Despite turmoil, no job concerns for 'Cuse coach

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Despite turmoil, no job concerns for 'Cuse coach

From Comcast SportsNetSYRACUSE, N.Y. (AP) -- After his Syracuse Orange had run away to another victory, men's basketball coach Jim Boeheim turned his focus to a far more important matter. Boeheim said Tuesday that "what happened on my watch" will be revealed once police complete their inquiry into child molestation accusations against his former longtime assistant. "I never worried about my job status in 36 years," Boeheim said at his first postgame news conference since Bernie Fine was fired Sunday. "I do my job. What happened on my watch, we will see. When the investigation is done, we will find out what happened on my watch." Advocates for sex abuse victims said Boeheim should resign or be fired for adamantly defending Fine and verbally disparaging two former Syracuse ball boys, two of the three men who have accused Fine of molesting them. "Based on what I knew at that time, there were three investigations and nothing was corroborated," Boeheim said. "That was the basis for me saying what I said. I said what I knew at the time." He said he didn't regret backing Fine when the allegations were first made public. "I've been with him for 36 years, known him for 48 years, went to school with him," Boeheim said. "I think you owe a debt of allegiance and gratitude for what he did for the program. That's what my reaction was. So be it." Fine has denied the allegations. Boeheim received a standing ovation when he walked onto the court that bears his name for the game against Eastern Michigan that the Orange won, 84-48. Boeheim said there's a misconception that he's bigger than the program because of his long tenure and great success. He has 863 career wins, fifth all-time in Division I. "If I was gone today, this program would be fine. This program would do great," he said. "Ten years from now, this program will do great. This is not Jim Boeheim. This is Syracuse University's basketball program. It is not about me. It never has been about me." Asked to comment on Boeheim's status earlier Tuesday, Syracuse University Chancellor Nancy Cantor said: "Coach Boeheim is our coach. ... We're very pleased with what he said Sunday night, and we stand by it." After initially saying Fine's first two accusers were lying to make money in the wake of the Penn State University child sex abuse scandal, Boeheim backed off those comments Sunday. "What is most important is that this matter be fully investigated and that anyone with information be supported to come forward so that the truth can be found," Boeheim said in a statement. "I deeply regret any statements I made that might have inhibited that from occurring or been insensitive to victims of abuse." One of the accusers, Bobby Davis, first contacted Syracuse police in 2002 regarding Fine, but there was no investigation because the statute of limitations had passed. Kevin Quinn, a Syracuse spokesman, said police did not inform the university of Davis' allegations then. On Tuesday, Syracuse Police Chief Frank Fowler said Dennis DuVal, a former SU basketball player who was police chief in 2002, knew of the allegations against Fine. Fowler said DuVal, who played for the Orange from 1972-74, was aware of Davis' accusations in 2002 that Fine sexually abused him. Because Davis said the abuse stopped 12 years earlier, Syracuse Det. Doug Fox told him the statute of limitations had passed, meaning an arrest was not possible. Fox advised his supervisor in the abused persons unit, but didn't file a formal report. The detective is still with the department, but not in the same unit. A phone message left with DuVal was not immediately returned. Fowler said Syracuse police will change their procedures moving forward. "I was not the chief in 2002 and I cannot change the procedures in place at that time or the way this matter was then handled," Fowler said in the statement. "But what I can and will do as chief today is ensure that moving forward all reports of sexual abuse are formally documented." On Nov. 17, Davis' allegations resurfaced. Davis, now 39, told ESPN that Fine molested him beginning in 1984 and that the sexual contact continued until he was around 27. A ball boy for six years, Davis said the abuse occurred at Fine's home, at Syracuse basketball facilities and on team road trips, including the 1987 Final Four. Davis' stepbrother, Mike Lang, 45, who also was a ball boy, told ESPN that Fine began molesting him while he was in the fifth or sixth grade. Boeheim said during his news conference that ball boys have never traveled with the team. A third accuser went public Sunday. Zach Tomaselli, who faces sexual assault charges in Maine involving a 14-year-old boy, said he told police last week that Fine molested him in 2002 in a Pittsburgh hotel room. Now the U.S. Attorney's Office and the U.S. Secret Service have taken the lead in the Fine investigation. Also Sunday, ESPN played an audiotape, obtained and recorded by Davis, of an October 2002 telephone conversation between him and Fine's wife, Laurie. ESPN said it hired a voice recognition expert to verify the voice on the tape and the network said it was determined to be that of Laurie Fine. During the call to the woman, Davis repeatedly asks her what she knew about the alleged molestation and she says she knew "everything that went on." On Tuesday night, Boeheim began his postgame news conference by reading a statement: "It's hard to put everything into words," Boeheim said. "I thought a lot today about different things. I'm saddened in many ways by what's unfolded, and I'm looking forward to a time when we can talk and learn from what has happened. "There is an important investigation going on, which I fully support, and I can't add anything to that by speaking more about that now," he said. "The investigation and all that we can learn from it is what is important." Before the game, some fans offered their support for Boeheim. "I feel sorry that he stuck up for a friend," said 40-year-old Mike Wong of Syracuse. "He was just sticking up for Bernie. He didn't understand the situation. I think the chancellor did the right thing." "It's sad," added 29-year-old Michael Knowles of Syracuse. "We've all stuck up for a friend and then realized we shouldn't have. He (Boeheim) didn't do anything wrong." Not everyone agrees. In the last home game against Colgate 10 days ago, Fine's customary seat was left vacant, and players tapped it as a symbolic gesture in support of Fine. On Tuesday night, there was no empty seat. And the Rev. Robert Hoatson, president of Road to Recovery, a group that supports victims of sexual abuse, was pushing for another empty seat. "We want to keep saying that Jim Boeheim should resign or be fired," Hoatson said.

No need for Cubs to overreact when best years should be in front of Kris Bryant and Addison Russell

No need for Cubs to overreact when best years should be in front of Kris Bryant and Addison Russell

There’s no need to overreact when the injuries pile up and the Cubs lose 6-of-7 games in June, because Kris Bryant and Addison Russell are still possibly years away from their best seasons in an organization loaded with young talent.
 
Bryant and Russell have been such integral parts since debuting in April 2015 that it's hard to remember they're still around three-to-five years away from their prime. They're also in a perfect situation to keep developing, not having to worry about carrying the weight of the franchise on their shoulders, the way Anthony Rizzo and Starlin Castro used to feel those responsibilities.
 
The pressure is spread out among a young core, a battle-tested group of veterans and a manager that loves the spotlight. All of that can help explain why each player has avoided the dreaded "sophomore slump" that sometimes plagues second-year players in the big leagues.
 
"Last year, I thought both of them fought through some really different moments their first year up," Joe Maddon said. "And that's what it's really all about. The sophomore slump, for me, is where the league adjusts to you, and then you adjust back to the league. That's the definition."
 
Bryant currently has an OPS that’s 19 points higher than his 2015 numbers, while Russell's OPS is 23 points higher entering play Monday, and both second-year players have seen major improvement in important areas.
 
Bryant led the league with 199 strikeouts last season, but has seen his strikeout percentage drop from 30.6 percent to 23 percent this season. He's on track for about 162 strikeouts in 2016.
 
Russell, meanwhile, has experienced just an incremental decrease in strikeout percentage (from 28.5 to 27.2 percent), but he has seen a nice jump in walk rate (from 8 percent in 2015 to 11.2 percent this season). Despite drawing only one free pass in his last eight games, Russell is on track for 68 walks, which would've ranked 12th in the National League overall last season and first among shortstops. 
 
"The guys that don't adjust back quickly enough really have an extended period of negative moments," Maddon said. "I think they learned a lot last year. They made a lot of adjustments. Both of them made swing adjustments last year. And that, I think, is permitting their success this year.
 
"Addison's propensity to get big hits is unbelievable, and now he's using the whole field. He's not chasing balls out of the strike zone. Those are the adjustments he had to learn how to do last year when he was going badly, and now he's doing them.
 
"They're both going to hit a bad stretch, there's no question. But I think they're better able to handle that based on their experience from last year."
 
Bryant has settled in as one of the premier offensive threats in the game by following up his 2015 campaign (26 homers, 99 RBI) with a pace for 39 homers and 112 RBI.
 
In spring training, he said he considered 2016 an extension of his rookie season, just with a three-month break off in between. But as the regular season hit, he took that sort of thinking to another gear.
 
"I feel a lot more focused this whole year," Bryant said. "I don't know why. I don't know if it's a whole other level or just extra determination or the fact that I know we have a good team and we really want to win.
 
"I just feel really good up there. I feel like I'm having some quality at-bats. I'm doing all I can to help. I'm in a good spot."
 
Russell, meanwhile, has developed a reputation as a clutch hitter, posting a .429 average, 1.237 OPS and 23 RBI in 54 plate appearances in high-leverage situations. 
 
He's taken his game to another level at the biggest moments, not something often said about a 22-year-old with only 210 big-league games under his belt.
 
"Just a slow heart beat," Maddon said. "If you talk to the kid any time, he's always 'suavecito.' There's nothing really hurried about him. He's just got a great way about him.
 
"Again, he's going to keep getting better. Everybody's liking it when he's doing good. I'm here to tell you: He's going to get better."
 
However, Russell also just went through one of those bad stretches at the end of May/beginning of June where he hit .161 with a .569 OPS through 18 games, striking out 23 times. He felt he had gotten too passive during that span.
 
When the St. Louis Cardinals swept the Cubs at Wrigley Field last week, Russell stared at strike three right down the middle during his first trip to the plate. He instantly made a mental adjustment to be more aggressive and responded with three straight hits to close out that first game.
 
"I've been feeling good," he said. "I've been seeing the ball well. Just taking an opportunity of swinging the bat at the right moment. I felt like early on in that game, watching two balls go by that I would normally do some damage with, I kind of took it hard and realized maybe I'm letting these pitches go too frequently. 
 
"I still feel more comfortable [overall this season]. It's just a daily grind, man. You're going to go through these funks. You're going to hit balls day-to-day that don't tend to fall. You normally don't want to change anything, so my approach is just to stay the same, and I want to take my walks as well."
 
The Cubs understand this is a long season filled with adversity, injuries and losing streaks. But if Bryant and Russell cannot be considered sophomores anymore, would their maturity and advanced approaches put them at a junior level?
 
"I think so. Favorite year in high school, by far," Maddon said. "You're totally free your junior year. SATs don't matter. PSATs are OK. I got my license, among other things. It was a really good time."

Cubs ace Jake Arrieta nominated for two ESPY Awards

Cubs ace Jake Arrieta nominated for two ESPY Awards

Jake Arrieta had a 2015 season for the ages, and was rewarded for it by winning the National League Cy Young Award, becoming the fifth player in Cubs history to accomplish that feat.

He's also been nominated for a pair of ESPY awards because of it: best breakthrough athlete and best MLB player.

After struggling to find his groove in four seasons with the Baltimore Orioles (20-25, 5.46 ERA), Arrieta turned it around in Chicago, particularly in 2015 when he erupted for a 22-6 record with a 1.77 ERA. 

The Cubs ace followed that up in 2016 by jumping out to a 9-0 start, and went nearly a calendar year without a loss.

He's also one of 26 pitchers in MLB history to have thrown more than one no-hitter, and did so 11 starts apart from each other.

The voting ends at 7 p.m. CT on July 13, when the ESPY Awards will take place. Cast your vote here.

Report: Pau Gasol tells Bulls he has declined option, becoming a free agent

Report: Pau Gasol tells Bulls he has declined option, becoming a free agent

It shouldn't be a surprise to anyone, but Pau Gasol is hitting the market.

Gasol told the Bulls that he has declined his option for the 2016-17 season and will become a free agent, according to ESPN's Marc Stein.

The 35-year-old signed a three-year, $22.3 million deal with the Bulls in the summer of 2014.

In two seasons with the Bulls, he averaged 17.6 points per game and 11.4 rebounds and made an All-Star appearance.