Kelly's growth leads Notre Dame down championship path

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Kelly's growth leads Notre Dame down championship path

The Associated Press named Brian Kelly its 2012 Coach of the Year Wednesday, completing a trifecta of major honors for the third-year Notre Dame coach. Kelly had already won the Home Depot Coach of the Year (ESPNABC) and Eddie Robinson Award (FWAA), earning recognition for Notre Dame's 12-0 season.

"When you're talking about the coach of the year, there's so many things that go into it," Kelly said Wednesday. "I know it's an individual award and it goes to one guy, but the feelings that I get from it is you're building the right staff, that you've got the right players and to me that is a validation of the program, that you put together the right business plan."

That business plan involved successfully growing with a quarterback who played a grand total of zero snaps at the collegiate level before he led Notre Dame on to the field in Dublin for the team's season opener. It involved Kelly, whose rise through the ranks was built on offense, fostering one of the nation's best defenses along with right-hand man Bob Diaco.

More importantly, it involved Kelly cultivating a trust with his players that didn't necessarily exist in his first two years.

"The first couple years I had to set a bar and a standard and an operation of the way we wanted things done on a daytoday basis. Sometimes that means that you got to be hard on some guys," Kelly said last month. "This third year was a year where you knew our guys knew exactly what was expected, and it allowed me to spend more time with my players and build those relationships that are so important to having great morale."

Gone are Kelly's purple-faced outbursts directed at players and foot-in-the-mouth comments that were sprinkled across a disappointing 2011 season. Those rubbed some players the wrong way -- Manti Te'o admitted that his relationship with Kelly was a little rough in the beginning.

"It was bumpy at first, but now it's great," Te'o said after Notre Dame beat USC in November. "I'm happy to have him as my coach. He's the best coach in college football."

Kelly navigated a minefield in September, coming out of the benching, insertion, benching, insertion and benching of a popular veteran with a 4-0 record and the support of his team. Those personal relationships and trust Kelly built likely paid off during the Tommy ReesEverett Golson saga that was the season's first month.

"I think the job tends to distract you," Kelly explained Monday. "There are a lot of things that pull you away from the primary reason why you want to be head coach of Notre Dame, and that is graduate your players and play for a national championship.

"Now, to do that you have to have the pulse of your football team and you've got to have relationships with your players. If you're already going around the country doing other things other than working with your football team, it's hard to have the pulse of your team."

Kelly made an effort to do more himself instead of delegating certain messages for assistants to direct to players. He loosened up a bit, too, allowing music to blare over the loudspeakers during portions of preseason practice.

Notre Dame doesn't achieve its success without players buying what Kelly was selling. That wasn't always the case -- look no further than the Pittsburgh game, after which T.J. Jones admitted some figured they could play their 'B' game and still win -- but in a 12-0 season, any other examples are the product of picking nits.

Big picture, few coaches are able to successfully implement a system as soon as they set foot on campus. Nick Saban went 6-6 in his first year at Alabama, while Lou Holtz went 5-6 and 8-4 in his first two years in South Bend. Getting over that hump isn't easy, but Kelly did that in 2012 -- and it's resulted in a BCS Championship berth.

"My development as the head coach at Notre Dame this year has been about getting back to why you would want to coach college players," Kelly said. "You want to learn about them, you want to know their strengths and weaknesses, you want to help them with leadership skills,. you want to help them when they're not feeling confident in their ability.

"For me, that is why it's been the most enjoyable year as the head coach at Notre Dame, is that I got a chance to spend more time with my team."

TOMBOY: CSN's Siera Santos

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TOMBOY: CSN's Siera Santos

What experience had the biggest impact on your life and career in sports and why?

I’m often asked why I chose to be in sports broadcasting and the answer is not exactly brief. Most people aren’t familiar with my backstory. While I prefer to tell it face-to-face, here it is in a nutshell: Throughout high school, I had a lot of “problems” (that’s the gentle way of putting it). I didn’t graduate and instead got my GED while I was in a treatment center in Utah. That summer when I returned home to Arizona, I needed a healthy distraction and, although I had always been a casual Arizona Diamondbacks and Phoenix Suns fan, I started watching games every day and reading the sports section with my dad over our morning cup of coffee. When the NBA season started, I begged my dad for season tickets. This was the Nash/Stoudemire/Marion Era and tickets were incredibly expensive. While we didn’t get season tickets that year, we went to several regular season and playoff games. Next season rolled around and, once again, I pleaded with my dad to get us season tickets. He finally broke down and bought a half-season package. We went to nearly every other game. I knew at that point that I wanted to go to games for the rest of my life. I enrolled in community college for the spring with my heart set on getting a degree in broadcast journalism. Not only did Suns games change the course of my future, it also repaired my relationship with my dad.

Who’s had the biggest impact and why?  

It’s difficult to single out one person. Obviously my parents' unwavering support got me where I am today. If I had to name someone who is currently a mentor-figure in my life, it would definitely be Jesse Sanchez from MLB Network. He always checks in to make sure I’m OK (in both my career and personal life) and he’s given me invaluable feedback and advice. There aren’t many Latinos working in sports media at national level and he encourages me to embrace who I am.

What are some of the funniest moments you’ve experienced as a woman in sports?

When I tell people I’m a sports broadcaster, the immediate follow-up question tends to be: “Oh, so you like sports?” It’s tough to not respond with something sarcastic so I usually say, “Nope! I hate them!” I just don’t think it’s a question that you would ask a man in sports broadcasting. 

What was the most negative moment you’ve experienced? The one that got you fired up or perhaps made you think about quitting.

Overall, most of my interactions are very positive and the majority of athletes are professionals. But I did have an issue with one player who was unbelievably disrespectful. He had been inappropriate on two previous occasions and I dreaded having to crowd around his locker to do interviews with him after games. I stopped asking him questions and after one of the scrums, he said: “If you’re not going to ask any questions, move your ass to the back.” My cameraman was still rolling and the mic was still hot. It was caught on video. Eventually, the issue was resolved with the support of my superiors. However, the entire ordeal was embarrassing and made my job more difficult.

Have you had any teachable moments? i.e. someone made an ignorant comment, but had no idea you were offended – until you said something?

Double-checking the pronunciation of names that I’m not familiar with has been a priority. If you slip-up on a name, viewers will crucify you. Most male broadcasters will be forgiven for a mispronunciation, but it’s not necessarily the same for women.

Any awkward moments?  

Whenever an athlete crosses the line and tries to be flirtatious or ask for a date. It doesn’t happen as often as you’d think, but it’s still uncomfortable. 

What are you most proud of?

I’m often asked “Well, what’s next?” The truth is, I’m very happy with where I am. My end goal was to be a team reporter for a regional sports network and that’s exactly what I’m doing. I live in an amazing city and I love what I do. After I dropped out of high school, I never thought I would make it this far, much less graduate college. I’m incredibly grateful to be here and I’m proud of where I am.

A lot of girls look up to you and aspire to be on TV covering sports...What is the most important message you want to send to them?

Be someone that people enjoy working with and being around. Always be open to feedback. Don’t be afraid to ask questions if you’re not 100% sure. Oh, and don’t post anything on social media that you wouldn’t want your grandma to see.

Carson Fulmer to start for White Sox in exhibition opener

Carson Fulmer to start for White Sox in exhibition opener

GLENDALE, Ariz. — The White Sox have lined up their first three starting pitchers of the spring starting with Carson Fulmer on Saturday afternoon.

The team's 2015 first-round draft pick received the nod as the White Sox open their exhibition schedule against the Los Angeles Dodgers on Saturday at 2:05 p.m. CST. 

Jose Quintana pitches Sunday at home against the Colorado Rockies while Lucas Giolito is set to start at the Cubs on Monday. Fulmer — who went 0-2 with an 8.49 ERA in 11 2/3 innings in 2016 — likened the start to pitching against the Dodgers in a night game last spring in front of a sellout crowd at Camelback Ranch.

"I'm definitely honored," Fulmer said. "It's great. I feel like the coaching staff here stresses that in order to be a good player, you have to put yourself in situations that you are uncomfortable with. I'm not saying I'm uncomfortable with it but it was definitely a unique situation where I can go out there and help us win. So, spring training and the season, our goal is to win and I feel like with the coaching staff putting us young guys in that situation, I think it's going to benefit us."

[RELATED: White Sox not overly concerned about Todd Frazier's injury]

Fulmer is also excited to face his counterpart Saturday, Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw. 

"That's awesome," Fulmer said. "I've been watching him pitch since I was a little kid. I'm definitely pumped to see him out there. It's going to be awesome. 

"He's one of the best pitchers in baseball. I mean, he's a pitcher that you look up to and for me, it's going to be awesome. I hopefully can keep the scorecard or something."

The White Sox also announced Friday they have signed 25 players to one-year contracts, including Fulmer. Carlos Rodon's one-year deal for $600,000 is the highest of the bunch.