Broncos Gallop Past Chargers

By Rose Street

DENVER (AP/UTC The Loop) — Wes Welker isn’t looking back at his unhappy homecoming in Foxborough in November or his six seasons with Tom Brady in New England as he prepares for the Patriots’ visit to Denver next Sunday.

“It’s the AFC championship game, there’s going to be plenty of juice,” Welker said after catching a touchdown pass from Peyton Manning in Denver’s 24-17 win over the San Diego Chargers on Sunday.

Welker had six receptions in his return from a concussion that had sidelined him for a month, and he wore an oversized safety helmet that drew comparisons to Dark Helmet from “Spaceballs” and The Great Gazoo from the Flintstones.

“I’ve been practicing with it the last few weeks, so I got used to it,” Welker said. “It does kind of look like the Jetsons out there.”

Welker’s return helped the Broncos flip their time-of-possession deficit against the Chargers, who had held the ball for more than 38 minutes in both of their regular season meetings, including a 27-20 win in Denver in December.

The Broncos (14-3) will host the Patriots (13-4), who beat them 34-31 in overtime on Nov. 24 in New England.

Welker was trying to make a fair catch of a punt in the wind but didn’t call off his blockers in time and the ball hit teammate Tony Carter. The Patriots recovered and kicked the game-winning field goal.

The Patriots beat Indianapolis 43-22 to advance to their third straight conference championship. The Broncos are back for the first time in eight years.

Five things that helped the Broncos avoid another Mile High meltdown like their crushing loss to Baltimore in last year’s playoffs:

THIRD-DOWN THEATRICS: The last time these teams played, the Chargers converted 6 of 12 third downs and controlled the clock for 38 minutes while the Broncos sorely missed Welker and were just 2 for 9 on third downs.

This time, Denver was 9 for 13 — the 69 percent the highest of any team in this year’s postseason — and the Chargers were just 4 of 12.

The Broncos’ biggest conversions were the three they had on their final drive, including a 21-yard catch by Julius Thomas on third-and-17 from their own 20, which allowed them to salt away the win. That’s something they weren’t able to do in their crushing 38-35 loss in double-overtime to the Ravens exactly a year earlier.

“I felt like that game last year forced us to address those types of situations all season long,” Manning said. “We’ve worked on it in training camp, we’ve worked on it in the season. … It was nice that all that hard work paid off for us.”

MANNING’S MAGIC: Manning drew five different defenders into committing neutral zone infractions with a cadence that had the Chargers flustered.

“They were doing a hard count, but that’s not an excuse for us jumping offside,” San Diego linebacker Melvin Ingram said. “We need to be more disciplined than that.”

“Yeah, that’s giving a very good quarterback a lot of freebies,” Chargers coach Mike McCoy said.

The penalties helped Manning give the Broncos a 17-0 lead on his way to snapping a personal three-game losing streak in the postseason, where he improved to 10-11 with his first win since leading Indianapolis over the Jets 30-17 in the AFC championship game on Jan. 24, 2010.

GRIND IT OUT: All four teams that are still alive in the playoffs can thank their ground games. Knowshon Moreno gained 82 yards on 23 carries and Montee Ball added 52 yards on 10 runs. This, after the Broncos managed just 18 yards on 11 carries against the Chargers in their loss to San Diego last month.

“It was just working out so well for us today that we wanted to stick with it,” Thomas said. “Our running backs did a great job of running the ball and earning tough yards.”

SLOW-STARTING CHARGERS: The Broncos shut down Philip Rivers until cornerback Chris Harris Jr., who played more snaps than any of Denver’s defenders during the regular season, went out with knee and ankle injuries early in the second half.

Rivers finally found the end zone with a 16-yard toss to Keenan Allen early in the fourth quarter, then found him again for a 49-yard gain on fourth-and-5 from his own 25-yard line with seven minutes left and the Chargers trailing 24-7.

The Broncos held on, but mostly because Manning & Co. kept Rivers on the sideline after the Chargers cut the lead to 24-17.

“I know one thing: we can’t be complacent where we are,” Champ Bailey said. “We have to be a much better team because we have a much better quarterback and team coming in here next week.”

SPECIAL TEAMS: The Broncos overcame some big blunders on special teams. Eric Decker, who also flubbed a fourth-quarter onside kick that San Diego recovered, tripped at the 30-yard line on what would have been a 77-yard punt return touchdown.

“I guess it was just that invisible fence again that got me,” said Decker, who tripped over the 45-yard line on his way to an 85-yard score against San Diego last season. “Got a little excited, tripped myself and wish I could have that play back.”

Trindon Holliday’s 105-yard kickoff return for a touchdown was negated by Omar Bolden’s block in the back on a defender that wasn’t going to make the play.

Holliday, however, secured the pooch kick with 3:51 left that led to Denver’s game-sealing drive.

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AP Sports Writer Pat Graham contributed.

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AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org

Follow AP Pro Football Writer Arnie Melendrez Stapleton on Twitter: http://twitter.com/arniestapleton

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Latest Trends from Fashion Week in Milan

By: Kelli Findlay

MILAN (AP/UTC The Loop) -MILAN (AP) — Italian fashion trumpeted its roots during the third day of Milan Fashion Week on Monday.

Milan designers emphasized what they do best, showing off tailored silhouettes, highlighting advanced textiles that elevate the looks and putting the spotlight on the artisanal work behind their exclusive wares.

Etro, the Milan-based fashion house famed for its paisley prints, went one step further, parading out the men and women who create their garments at a factory in the southern region of Apulia to the strains of local folk music.

The focus on Made in Italy provides an antidote to recent moves by foreign conglomerates to snatch up some of Italy’s prized family-run companies, many in the throes of generational change and seeking to secure their futures.

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GUCCI

Gucci’s mod mariner cuts a boxy figure in loose-fitting short jackets and generous sweatshirts paired with slim trousers and solidly soled shoes. The peacoat that anchors the collection sports a rich, knotty texture achieved by working a traditional Tuscan fabric with neoprene.

Creative director Frida Giannini’s palate of dusty pastels creates a mood of a just-calmed storm and lends smoky contrast to the perfect black that permeates the collection.

Ready to set sail, the Gucci mariner tucks an oversized duffel or folded shopper with bamboo handles under his arm, dons his seafarer’s cap, in cloth or leather with a smart leather braid around the crow, and sets off, un-squinting, into the sunrise behind his round Gucci sunglasses.

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EMPORIO ARMANI

Italy’s fashion titan Giorgio Armani’s Emporio Armani menswear collection for next fall and winter stood out for its use of soft fabrics so lustrous they almost seemed lit from within.

From first to last, the collection was a masterful compendium of modern good taste. Armani made his name with the artfully deconstructed men’s jacket, and the narrow silhouette at Emporio looked fresh. Slim pants ended at the ankle over chunky oxfords. Jackets were tight, with three or four buttons, and had small, high collars.

The somewhat prim vibe of the jackets was counteracted by the quiet but deep luxury of fabrics. Fur was everywhere, either peeking out of hoods in flashes, or sleekly fashioned into soft overcoats and jackets. There also were sweaters with fake fur inserts, while wool was worked to look like astrakhan.

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ETRO

Etro put its Made in Italy ethos in evidence by sending its tailors and seamstresses down the runway alongside models wearing their creations.

So a pattern-cutter named Flavio Cardilla marched down the catwalk to lively Italian folk music alongside a model wearing a closely fitted hound’s-tooth suit, one of the many artisans joining in the parade.

“This show is dedicated to our tailors,” said Kean Etro, who designs the menswear collection. “After all, we’re together day in, day out.”

The fashion house that has made paisley a way of life devised this collection out of a jangle of contrasting checks and plaids. The silhouette was slim and tight, layered with waistcoats and topped with a wildly printed paisley wool scarf for a look that is pure 21st-century dandy. Briefcases and suitcases in matching patterns completed the look.

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49ers Crabtree Brings New Element to Seahawks Rematch

By Jake Chapman

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (Ap/UTC The Loop) — Michael Crabtree only had three catches for 26 yards in San Francisco’s 23-10 NFC divisional playoff win over the Carolina Panthers on Sunday.

His numbers, however, hardly told the whole story of his contribution.

The 49ers (14-4) made it seven straight wins since Crabtree returned from a torn Achilles on Dec. 1.

Anquan Boldin said Crabtree was one of the reasons he was able to spring free and catch eight passes for 136 yards, saying the Panthers turned their attention to double-covering Crabtree after his big game the previous week in a wild-card win at Green Bay.

“I guess they thought they were going to try and take Crab out of the game,” Boldin said. “That’s the good part about our offense — we have weapons all around. Try and take one guy out, we still have two, three guys left who can make big plays.”

The Panthers did a number on the 49ers in the last meeting.

They limited Kaepernick to 91 yards passing, 16 yards rushing and sacked him six times in a 10-9 win over the 49ers on Nov. 10.

But that was without Crabtree.

“It makes me very comfortable,” Kaepernick said of having his full complement of receivers. “It opens the offense up. It spreads the defense out and they can’t just key in on one player.”

All that stands in the way of the 49ers returning to the Super Bowl is beating the Seahawks in Seattle next Sunday.

That’s no easy task.

Seattle beat the 49ers 29-3 this season, although that was without Crabtree in the lineup.

“Honestly we know it’s going to be a fight,” linebacker Patrick Willis said. “Any way you look at it Seattle is a good football team. They won our division this year. Hopefully we can have a great week of practice and go up there and win the game that counts the most. We look forward to it. We are embracing it.”

Five things we learned from San Francisco’s 23-10 win over Carolina:

EXPERIENCE MATTERS: The 49ers have been to the playoffs before and it showed.

The 49ers kept their composure while the Panthers struggled with mental errors. Carolina was penalized eight times for 73 yards including two unnecessary roughness penalties and an unsportsmanlike conduct.

In all the 49ers picked up five first downs on Carolina penalties.

“Guys played smart,” Boldin said. “We played right up to the edge. In these games, you don’t want to hurt your team. That’s the thing you don’t want to do. You saw guys out there taking swings at guys. That’s just stupid.”

Said Panthers coach Ron Rivera: “We have to learn and understand (that) we have to maintain our composure — and that falls on me.”

OFFICIATING QUESTIONED: Several Panthers expressed concern over the officiating in Sunday’s game.

Safety Mike Mitchel took exception to a couple of calls, including the officials’ decision to penalize teammate Captain Munnerlyn for head-butting Crabtree in the first half, but not throwing a flag when Boldin did the same thing to him later on.

“I mean, it’s just ridiculous. A couple of things that weren’t called the same way,” Mitchell said. “I made a good play taking his legs out and he’s gets up in my face and head butts me, which is the same exact thing that you saw Captain Munnerlyn do. … I mean, it was the exact same play. One team gets the call, another team doesn’t.”

Mitchell also disputed an unnecessary roughness penalty called on him when he hit Vernon Davis after a tipped pass. That penalty, like the one on Munnerlyn, led to San Francisco field goals.

STEVE SMITH IS TOUGH: We knew this, of course, but Steve Smith is one tough guy.

The Panthers 34-year-old receiver battled back from a sprained knee ligament and had four catches for 74 yards and a touchdown despite not being close to 100 percent.

49ERS CAN RUN IT TOO: They aren’t the New England Patriots, but the 49ers proved again they can run the football in the playoffs. Frank Gore ran for 84 yards on 17 carries and San Francisco racked up 126 yards against the league’s second-ranked defense.

HARBAUGH CAN COACH: Jim Harbaugh continues to make the right calls in the postseason. Harbaugh became the first NFL coach since the AFL-NFL merger to lead his team to the conference championship game in each of his first three seasons as a coach.

Even though Harbaugh ran on the field during a play to argue a call and cost his team 15 yards, his players said they have his back.

“He’s passionate,” Kaepernick said. “I can’t be mad at him for trying to get a call and trying to get things right. He’s a great coach to play for.”

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AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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49ers Strike Gold in Win Against Panthers

By Andrew Carney

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP/UTC The Loop) — Michael Crabtree only had three catches for 26 yards in San Francisco’s 23-10 NFC divisional playoff win over the Carolina Panthers on Sunday.

His numbers, however, hardly told the whole story of his contribution.

The 49ers (14-4) made it seven straight wins since Crabtree returned from a torn Achilles on Dec. 1.

Anquan Boldin said Crabtree was one of the reasons he was able to spring free and catch eight passes for 136 yards, saying the Panthers turned their attention to double-covering Crabtree after his big game the previous week in a wild-card win at Green Bay.

“I guess they thought they were going to try and take Crab out of the game,” Boldin said. “That’s the good part about our offense — we have weapons all around. Try and take one guy out, we still have two, three guys left who can make big plays.”

The Panthers did a number on the 49ers in the last meeting.

They limited Kaepernick to 91 yards passing, 16 yards rushing and sacked him six times in a 10-9 win over the 49ers on Nov. 10.

But that was without Crabtree.

“It makes me very comfortable,” Kaepernick said of having his full complement of receivers. “It opens the offense up. It spreads the defense out and they can’t just key in on one player.”

All that stands in the way of the 49ers returning to the Super Bowl is beating the Seahawks in Seattle next Sunday.

That’s no easy task.

Seattle beat the 49ers 29-3 this season, although that was without Crabtree in the lineup.

“Honestly we know it’s going to be a fight,” linebacker Patrick Willis said. “Any way you look at it Seattle is a good football team. They won our division this year. Hopefully we can have a great week of practice and go up there and win the game that counts the most. We look forward to it. We are embracing it.”

Five things we learned from San Francisco’s 23-10 win over Carolina:

EXPERIENCE MATTERS: The 49ers have been to the playoffs before and it showed.

The 49ers kept their composure while the Panthers struggled with mental errors. Carolina was penalized eight times for 73 yards including two unnecessary roughness penalties and an unsportsmanlike conduct.

In all the 49ers picked up five first downs on Carolina penalties.

“Guys played smart,” Boldin said. “We played right up to the edge. In these games, you don’t want to hurt your team. That’s the thing you don’t want to do. You saw guys out there taking swings at guys. That’s just stupid.”

Said Panthers coach Ron Rivera: “We have to learn and understand (that) we have to maintain our composure — and that falls on me.”

OFFICIATING QUESTIONED: Several Panthers expressed concern over the officiating in Sunday’s game.

Safety Mike Mitchel took exception to a couple of calls, including the officials’ decision to penalize teammate Captain Munnerlyn for head-butting Crabtree in the first half, but not throwing a flag when Boldin did the same thing to him later on.

“I mean, it’s just ridiculous. A couple of things that weren’t called the same way,” Mitchell said. “I made a good play taking his legs out and he’s gets up in my face and head butts me, which is the same exact thing that you saw Captain Munnerlyn do. … I mean, it was the exact same play. One team gets the call, another team doesn’t.”

Mitchell also disputed an unnecessary roughness penalty called on him when he hit Vernon Davis after a tipped pass. That penalty, like the one on Munnerlyn, led to San Francisco field goals.

STEVE SMITH IS TOUGH: We knew this, of course, but Steve Smith is one tough guy.

The Panthers 34-year-old receiver battled back from a sprained knee ligament and had four catches for 74 yards and a touchdown despite not being close to 100 percent.

49ERS CAN RUN IT TOO: They aren’t the New England Patriots, but the 49ers proved again they can run the football in the playoffs. Frank Gore ran for 84 yards on 17 carries and San Francisco racked up 126 yards against the league’s second-ranked defense.

HARBAUGH CAN COACH: Jim Harbaugh continues to make the right calls in the postseason. Harbaugh became the first NFL coach since the AFL-NFL merger to lead his team to the conference championship game in each of his first three seasons as a coach.

Even though Harbaugh ran on the field during a play to argue a call and cost his team 15 yards, his players said they have his back.

“He’s passionate,” Kaepernick said. “I can’t be mad at him for trying to get a call and trying to get things right. He’s a great coach to play for.”

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AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org

 

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Rodman Is singing The Blues

By: Sid Sadler

BEIJING (AP/UTC The Loop) — Former basketball star Dennis Rodman apologized on Monday for not being able to help an American missionary detained in North Korea while he played there to celebrate the birthday of his friend and leader Kim Jong Un.

“I’m sorry, I’m sorry I couldn’t do anything,” Rodman told media on his arrival at Beijing airport from a weeklong trip. “It’s not my fault. I’m sorry. I just want to do some good stuff, that’s all I want to do.”

He said he would return to North Korea next month, but gave no details.

Rodman and the squad of retired NBA players he took to North Korea for an exhibition game marking Kim’s birthday have met with criticism in the U.S. because of North Korea’s human rights record and its development of nuclear weapons.

Acknowledging the controversy surrounding the trip, one of the players, Charles D. Smith, said Rodman ”opened the door and he did some missteps along the way.”

In an interview in Beijing, Smith said Rodman’s singing of “Happy Birthday” to Kim before the exhibition game at a Pyongyang stadium was something that he alone had decided to do. “I think that it might not have been the right thing to do, but he did it … if it was done in private it would be different, but when it’s done in the open like that, people are going to have opinions.”

During the trip, Rodman was also slammed for not using his influence with Kim to help free Kenneth Bae, the missionary in poor health who has been detained for more than a year for “anti-state crimes.” Rodman apologized last week for comments he made in a CNN interview implying Bae was at fault, saying he had been drinking and was upset because some of his teammates were under pressure to leave.

Smith said the controversy surrounding Bae was a “bad situation” that “overshadowed some of the things that we were doing.”

“Dennis is not a member of the State Department, he is not a member of the U.N.,” Smith said. “For them to put the flag in his hands and say go and negotiate and talk about it, he probably would have made it worse, you know.”

He said North Korean officials had invited the team back “at any given time.”

On Monday, Rodman reiterated that his trip was one of goodwill.

“This is not a bad deal,” he said. “I want to show people that no matter what’s going on in the world, for one day, just one day, no politics, not all that stuff.

“I’m sorry for all the people and what’s going on, I’m sorry,” he continued. “I’m not the president, I’m not an ambassador, I’m just an individual that wants to show the world the fact that we can actually get along and be happy for one day.”

Rodman and Kim struck up a friendship when the basketball-player-turned-celebrity first traveled to the secretive state last year.

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Associated Press writer Louise Watt contributed to this report.

 

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

 

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Rodman Apologizes…. Again

By Mike Andrews

BEIJING (AP/UTC The Loop) — Former basketball star Dennis Rodman apologized on Monday for not being able to help an American missionary detained in North Korea during his trip there to play in a game to celebrate the birthday of his friend and leader Kim Jong Un.

“I’m sorry, I’m sorry I couldn’t do anything,” Rodman told media on his arrival at Beijing airport from a weeklong trip. “It’s not my fault. I’m sorry. I just want to do some good stuff, that’s all I want to do.”

He said he would return to North Korea next month, but gave no details.

Rodman and the squad of retired NBA players he took to North Korea for an exhibition game marking Kim’s birthday have met with criticism in the U.S. because of North Korea’s human rights record and its development of nuclear weapons.

Rodman was also slammed for not using his influence with Kim to help free Kenneth Bae, the missionary in poor health who has been detained for more than a year for “anti-state crimes.” Rodman apologized last week for comments he made in a CNN interview implying Bae was at fault, saying he had been drinking and was upset because some of his teammates were leaving under pressure.

On Monday, Rodman reiterated that his trip — in which he sang “Happy Birthday” to Kim before playing the exhibition game at a Pyongyang stadium — was one of goodwill.

“This is not a bad deal,” he said. “I want to show people that no matter what’s going on in the world, for one day, just one day, no politics, not all that stuff.

“I’m sorry for all the people and what’s going on, I’m sorry,” he continued. “I’m not the president, I’m not an ambassador, I’m just an individual that wants to show the world the fact that we can actually get along and be happy for one day.”

Rodman and Kim struck up a friendship when the basketball-player-turned-celebrity first traveled to the secretive state last year.

 

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Big Mike Mic Describes A City Without Tears

By Tia Kalmon

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (UTC/The Loop) – Gangs and crime are a problem for Chattanooga, but one local rapper is trying to stop the violence through his organization, City Without Tears.

This organization was founded by Michael Kelly a year and a half ago. It now consists of a documentary, music video, a six-song EP album and a poem.

This is the postcard for City Without Tears.

This is the postcard for City Without Tears.

“I want to bring awareness, awareness of the numbness for the violence and injustice that’s been going on in the community and how people need to self-reflect,” Kelly said. “Actually the song in the project came from me actually self-reflecting and seeing what I can do, because I knew a lot of things had been going on and I didn’t want to be one of those people that was saying ‘that’s what you should do,’ or just being someone who talked. Since I’m an artist, music is so powerful, words just came out and that was the birth of City Without Tears.”

He wants this to be on the biggest scale possible, raising $20,000 to give back to the community to stop the violence. Kelly wants to take City Without Tears into the community to meet people, to make an impression on them, and to change the statistics to stop the crime.

“What drives me is the shape of the community and my own insecurities and ways that I want to be better because I’m not where I want to be as an individual,” Kelly said.

Kelly began City Without Tears when he saw loved ones in his life disappear because of violence in the city. It hit close to home for Kelly and now he has found inspiration in the mist of danger.

“Life is about your own journey and what you find in yourself and what you were put on this earth to do, to find your purpose,” Kelly said. “That’s a journey through ups and downs. It’s hard sometimes but I feel like that’s what inspires me so my music is real personal.”

Kelly goes by Big Mike Mic when he performs. Big Mike Mic performed at the Barking Legs Theater Friday, February 28th. He began his performance by making a juice out of only organic products, because he wanted to give the audience “an organic performance.”

Big Mike Mic performing at the Barking Legs Theater March 1.

Big Mike Mic performing at the Barking Legs Theater March 1.

“Everything is like an infection, if you don’t do something it’s going to get bigger and bigger,” Brian Kelly, Manager for Big Mike Mic, said. “And why be reactive when we can be more proactive.”

If you would like to donate to City Without Tears you can visit Kickstarter.com and search “City Without Tears.” For more information you can e-mail Brian Kelley at bdotkelly@gmail.com or call, 423-903-4293.

Check out the video of the interview with Big Mike Mic uploaded to the Mocs News YouTube page!

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Lakers Buss Dies

 

By: Chris Awuah

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Jerry Buss, the Los Angeles Lakers’ playboy owner who shepherded the NBA team to 10 championships from the Showtime dynasty of the 1980s to the Kobe Bryant era, died Monday. He was 80.

He died at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, said Bob Steiner, his assistant.

Buss had been hospitalized for most of the past 18 months while undergoing cancer treatment, but the immediate cause of death was kidney failure, Steiner said. With his condition worsening in recent weeks, several prominent former Lakers visited Buss to say goodbye.

“The NBA has lost a visionary owner whose influence on our league is incalculable and will be felt for decades to come,” NBA Commissioner David Stern said. “More importantly, we have lost a dear and valued friend.”

Under Buss’ leadership since 1979, the Lakers became Southern California’s most beloved sports franchise and a worldwide extension of Hollywood glamour. Buss acquired, nurtured and befriended a staggering array of talented players and basketball minds during his Hall of Fame tenure, from Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to Bryant, Shaquille O’Neal and Dwight Howard.

“He was a great man and an incredible friend,” Johnson tweeted.

Few owners in sports history can approach Buss’ accomplishments with the Lakers, who made the NBA finals 16 times during his nearly 34 years in charge, winning 10 titles between 1980 and 2010. With 1,786 victories, the Lakers easily are the NBA’s winningest franchise since he bought the club, which is now run largely by Jim Buss and Jeanie Buss, two of his six children.

“We not only have lost our cherished father, but a beloved man of our community and a person respected by the world basketball community,” the Buss family said in a statement issued by the Lakers.

“It was our father’s often-stated desire and expectation that the Lakers remain in the Buss family. The Lakers have been our lives as well, and we will honor his wish and do everything in our power to continue his unparalleled legacy.”

Buss always referred to the Lakers as his extended family, and his players rewarded his fanlike excitement with devotion, friendship and two hands full of championship rings. Working with front-office executives Jerry West, Bill Sharman and Mitch Kupchak, Buss spent lavishly to win his titles despite lacking a huge personal fortune, often running the NBA’s highest payroll while also paying high-profile coaches Pat Riley and Phil Jackson.

Always an innovative businessman, Buss paid for the Lakers through both their wild success and his own groundbreaking moves to raise revenue. He co-founded a basic-cable sports television network and sold the naming rights to the Forum at times when both now-standard strategies were unusual, further justifying his induction to the Pro Basketball Hall of Fame in 2010.

Buss was a “cornerstone of the Los Angeles sports community and his name will always be synonymous with his beloved Lakers,” Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said. “It was through his stewardship that the Lakers brought ‘Showtime’ basketball and numerous championship rings to this great city. Today we mourn the loss and celebrate the life of a man who helped shape the modern landscape of sports in L.A.”

Johnson and fellow Hall of Famers Abdul-Jabbar and Worthy formed lifelong bonds with Buss during the Lakers’ run to five titles in nine years in the 1980s, when the Lakers earned a reputation as basketball’s most exciting team with their flamboyant Showtime style.

The buzz extended throughout the Forum, where Buss used the Laker Girls, a brass band and promotions to keep Los Angeles fans interested in all four quarters of their games. Courtside seats, priced at $15 when he bought the Lakers, became the hottest tickets in Hollywood — and they still are, with fixture Jack Nicholson and many other celebrities attending every home game.

Worthy tweeted that Buss was “not only the greatest sports owner, but a true friend & just a really cool guy. Loved him dearly.”

After a rough stretch of the 1990s for the Lakers, Jackson led O’Neal and Bryant to a three-peat from 2000-02, rekindling the Lakers’ mystique, before Bryant and Pau Gasol won two more titles under Jackson in 2009 and 2010. The Lakers have struggled mightily during their current season despite adding Howard and Steve Nash, and could miss the playoffs for just the third time since Buss bought the franchise.

“Today is a very sad day for all the Lakers and basketball,” Gasol tweeted. “All my support and condolences to the Buss family. Rest in peace Dr. Buss.”

Although Buss gained fame and fortune with the Lakers, he also was a scholar, Renaissance man and bon vivant who epitomized California cool his entire public life.

Buss rarely appeared in public without at least one attractive, much younger woman on his arm at USC football games, high-stakes poker tournaments, hundreds of boxing matches promoted by Buss at the Forum — and, of course, Lakers games from his private box at Staples Center, which was built under his watch. In failing health recently, Buss hadn’t attended a Lakers game this season.

Buss earned a Ph.D. in chemistry at age 24 and had careers in aerospace and real estate development before getting into sports. With money from his real-estate ventures and a good bit of creative accounting, Buss bought the then-struggling Lakers, the NHL’s Los Angeles Kings and both clubs’ arena — the Forum — from Jack Kent Cooke in a $67.5 million deal that was the largest sports transaction in history at the time.

Last month, Forbes estimated the Lakers were worth $1 billion, second most in the NBA.

Buss also helped change televised sports by co-founding the Prime Ticket network in 1985, receiving a star on Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2006 for his work in television. Breaking the contemporary model of subscription services for televised sports, Buss’ Prime Ticket put beloved broadcaster Chick Hearn and the Lakers’ home games on basic cable.

Buss also sold the naming rights to the Forum in 1988 to Great Western Savings & Loan — another deal that was ahead of its time.

Born in Salt Lake City, Gerald Hatten Buss was raised in poverty in Wyoming before improving his life through education. He also grew to love basketball, describing himself as an “overly competitive but underly endowed player.”

After graduating from the University of Wyoming, Buss attended USC for graduate school. He became a chemistry professor and worked as a chemist for the Bureau of Mines before carving out a path to wealth and sports prominence.

The former mathematician’s fortune grew out of a $1,000 real-estate investment in a West Los Angeles apartment building with partner Frank Mariani, an aerospace engineer and co-worker.

Heavily leveraging his fortune and various real-estate holdings, Buss purchased Cooke’s entire Los Angeles sports empire in 1979, including a 13,000-acre ranch in Kern County. Buss cited his love of basketball as the motivation for his purchase, and he immediately worked to transform the Lakers — who had won just one NBA title since moving west from Minneapolis in 1960 — into a star-powered endeavor befitting Hollywood.

“One of the first things I tried to do when I bought the team was to make it an identification for this city, like Motown in Detroit,” he told the Los Angeles Times in 2008. “I try to keep that identification alive. I’m a real Angeleno. I want us to be part of the community.”

Buss’ plans immediately worked: Johnson, Abdul-Jabbar and coach Paul Westhead led the Lakers to the 1980 title. Johnson’s ball-handling wizardry and Abdul-Jabbar’s smooth inside game made for an attractive style of play evoking Hollywood flair and West Coast sophistication.

Riley, the former broadcaster who fit the L.A. image perfectly with his slick-backed hair and good looks, was surprisingly promoted by Buss early in the 1981-82 season after West declined to co-coach the team. Riley became one of the best coaches in NBA history, leading the Lakers to four straight NBA finals and four titles, with Worthy, Michael Cooper, Byron Scott and A.C. Green playing major roles.

Overall, the Lakers made the finals nine times in Buss’ first 12 seasons while rekindling the NBA’s best rivalry with the Boston Celtics, and Buss basked in the worldwide celebrity he received from his team’s achievements. His womanizing and partying became Hollywood legend, with even his players struggling to keep up with Buss’ lifestyle.

Johnson’s HIV diagnosis and retirement in 1991 staggered Buss and the Lakers, the owner recalled in 2011. The Lakers struggled through much of the 1990s, going through seven coaches and making just one conference finals appearance in an eight-year stretch despite the 1996 arrivals of O’Neal, who signed with Los Angeles as a free agent, and Bryant, the 17-year-old high schooler acquired in a draft-week trade.

Shaq and Kobe didn’t reach their potential until Buss persuaded Jackson, the Chicago Bulls’ six-time NBA champion coach, to take over the Lakers in 1999. Los Angeles immediately won the next three NBA titles in brand-new Staples Center, AEG’s state-of-the-art downtown arena built with the Lakers as the primary tenant.

After the Lakers traded O’Neal in 2004, they hovered in mediocrity again until acquiring Gasol in a heist of a trade with Memphis in early 2008. Los Angeles made the next three NBA finals, winning two more titles.

Through the Lakers’ frequent successes and occasional struggles, Buss never stopped living his Hollywood dream. He was an avid poker player and a fixture on the Los Angeles club scene well into his 70s, when a late-night drunk-driving arrest in 2007 — with a 23-year-old woman in the passenger seat of his Mercedes-Benz — prompted him to cut down on his partying.

Buss owned the NHL’s Kings from 1979-87, and the WNBA’s Los Angeles Sparks won two league titles under Buss’ ownership. He also owned Los Angeles franchises in World Team Tennis and the Major Indoor Soccer League.

Buss’ children all have worked for the Lakers organization in various capacities for several years. Jim Buss, the Lakers’ executive vice president of player personnel and the second-oldest child, has taken over much of the club’s primary decision-making responsibilities in the last few years, while daughter Jeanie runs the franchise’s business side.

Jerry Buss still served two terms as president of the NBA’s Board of Governors and was actively involved in the 2011 lockout negotiations, developing blood clots in his legs attributed to his extensive travel during that time.

Buss is survived by six children: sons Johnny, Jim, Joey and Jesse, and daughters Jeanie Buss and Janie Drexel. He had eight grandchildren.

Arrangements are pending for a funeral and memorial services.

___

Associated Press writer Andrew Dalton contributed to this report.

 

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.

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Hoffman Added to Titans Coaching Staff

Coach Steve Hoffman, former special teams coach for the Oakland Raiders.

 

By Ashley Broockman

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The Tennessee Titans have hired Steve Hoffman as an assistant special teams coach and have promoted Arthur Smith to offensive line/tight ends assistant.

Hoffman spent last season as the Oakland Raiders’ special teams coordinator. He also has worked with the Dallas Cowboys (1989-2004), Atlanta Falcons (2006), Miami Dolphins (2007-08) and Kansas City Chiefs (2009-11). The Titans announced his hiring Monday afternoon.

Smith has two years of experience on the Titans’ staff. He worked last season as an offensive assistant/quality control coach.

More about Steve Hoffman Here.

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.

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No MLB Hall of Fame Class for 2013

NEW YORK (AP/ The Loop) — No players elected to Hall of Fame by baseball writers.


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