Penn St. report on Sandusky due out Thursday

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Penn St. report on Sandusky due out Thursday

From Comcast SportsNet
STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) -- The team brought in by Penn State to investigate how the university handled molestation accusations against former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky will release its highly anticipated report Thursday, with the school's reputation and future direction hanging in the balance. The university trustees who paid for the probe, led by former FBI agent and federal judge Louis Freeh, will pore through it Thursday to see what it says about university employees, recommendations for policy changes and even their own knowledge about rumors Sandusky had abused children on campus. Penn State alumni, college football fans and the family of Sandusky's former boss Joe Paterno will look to see if it sheds new light on Paterno's actions, particularly after a graduate assistant complained to him in 2001 about Sandusky showering in a team locker room with a boy. School administrators Gary Schultz and Tim Curley, awaiting trial on charges they lied to the Sandusky grand jury and didn't properly report child abuse, will find out whether Freeh's investigators uncovered anything that might help -- or hurt -- their criminal defense. And former Penn State president Graham Spanier, who has not been charged with any crime, could discover whether emails or other records disclose more about his role. Lawyers for the young men who testified against Sandusky, and others planning civil lawsuits, will be reading the report closely for what it might mean regarding litigation. "I'm going to be looking for what we believe will be full and complete disclosure," said Harrisburg lawyer Ben Andreozzi, who represents the young man described as Victim 4 in court records. "It's going to be convenient for the university to release certain information but to hold back on some of the details concerning potential information that could expose them to liability." Andreozzi said he also represents four other young men and is evaluating their potential civil claims related to the Sandusky scandal. In announcing that the report will go online at 9 a.m. Thursday, Freeh took pains to say no one outside his team will get copies beforehand, including the trustees. Investigators will hold a news conference that morning in Philadelphia. That day, trustees will start a two-day meeting in Scranton where they can respond to the report. A spokesman for the trustees said Wednesday the board held an informational conference call Thursday night, hours after Freeh announced the timing of the report's release. David La Torre declined to discuss the call further when asked to confirm an ESPN report the trustees discussed how they would respond to the report. "I think we'll find that this thing revolves so tightly around coach Paterno, and I would hope the Freeh report is much broader than that and addresses the university as a whole -- and how this culture was handled or mishandled correctly -- and comes to some closure on that," trustee Ryan McCombie said Tuesday. "The people who loved Joe Paterno will still love him when this is over," McCombie said. "The people who disliked him may feel they have ammunition to continue to dislike him." Paterno died of cancer in January, but his family issued a statement late Tuesday saying leaks have made them question the fairness of the Freeh group's process. They defended the Hall of Fame coach, saying he did not know Sandusky was a child molester and did not prevent a proper investigation. Sandusky, 68, was convicted of 45 counts of child sexual abuse last month and awaits sentencing. Prosecutors described how Sandusky culled the most vulnerable children from his charity for at-risk youth and used gifts and his access to Penn State facilities to abuse them over a 15-year span. The Paterno family took aim at a February 2001 email by Curley, recently reported by CNN, saying he had a change of heart about reporting the shower incident to authorities after speaking with Paterno. Penn State has disclosed that Freeh's probe turned up emails among top officials that have been given to prosecutors. "When the facts come out, it will be clear that Joe Paterno never gave Tim Curley any instructions to protect Sandusky or limit any investigation of his actions," the Paterno family's statement read. Spanier's lawyers on Tuesday broke a months-long silence to deny suggestions that he participated in a cover-up with the image of Penn State and its powerful and lucrative football program at stake. They said Spanier was never informed that Sandusky may have been abusing children. "At no time in the more than 16 years of his presidency at Penn State was Dr. Spanier told of an incident involving Jerry Sandusky that described child abuse, sexual misconduct or criminality of any kind, and he reiterated that during his interview with Louis Freeh and his colleagues," said attorneys Peter Vaira and Elizabeth Ainslie. Spanier's comments last week to the Freeh group echoed his testimony before a state grand jury that neither Curley nor Schultz informed him of the sexual nature of what graduate assistant Mike McQueary saw. CNN reported an email showed Spanier was "supportive" of a decision by Curley and Schultz not to report the incident. Spanier warned, however, that they might "become vulnerable for not having reported it," CNN said. Spanier's lawyers said the emails were "distorting the public record and creating a false picture." Both Spanier and Paterno were ousted by school trustees a few days after Sandusky's arrest in November. Michael Boni, who represents the young man called Victim 1, who testified against Sandusky, said the Freeh report will "help inform" the direction of civil litigation. "Maybe what's been leaked out is most of it, I have no idea," he said. "I certainly hope not." Tom Kline, an attorney for Victim 5, said he is particularly interested in the circumstances surrounding Sandusky's retirement in 1999, a year after a woman triggered a university police investigation by complaining Sandusky had showered with her son. Sandusky was not charged at the time, but was convicted of charges related to that incident last month. "We already know that Penn State knew enough by February of 2001 to have stopped Sandusky dead in his tracks, which would have prevented the assault on my client six months later," Kline said. Lawyers for Curley and Schultz, meanwhile, are expected to participate in a closed-door conference call on Wednesday afternoon with the attorney general's office and Judge Todd Hoover, who is presiding over their case in Harrisburg. Curley, on leave as athletic director, and Schultz, retired as vice president for business and finance, could learn when they will stand trial. Freeh and his team of lawyers and former law enforcement officials interviewed more than 400 people, asking questions that went beyond Sandusky and the child sex-abuse scandal and into the relationship between football program and the university administration. Freeh said in November that he would not interfere with the state's criminal probe but promised to conduct his review in "a thorough, fair, comprehensive manner, leaving no stone unturned, and without any fear or favor." In January, trustees adopted interim recommendations from Freeh, including changes to policies for programs involving minors, reporting of allegations of abuse; and athletic department security. The NCAA is reviewing how Penn State exerted "institutional control" in relation to the Sandusky matter, and whether university officials complied with policies that pertain to honesty and ethical conduct. The NCAA could open a more formal investigation that may expose Penn State to sanctions.

The consummate pro: How Taj Gibson has become the Bulls' version of Udonis Haslem

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USA TODAY

The consummate pro: How Taj Gibson has become the Bulls' version of Udonis Haslem

The 2011 Eastern Conference Finals between the Bulls and Miami Heat featured three future Hall of Famers in LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. Derrick Rose had been named the youngest league MVP in league history weeks earlier. Luol Deng was blossoming and would earn All-Star nods in each of the following two seasons. $82 million man Carlos Boozer had averaged 17.5 points and 9.6 rebounds in his first season with the Bulls. The series was loaded with star power.

But buried deep in that series was a matchup of unsung reserves that influenced the series far greater than their numbers in the box score indicated. Udonis Haslem averaged just 4.6 points and 4.6 rebounds in 22 minutes in the series – the Heat won in five games – but his impact was felt nonetheless, in part because of the physicality he brought against an energetic second-year forward named Taj Gibson.

“When we played them in the Eastern Conference Finals, Gibson had an incredible impact on that series, and (Haslem) was just coming back from an injury,” Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra said before Saturday’s tilt between the Bulls and Heat. “And we thought that was probably the missing component in that series early on, was having a player like UD to match up against (Gibson). And that really helped us close that series.”

Five years later Haslem is on the final leg of his NBA career. He’s only appeared sparingly in seven games for the Heat in this his 14th NBA season. But the two-time NBA champion has had a lasting impact on the Heat organization – so much so that they allowed him to miss Friday’s game to attend his son’s state-title football game in Florida – and has etched himself in Heat lore, despite never averaging more than 12 points or nine rebounds in a season.

It’s not unlike the career path Gibson has taken in his eight seasons in Chicago. The now-31-year-old Gibson has spent the majority of his career playing behind the likes of Carlos Boozer, Pau Gasol and Joakim Noah. And while he’s been an integral part of the Bulls’ rotation since joining the team in 2009, his role has never matched his ability or production. It’s why Haslem said he sees so much of himself in Gibson, an unselfish, care-free teammate, yet also someone who is willing to work every day despite the lack of accolades.

“Taj plays hard, man. He’s a guy that gets all the dirty work done. The banging down in the paint, he knocks down that 15-footer, (he) rebounds,” Haslem told CSNChicago.com. “A lot of similarities to myself when I was a little younger. Like you said, unsung. Doesn’t look for any attention, doesn’t look for any glory. Just goes out there, is professional, and does his job every night.”

And in his eighth NBA season, Gibson has done his job every night incredibly well. Through 23 games he’s posted career-best numbers in field goal percentage, rebounds, assists and steals, and isn’t far off in points and blocks per game. His 16.9 PER would be a career-high.

He’s done all this with little real estate in the spotlight. Jimmy Butler has cemented himself as a legitimate MVP candidate, and free-agent acquisitions Dwyane Wade and Rajon Rondo have earned headlines.

But Gibson has been as reliable and consistent a frontcourt player as the Bulls have – he’s one of three players to have appeared in all 23 games this season – and he’s playing some of his best basketball while the Bulls are mired in a mini-slump.

“He’s a rock for us on this team,” Fred Hoiberg said. “He’s going to go out and do his job. He’s never going to complain about his role. He’s going to put on his hard hat and make the little plays that may not show up in the box score, but help you win.”

Including Gibson’s 13-point, seven-rebound effort in Saturday’s win over the Heat, he’s averaging 12.6 points on 58 percent shooting and 7.3 rebounds in the Bulls’ last 11 games. He’s corralled 16 offensive rebounds in that span – including two on Saturday that he put back for layups – and is the main reason the Bulls entered as the league’s top offensive rebounding team in the league (and second in total rebound percentage). The Bulls are also nearly six points per 100 possessions better defensively with Gibson on the floor.

Gibson’s and Haslem’s career numbers are eerily similar – Gibson has averaged 9.3 points on 49 percent shooting and 6.4 rebounds, compared to Haslem’s 7.9 points on 49 percent shooting and 7.0 rebounds, with this year excluded. And both players accomplished their numbers while acting as the third scoring option, at best, on their respective teams. Wade, who spent 13 seasons with Haslem, also sees similarities in the two forward’s games and personalities.

“Taj does his job. He doesn’t try to do too much. Some nights he’s featured a lot. Some nights he’s not. He’s out there to do his job, wants to win,” he said. “(Haslem and Gibson) are very similar. He has that mentality where he’s a workhorse and he’s going to do whatever it takes.”

Added Spoelstra: “Incredible amount of similar qualities. In my mind both those guys are winning players and have all the intangibles and toughness. Doing the little things, the dirty work, both those guys embody all those qualities. We’ve always respected Gibson because of that.”

Gibson is third on the Bulls in field goal attempts per game, the first time in his career he’s been higher than fifth in that category. The Bulls are using him more than ever before, and it’s paying off. He's in the final year of his four-year contract with the Bulls, and is looking at a significant pay raise in free agency this coming summer. Whether his future is in Chicago or elsewhere, don’t expect him to change his persona or mentality anytime soon. Much like Haslem did for years in Miami, Gibson has defined being a consummate professional, teammate and player.

“When you’re on championship teams, competing for a championship, trying to go deep in the playoffs, trying to do special things, guys are doing to have to sacrifice their game. Everybody can’t play big minutes; everybody can’t take the shots,” he said after the Bulls’ win over the Cavs on Thursday. “I’m one of the guys that sacrificed my game for the good of the team. Whatever the coach wants me to do, I’m going to go out and do (it).

“If a coach wants me to set 100 screens and not take a shot, I’m gonna do that because I’m about helping the team. And that’s what I’ve been doing all these years. As long as I’m out there enjoying myself, having fun and playing with great teammates, I’m blessed.”

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USA TODAY

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