April 25, 2013

By KENNETH MILLER

Assistant Managing Editor

 

Mike Brown was sitting way up at the top of the Redondo Union High School gymnasium while his older son Elijah Brown was playing in a local high school all-star basketball game, but the former Lakers coach will soon be sitting front row as head coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers again.

Brown has been keeping a low profile since being canned by the Lakers after just five games into the season, but last Saturday following his son’s game, he managed to speak openly and candid about his one plus season with the Lakers.

Flashing his signature smile, Brown said that he didn’t feel the Lakers organization was in full support of him during his reign.

When told that I didn’t think the Lakers would hire a Black coach and was surprised to see that he accepted the job, Brown responded:

“I kind of thought about that. I felt they were going to pull out all of the stops to doing everything to win a championship, but that was not the case.”

During his first season, the strike-shortened season of 2010-2011, Brown didn’t have the benefit of training camp and with a roster that had Derek Fisher and Lamar Odom on the team.

Then one day in December, he was called into General manager Mitch Kupchak’s office.

“So, I go up there and he tells me that we just traded Lamar Odom! My mouth just dropped. He explained to me that it was for salary cap reasons, but nothing that he did after that justified anything to do with the salary cap,” Brown said.

Brown said that he wasn’t even consulted or asked what he thought before the trade went down.

“I mean, how can I not be told in advance of losing one of my primary pieces, a guy who was ‘Sixth Man of the Year?’”

Then in March, the Lakers traded Fisher to Houston for Jordan Hill.

Brown went on to lead the Lakers to the Pacific Division championship with a 41-25 record before being swept in the Western Conference semifinals by eventual NBA champion Dallas Mavericks.

He was under the impression that with a full off-season and a complete training camp, the addition of key acquisitions the Lakers would furnish him with a roster that could compete for an NBA championship.

The Lakers traded away young star center Andrew Bynum and got a bigger star in Dwight Howard, then added Steve Nash to go along with Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol.

Teams usually don’t put much stock into the preseason, but after the Lakers went winless, the pressure mounted on Brown.

Then the team under performed in the first five games of the season, but rarely if ever does a team terminate its coach so early in the campaign.

White coaches Mike Dunlap lasted the season after only winning 11 games with Charlotte. Dunlap was an assistant at St. Johns University and had no head coaching experience before he was hired.

Lawrence Frank won just 29 games in Detroit, but lasted the season before he was fired.

Brown’s former player LeBron James was miffed at the Lakers firing, but Mike Brown exited with class.

“Yea, it was rather shocking. I mean, I take a team without a training camp into the second round of the playoffs and then I’m gone.”

The Lakers have lost their cornerstone Bryant for the remainder of the playoffs and barely go in as a seventh seed playing sudden death the final weeks of the season.

Bryant logged more minutes than he has since his prime and went down with a torn Achilles tendon ruining any chance of the Lakers competing for the title under Brown’s replacement Mike D’Antoni.

“Could you imagine what they would have said if I was the coach with Kobe playing all of those minutes?”

We will never know, but you can just imagine…

Parent Category: News
Category: Sports

April 25, 2013

By KENNETH MILLER

Assistant Managing Editor

 

It is no longer a question of  ‘if’ but rather ‘when’ will one of America’s most treasured racetracks close its gates for good.

Racetrack employees have known since Bay Meadows Land Company purchased Hollywood Park from Church Hills Downs for $260 million in 2005 that their days were numbered.

Bay Meadows Land Company had previously purchased Northern California racetrack Bay Meadows and did to it what it plans on doing to the Inglewood racetrack.

At the time of the purchase, the company had only promised racing for three more years, which meant it should have already been history by now.

However, the recession of 2008 doomed any such land development plans as the housing market crashed, thus subsequently restricting Hollywood Park to schedule meet by meet.

The aggressive and unrealistic plan by Bay Meadows proposed to “transform” the 238-acre site at the corner of Century Blvd. and Prairie Ave. into a “new modern community.”

It would remove racing that has existed since 1938 and the casino that was built in 1994 and replace it with parks, a hotel, theatre complex and about 3,000 new town homes or condos.

Hailed as Hollywood Park Tomorrow, the project pledged to produce 19,000 jobs for Inglewood residents, make a $2 billion investment and a projected $40 million in tax increment.

In fact some of the land has already been sold to a group of developers called Inglewood Renaissance, the city of Inglewood has voted to approve the project and an environmental impact study has been conducted.

Advocates say the new project is exactly what residents want and need, but the growing lists of critics are skeptical. They say that Inglewood already has plenty of parks, nearby town homes in Carlton Square is losing tenants and not gaining them and a new bustling Century Blvd., which has a shopping complex with major retail outlets, fast food chains and restaurants.

In the meantime, the racetrack has been off the respirator and breathing on its own, although attendance remains under 10,000, the on track handle has increased and recently Los Angeles subsidiary Betfair, which is owned by TVG, signed a five –year deal for naming rights.

If Hollywood Park could talk to humans it would tell us about the glory years when Citation became the first millionaire and when jockeys like Laffit Pincay Jr. and the late Bill Shoemaker rode past the finish line to a roar of applause.

The homegrown freakish mare Zenyatta which never lost a race at the track and finished with career earnings of more than $5 million while becoming the first female horse to beat males in the Breeders Cup Classic.

Zenyatta was so popular that she created a new buzz during her improbable undefeated streak before she finally lost by a nose in her final Breeders Cup Race against males.

More than any other horse that ran at Hollywood Park, Zenyatta inspired a legion of new fans women and children to come to the racetrack and watch her spot the field some 18 to 20 lengths before she came roaring down the stretch, gobbling up her competition for the victory.

There are several similar stories, but one of my all time favorites’ horses was JO Tobin and I loved late track announcer Harry Henson, the steel courage of the rags to riches story of Lava Man.

Only World War II in 1942 managed to keep horseracing from being staged during a scheduled meet at Hollywood Park, but the Bay Meadows Land Company is doing its best to shut it down once and for all, it just won’t be April 25-July 14.

Parent Category: News
Category: Sports

April 18, 2013

By NOAH TRISTER (AP Sports Writer)

 

ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) -- Tim Hardaway Jr. is moving on to the next challenge, well aware that he'll still need to prove himself if he's going to follow his father's footsteps in the NBA.

''Everybody's going in there with the same mindset,'' Hardaway said. ''There's no leeway.''

Hardaway announced Wednesday that he'll forgo his senior season at Michigan and enter the NBA draft. He's the second Wolverine to declare early for this year's draft - national player of the year Trey Burke announced his departure Sunday.

Burke could be one of the top players taken, but Hardaway's status is less clear. The 6-foot-6 guard started all 107 games he played during his three-year career with the Wolverines, but he's projected as a second-round pick by DraftExpress.

Players can seek input from an NBA draft advisory committee before leaving school, but Hardaway said the final choice was one he had to make himself.

''This was my decision. It wasn't about the advisory committee, it was about my decision and what I wanted to do,'' Hardaway said. ''I obviously had input from my coaches and my father, but it was my decision and they were behind me 100 percent.''

Hardaway's father played in the NBA from 1989-2003. The younger Hardaway, who is 6 inches taller, averaged 14.5 points in his final season at Michigan, helping the Wolverines reach the Final Four for the first time since 1993. Michigan lost to Louisville in the championship game.

''Really happy for Tim today, because Tim has really wrestled with this decision for a while,'' coach John Beilein said. ''He's gained a lot of information - as you well know, pretty well connected to the NBA, understands the competitive level of the NBA, how hard you have to work.''

There's been no announcement yet on the futures of Mitch McGary and Glenn Robinson III, two talented freshmen who could also leave Michigan for the draft.

Hardaway made an immediate impact as a freshman at Michigan, and although his 3-point shooting dipped to 28.3 percent as a sophomore, it improved to a career-best 37.4 percent this season.

As a junior, Hardaway was something of an elder statesman on a team that relied heavily on him, sophomore Burke and several freshmen.

Now, Hardaway is eager to see where he stands at the professional level.

''You dream about this moment since you were a kid,'' Hardaway said. ''My dad and my coaching staff put me in the right position, and all this comes from my mom. My mom has done a great job of just keeping me level-headed, raising me the right way and making sure that I respect others.''

Parent Category: News
Category: Sports

April 25, 2013

Special to the NNPA from The Key Newsjournal

 

KENTUCKY – Black jockeys Kevin Krigger and Victor Lebron, both of St. Croix, US Virgin Islands will be the first Crucians to ever race in the Kentucky Derby. Krigger will ride Goldencents at the Derby and is ranked second and Lebron will be on Frak Attack and is ranked twenty-eighth.

When thoroughbred horse racing began, Black jockeys reigned supreme. From Oliver Lewis, the first Kentucky Derby winning jockey in 1875 to Isaac Murphy, who won three Kentucky Derby’s (1884, 1890, 1891) Black jockeys  were the sports heroes of the late 1800’s. It was 1902 when a Black jockey last won the Derby. That race was run by Jimmy Winkfield of Kentucky.

Many have predicted that Krigger could be the winner of the 2013 Kentucky Derby on May 4.

Earlier this month, Krigger won a total of four races during California’s Santa Anita meet. He became the first Black jockey to win the Santa Anita and did it riding Goldencents which is partially owned by former University of Kentucky Coach, now University of Louisville Basketball Men’s Basketball Coach Rick Pitino.

Kevin Krigger will be a guest on Key Conversations Radio Sunday, April 21st. Key Conversations Radio airs at 10 a.m. on WUKY-HD2. Listen online at www.wuky.org.

Parent Category: News
Category: Sports

April 18, 2013

By Kenya Vaughn

Special to the NNPA from the St. Louis American

 

If there were ever a true story that could hold the attention of an audience for nearly two hours without an intermission, it would be that of boxing icon-turned punch line-turned-professional entertainer Mike Tyson.

Since he became a pop culture phenomenon nearly 30 years ago, he has gone from the pinnacle to the pits and back again as the world watched. Last year he decided to give his side of the story in front of an audience – while forging a new career path outside of the ring. And Over the weekend Mike Tyson: Undis­puted Truth made its way to St. Louis for a one-night run at the Peabody Opera House.

Written by his wife Kiki Tyson and directed by Spike Lee, Tyson took the crowd – which obviously consisted mostly of diehard fans – on a journey that starts with his birth at a hospital in Brownsville, Brooklyn and a boxing career that began when he was barely a teenager.

Through his narrative, they learn the explicit details of what most of the audience already knew – that Tyson was forced to grow up harsh, and in a hurry.

What they may not have known – or expected – is that Tyson is able to look back at most of his experiences and laugh now that the lessons have finally soaked in.

Mike Tyson: Undisputed Truth was filled with profanity and styled in the likes of urban comedy circuit bits that use laughter as medicine for real-life pain. Not even his birth certificate was safe as he pondered who the man whose last name he bears – a man who Tyson says is by no means his father.

At its best moments the production is charming and forges an even deeper connection with the audience that curiously waited to see what Tyson would expose during his portrayal of himself as his own past and present.

He shamelessly turned the punch lines around on himself and others ­forever tied to Tyson’s tumultuous cautionary tale – like Robin Givens, her mother and former boyfriend Brad Pitt, Don King and his accuser Desiree Washington. And he fearlessly embraced unlikely elements of the show – including choreographed moments that ranged from ballet, to booty popping and roundhouse kicks – one couldn’t help but root for Tyson as he appeared to have come full circle from the raging boxing machine he was once believed to be.

The show was not without its weak links, however. Most notably was Tyson’s inability to slow down and lean into the story he was telling. Plenty of moments within the play felt rushed and stumbled over as Tyson struggled to fight distraction – and nerves – throughout the performance.

Another shortcoming of the show was the story itself. What could have been a streamlined transcendence from tragedy to triumph was poorly transitioned and disproportionate with respect to the ostentatious elements of Tyson’s life experiences.

For example, an after-hours street brawl with mouthy fighter Mitch Green was given more attention to detail than the moment in which Tyson became the youngest heavyweight champion in the history of boxing.

His run ins with the law, short stay in a mental hospital and his rehab visit were giving higher billing than the spiritual enlightenment and life makeover that would ultimately give him the strength and courage to publicly combat his demons on stage – and learn not to take himself too seriously.

A more balanced approach to his experiences that showcase his personal growth – would have been a welcomed addition, and more accurate portrayal of Tyson’s truth.

But even in the monologues lopsided with humor at Tyson’s expense, viewers were at least exposed to his dedication to upholding the legacy of his mentor and father figure Cus D’Amato, and honoring his family (and the memory of his mother, sister and daughter Exodus) by way of his choices in the next phase of his life.

Parent Category: News
Category: Sports

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