oklahoma City's 2016 first round pick as well as the Sixers own first round pick, giving Hinkie as many as four first-round picks in the 2016 NBA Draft if the chips fall in the Sixers' direction.

This marks the fourth time Philadelphia has held the third overall pick.  Last year, the Sixers used the third overall selection on Embiid, who was the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year as a freshman for Kansas in 2013-14 but missed his entire rookie season due to injury.

The third overall pick has produced several marquee players over the years, including Nate Thurmond, Pete Maravich, Kevin McHale, Dominique Wilkins, Michael Jordan, Penny Hardaway and Grant Hill.  More recent third-pick alumni include Baron Davis, Pau Gasol, Carmelo Anthony, Deron Williams, Al Horford, James Harden and Bradley Beal.

The Sixers also own five second rounds picks heading into the upcoming draft: 35th, 37th, 47th, 58th and 60th. 

The 2015 NBA Draft will be held at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn on Thursday, June 25.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Nine Pennsylvania players tabbed for Army All-American Bowl

ROCKAWAY, N.J.  Nine of Pennsylvania’s top senior football players have been nominated to play in the 2016 U.S. Army All-American Bowl. Those nominated will have the chance to showcase their talents on Saturday, January 9, 2016, in the annual East vs. West match-up, televised live on NBC at 1:00 p.m. EST.
“The U.S. Army All-American Bowl is a unique event designed to showcase and recognize the talents of America’s youth while celebrating the team that makes a difference every day for the Nation – the U.S. Army,” said Mark S. Davis, deputy assistant secretary of the Army for marketing. “This nomination recognizes the versatility and adaptability the athletes possess both on and off the field; qualities they share with U.S. Army Soldiers. We look forward to the 2016 Army All-American Bowl program that includes more than 200 events across the country and culminates in San Antonio during game week.” 
A list of the nominees can be accessed at Below are the nine Pennsylvania nominees.
Last Name
First Name
High School Name
High School City
Downingtown East High School
William Penn Charter School
Central Catholic High School
Lake Lehman Senior High School
Council Rock North High School
Exeter High School
Aliquippa High School
Central Catholic High School
Imhotep Institute Charter High School

NBA Draft Lottery Primer

The 2015 NBA Draft Lottery will be held at the New York Hilton Midtown tonight. ESPN will televise the lottery beginning at approximately 8:05 p.m. ET. The order of selection for the top 14 picks will be unveiled starting at approximately 8:30 p.m. ET.

The 2015 NBA Draft will be held at Barclays Center in Brooklyn on Thursday, June 25 at 7 p.m. ET.


The lottery process will take place in a separate room just before the national broadcast. Select media members, NBA officials and representatives of the participating teams and the accounting firm of Ernst & Young will be in attendance for the drawing.

Fourteen ping-pong balls numbered 1 through 14 will be placed in a lottery machine. There are 1,001 possible combinations when four balls are drawn out of 14, without regard to their order of selection. Before the lottery, 1,000 of those 1,001 combinations will be assigned to the 14 participating lottery teams.

The team with the worst record (Minnesota) will be assigned the first 250 combinations and the best team in the lottery (Oklahoma City) will have five combinations out of 1,000.

All 14 balls are placed in the lottery machine and they are mixed for 20 seconds; then the first ball is removed. The remaining balls are mixed in the lottery machine for another 10 seconds, and then the second ball is drawn. This process continues for the third and fourth balls. The team assigned that combination will receive the No. 1 pick. The second and third picks are then decided using this same method with the ping-pong balls and lottery machine.


Each team will have one on-stage representative for the 2015 NBA Draft Lottery. Nerlens Nowl will represent the Sixers.

Since the present lottery format was instituted in 1994, the team with the best odds has won three of 21 lotteries: Philadelphia in 1996 (drafted Allen Iverson No. 1), Cleveland in 2003 (LeBron James) and Orlando in 2004 (Dwight Howard).

In the last 18 drawings, teams with the ninth-best chance of getting the top pick have won the lottery as often as teams with the best chance (twice apiece). The 2007-08 Bulls (who drafted Derrick Rose No. 1 in 2008) and the 2013-14 Cavaliers (Andrew Wiggins in 2014) both won the lottery after starting in the ninth slot.

The Cavaliers have won two consecutive lotteries and three of the last four, but they are not entered in this year's drawing after making the playoffs.

Every team has appeared in the draft lottery (based on their own performance) at least once since 2007 except the Spurs. San Antonio hasn't been in the lottery since 1997, when it got the No. 1 pick and drafted Tim Duncan.

The winningest lottery teams of all time have finished 48-34: the Warriors in 2007-08 and the Suns in 2013-14. 


The teams entered in the lottery are as follows. The first three picks in the draft will be determined by the lottery as described above and the remainder of the "lottery teams" will select in positions 4 through 14 in inverse order of their consolidated standings at the end of the regular season.

MIN 16-66 250 .250 .215 .178 .357 -
NYK 17-65 199 .199 .188 .171 .319 .123
PHL 18-64 156 .156 .157 .156 .226 .265
LAL 21-61 119 .119 .126 .133 .099 .351
ORL 25-57 88 .088 .097 .107 - .261
SAC 29-53 63 .063 .071 .081 - -
DEN 30-52 43 .043 .049 .058 - -
DET 32-50 28 .028 .033 .039 - -
CHA 33-49 17 .017 .020 .024 - -
MIA 37-45 11 .011 .013 .016 - -
IND 38-44 8 .008 .009 .012 - -
UTA 38-44 7 .007 .008 .010 - -
PHO 39-43 6 .006 .007 .009 - -
OKC 45-37 5 .005 .006 .007 - - 

Temple C Friend named to Rimington Watch List

NEW YORK - Temple center Kyle Friend was among 50 of the best centers in Division I football named to the Rimington Trophy Committee 2015 Spring Watch List.

Friend, who has started 33 consecutive games for the Owls including the last 28 at center, has made the list for the second straight year.

Last season Friend was named second team All-American Athletic Conference while anchoring a line that improved its sack total by 33 percent (21 sacks allowed after 32 the previous year). In fact, Temple quarterbacks were sacked just once per 19.2 pass attempts – the best mark in school history.

Friend (6-foot-2, 305) currently bench presses 225-pounds at 43 repetitions and runs the 40 in 4.95 seconds, according to the Temple athletic department. He is also a three time academic all-conference selection and holds a 3.35 GPA in business management.

Hakstol will need more than 'confidence' to navigate first NHL job

by Bob Herpen
Phanatic Hockey Editor 

Dave Hakstol appeared in front of the cameras and the gauntlet of media personalities for the first time as a National Hockey League head coach yesterday.

His fixed gaze, made with unflinching Nordic eyes and an angular face -- pointed out to be not unlike assistant coach Gord Murphy's -- carved out through more than a decade of guiding multiple rosters of potential NHL talent through harsh North Dakota winters, strongly suggested a man ready for the challenge.

Of course, that's the kind of visage you want for a man tasked to take over a major-market professional hockey franchise, and he passed that initial "eye test" audition. He had to do it up front, as Flyers GM Ron Hextall has now embarked on his biggest gamble yet in a position of power. R.J. Umberger, you're finally off the hook.

Once the gasps subsided and jaws were fully slack, Hextall came up with a gem to explain his selection of an untested 46-year-old Alberta native: "Every head coach in the NHL at some point is a rookie, right? Some come through the AHL, some come through juniors."

Believe it or not, Hakstol joins a long line of Flyers head coaches who had no prior NHL experience: Keith Allen. Vic Stasiuk. Fred Shero. Bob McCammon, Pat Quinn. Mike Keenan. Paul Holmgren. Bill Dineen (though he coached the Howes in the WHA). Craig Ransay. Bill Barber. John Stevens. Craig Berube. Some were given the appropriate time and tempered expectations to acclimatize, which is Hakstol's lot and that works in his favor.

Only four have come through American Division I college to the top level of competition in North America without further stops in the pros. Two -- Herb Brooks and Bob Johnson -- have etched their place in hockey history, while the third, Ned Harkness, is far less known. 

The key word most often spoken between Hextall and his new hire was "confidence."Hextall explained that the move felt right in his gut, while Hakstol spoke of his previous track record. Between the two of them and a resultant question, it was uttered a half-dozen times in itself and certain variants. Talk about a selling point.

Hakstol begins his journey on the best note possible -- that of being known, pursued, and finally locked up, believing he was no consolation prize. From Brad Schlossman of the Grand Forks Herald:  "Dave Hakstol twice turned down the Flyers job because he was unsure about leaving UND, but Hextall kept after the man he wanted."

After that? That's the great unknown. It's unfair and misleading to speculate so soon on how smoothly the transition will progress. The last head coach who jumped directly from American Division I to the NHL with any level of success was Johnson. As the name would suggest, "Badger Bob" guided the University of Wisconsin from 1966 through 1982, winning three NCAA championships, before his hiring by Calgary.

The Flames were a team in transition from Atlanta to Alberta and then from the tiny Calgary Corral into the expansive Saddledome, and Johnson was allowed to grow along with them. The end result was five straight second-place finishes in the Smythe Division, behind Edmonton each time, and one Stanley Cup Finals appearance -- a loss to the Canadiens in 1986. In the process, Johnson advocated for college talents like Mike Eaves, Colin Patterson, Neil Sheehy, Steve Bozek, Carey Wilson and Gary Suter then also gave European players such as Hakan Loob, Kari Eloranta chances to shine.

"One of the strongest points he has, is his ability to push his players, to get the most out of his players," Hextall continued.

In his transition from college to the pros, Hakstol must avoid the personality issues encountered by current Flames, but then-Avalanche head coach Bob Hartley, when he took over in 1998. Hartley, an abrasive Franco-Ontarian with runs of success in the QMJHL and AHL before taking the reins in Colorado at age 37, took multiple opportunities to make comments towards, and belittle veterans and rookies alike when he first started. He was essentially forced to lighten up, to let the players do their thing, and in 2001 it paid off with the franchise's second and last Cup.

If Berube served as the barometer for motivational technique, then it wasn't just Hakstol who could best accomplish that goal as the next Flyers head coach. Now that the former chief of the Fighting Sioux has been given the reins, what seems likely to carry over is that dedication to pushing players expected to win and expected to make a dent in the professional ranks year after year. You don't reach 11 straight national postseasons and make seven national semifinals with roster turnover every 2-3 years without knowing which buttons to push at the right time.

As Hextall stated: "I think they'll find out who's in charge pretty quickly."

But the quote which stood out most among Hakstol's comments on Monday more than any others should be one which concerns all who are looking for something new and exciting: "I believe in the things that I do and I'm not going to change that as I come to this level."

If we're talking about those abstract nouns like work ethic and attitude, we should expect nothing less on Day One. However, by its very nature, and due the paucity of the men who have been successful in transition, Hakstol is going to have to alter what he does, how he thinks and reconfigure his strategies to fit the make-up of this team and this league.

What will aid those changes best, is Hextall's wisdom in selecting assistants who have been around the NHL and will work on Hakstol to head off potential problems which may arise in personality or strategy. Speculation abounded that current Phantoms head coach Terry Murray could be elevated back into an assistantship, and Murray himself strongly hinted he wished to return to the NHL in a coaching capacity very soon. 

Barber, never a master tactician or eloquent in explanation, notoriously failed to change until the day before his final playoff game here; Berube never altered his fundamental approach despite repeated scrambling of the lines; Stevens' plan near the end was to substitute a single word from his offensive game plan.

Confidence in his abilities is an excellent foundation, avoiding the mistakes of his predecessors and adopting their successes is an attractive course. Recognition that working in the NHL is a different kind of learning process should be the metric in judging Hakstol's immediate success of failure as well as marking his own progress.

Union CEO apologizes to his fans

Union CEO Nick Sakiewicz
CHESTER, Pa - Philadelphia Union CEO Nick Sakiewicz released an open letter to his fans after the Sons of Ben's staged a "Union fans deserve better" rally before Sunday's win over D.C. United, the club's first in seven matches and second this season.

"We agree wholeheartedly with the Sons of Ben and we share the frustrations of all fans to the start of the season," Sakiewicz wrote. "We are committed to assisting (team manager) Jim Curtain and his staff in every way so we can get the team back on the right track."

Sakiewicz also confirmed that Rene Meulensteen's consultancy with the club would end this month and the search for a Head of Soccer Operations is ongoing.

"We have several ongoing conversations at the present time and we are working to get that person in place once we agree upon who we believe the best candidate is to help us achieve our goals," he said.

Currently the Union are near the bottom of the Eastern Conference table and were ranked 18th of 20 MLS teams in ESPN's most recent power poll.

"All of us here are committed to winning on the field," Sakiewicz penned. "Our ultimate goal is to bring a championship to you, the very best fans in Major League Soccer. We will continue to work tirelessly to achieve that goal and will never give up that top priority to get there."

Soul tweaks roster after first loss

New Soul WR Tyrone Goard
PHILADELPHIA – The Philadelphia Soul tweaked their roster a bit after suffering their first setback of the season in Jacksonville last Saturday.

Wide receiver Tyrone Goard, a 6-foot-4 Eastern Kentucky product who was recently released by the CFL's Winnipeg Blue Bombers was activated from the other-league-exempt list while WR Harvey Binford (6-0,  Lindenwood) was placed on recallable waivers and offesnive lineman Keith Newell (6-6, Delaware State) was moved to injured reserve.

Also the 7-1 Soul activated WR Lonnie Outlaw (6-6, Miles) from injured reserve and OL Daverin Geralds (6-2, Mississippi) from the refuse-to-report list. Finally fullback Tommy Taggart (6-3, Oklahoma) and defensive back Dwayne Hollis (5-10, NC Wesleyan) were added to the inactive reserve.

"This time of year, you will see teams make a couple of tweaks to the roster due to injury or situations," Soul head coach Clint Dolezel said.  "This is no different for us as we try to adjust to injuries and match-up with what we have in the upcoming weeks."

The Soul will face the Tampa Bay Storm on May 23 in Central Florida before returning home to take on the Las Vegas Outlaws (3-4) in the first ever Boardwalk Bowl at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, NJ.