ORCHARD PARK – (Special to Digital Sports Desk by Sports Xchange) – The tumultuous, voluble, and largely unfulfilling two-year tenure of Rex Ryan as head coach of the Bills came to an end Tuesday when team owner Terry Pegula announced he was firing the bombastic 54-year-old who failed to end Buffalo’s embarrassing playoff drought, still going strong at 17 years.
Ryan blew into Buffalo with typical Ryan-centric bluster, proclaiming that not only would he get the Bills to the playoffs, they would compete for the Super Bowl, and they would do so with the best defense in the NFL. He leaves town having accomplished none of that, and in fact, may have driven the team further away from being a legitimate playoff contender.
Ryan’s brother, Rob, whom Rex hired at the start of 2016, was also fired. Offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn will serve as head coach when the Bills close their season Sunday in New York against the Jets.
Pegula released a simple statement that read: “I spoke with Rex earlier today and we mutually agreed that the time to part ways is now. These decisions are never easy. I want to take this opportunity to thank Rex for all his efforts and wish him all the best moving forward. Kim and I and our entire Bills organization share in the same disappointment and frustration as our fans, but we remain committed to our goal of bringing a championship to western New York.”
Ryan leaves town with a 15-16 record, 7-8 this season. After an 0-2 start, Ryan fired offensive coordinator Greg Roman and the Bills reeled off four straight wins with Lynn in that role.
However, offense really wasn’t the problem; it was the Bills defense that continually failed, and that was evident during a killer three-game losing streak that followed. From that point on, the rumors started to swirl about Ryan’s viability beyond 2016, even though he still had three years and $16.5 million remaining on his contract.
When the Bills blew a 24-9 lead in Oakland on Dec. 4, Ryan’s seat began to boil, and when the Bills’ defense was trampled by Le’Veon Bell and the Steelers the following week and Buffalo fell to 6-7 and basically out of the playoff race, there was little doubt that Ryan would be let go at the end of the season.
The timing of the firing, five days before the end of the season, may have been because of Ryan’s statement on Monday that he intended to play quarterback Tyrod Taylor against the Jets. Now that the Bills are out of contention, management is believed to be opposed to playing Taylor due to financial concerns.
There’s a clause in the ill-advised contract extension the team gave Taylor in the summer that states if Taylor suffers an injury in 2016, and is still injured in March when the Bills have to decide whether to pick up an option that guarantees him $27.5 million in salary and bonus in 2017, Taylor would receive all of that money whether he’s on the team or not. And all of it would count against their 2017 salary cap.
By SHELBY STROTHER
It did not matter that the wind-chill was life threatening. It was Christmas morning, and a bright sun stabbed the frozen land. And children were playing.
The decision over which to play with – the official World Cup soccer ball or the Turbo Football – never materialized. With all the snow, a soccer match was out of the question. So spirals of pink and black performed in the most sincere imitations of Rodney Peete and Joe Montana floated back and forth in the yard.
What a nice sight.
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The Annual Second Chance is near – it’s called New Year’s Eve. It is the window of opportunity where the hopes and fears of all the year (not to mention the mistakes) can be erased.
But Christmas Day is a time of reinforcement and the essence of tomorrow. And children playing with toys are the finest examples of what that tomorrow looks like.
I look out the window. I’ve been in that yard. All young boys have. Sports become such a part of childhood. Santa is aware of all of this, naturally.
This particular day is exquisite, I think to myself. I take personal inventory, not only of blessings and personal satisfaction, but of the presents of Christmas past. Still the kid, I suppose.
I got my first basketball when I was six. I made my first basket a year later. There was a tetherball set; I must have been eight. And a football helmet when I was ten. A Carl Furillo-model baseball mitt at eleven. There were tennis rackets and fishing poles and boxing gloves and shrimp nets and a Mickey Mantle 32-inch Little League bat and one time, even a badminton set.
Every Christmas, I’d play out my dreams and my mind would fly over the rainbow, imagining my propulsion. Of course, I would become a major-leaguer, an All-Star, an all-time great, a Hall of Famer. We all would. My vision extended well beyond the day.
My athletic ability, alas, never kept stride. It was not the worst realization I would ever make.
But I have noticed a direct correlation between Christmas gifts and sporting dreams. The dreams are for the young. So are the gifts. Usually, the two disappear in unison. The rare few who project into greatness discover they do not need imagination to make those lofty flights of fantasy. Hope is not the co-pilot. Expectation is.
It must be a wonderful view.
I was thinking about all of this when another memory nudged me. My 17th Christmas I got a typewriter.
It was about the same time that I’d maneuvered my fantasy a few extra miles. I’d received a baseball scholarship to pitch at a small school in Florida. There were other opportunities, other colleges available. But none that would allow my athletic vision to continue.
I had expected a Christmas of more games in the yard. More dreams to celebrate. I got a typewriter instead.
“What am I going to do with a typewriter?” I asked.
My mother said I’d need it for college. But she also said, “Sometimes you get too old to play games. But you never get too old that you can’t use your imagination.”
Sometimes Christmas is taken for granted. Almost always, in fact. I think Christmas music, and I hear bells. I turn on the radio and I hear someone named Elmo and Patsy lamenting their grandmother’s head-on collision with a reindeer. I think of the meaning of Christmas, and I think of the most special birthday in the history of the world. But I turn on the TV and there are all these Claymation raisins doing Doo-Wop homages to the joys of buying machines wherein a microchip can seize command of entire generations.
Christmas (will soon) be gone, 364 days to go. But children still play. They chase the wonderful image of themselves as they would like to be seen. Christmas is their favorite arena. But they settle for lesser stadia.
But remember this – the present is sometimes confused with the package it comes wrapped in. Sometimes the gift is simply the freedom to imagine. There may be no greater one.
It was a great typewriter. I still play with it.
Editor’s Notes: For those of you who did not know Shelby Strother, I’ll pass along these little tidbits; He was a very good friend. I’ve lost a father and a brother, I’ve watched close relatives and friends of the family pass away, but he was the first friend in my life who went out, got cancer and died. Shelby attended the 1991 NBA All-Star Game in Charlotte, NC. That Sunday night, he said that he didn’t feel well and was going to bed early. That was about Feb. 10, 1991. The next month was a bad dream, each minute live and in color. Shelby died in Detroit on March 3, 1991, leaving his wife, Kim and two great little guys, Tommy and Kenny (the latter joined Shelby in heaven a few years back but that is a terrible fact of life to be told another day). Shelby grew up in the great State of Florida and loved it. I met him when he was a writer for the Denver Post. He went on to be a sports columnist for the Detroit News, but when big news was breaking and the News needed a writer, they sent Shelby. Berlin Wall coming down, off went Shelby. I could go on.
If you want a great Christmas present for a friend or yourself, type in to “Amazon” or “Google” the words “Saddlebags” and “Shelby” and “Strother” and see what comes up. Buy it. Saddlebags is where the story above was written. There are a few dozen others just like it.
I really relate to his column. I think of Shelby every time I read it, shed a deep sigh or tear wondering why he was taken from us at such a young age. I’ve read it every Christmas Day since 1992. I’ve never had the forum to share those facts, share the column itself or the work of Shelby Strother.
Now I do.
I remember when my Mom and Dad bought a bright, shiny, “Brother” electric typewriter and wrapped it up for me. It was a tough present to gift-wrap. I remember typing term papers on it, long before the “IBM Selectric” or even an invention like a word processor came along. I remember it very well. Somehow, my typewriter didn’t work quite as well as Shelby’s did. But, I’m working on that fact, practicing, striving to be a better writer each and every day.
Shelby was a good friend. I wish he could play with his typewriter this Christmas.
Maybe, he can. Maybe he just did?
*(Editor’s Note written in in 2008).
DENVER – (Special to Digital Sports Desk) – Former Denver Nuggets coach George Karl takes aim at New York Knicks star Carmelo Anthony and others in his upcoming book “Furious George,” calling Anthony a “conundrum” and a “user of people” during their time together. Anthony, who spent his first 7 1/2 seasons with the Nuggets — including 6 1/2 under Karl’s direction from 2005 until early 2011, was “addicted to the spotlight and very unhappy when he had to share it,” according to Karl.
“Carmelo was a true conundrum for me in the six years I had him,” Karl wrote, via the New York Post. “He was the best offensive player I ever coached. … He really lit my fuse with his low demand of himself on defense. He had no commitment to the hard, dirty work of stopping the other guy. …
“Since Carmelo only played hard on one side of the ball, he made it plain he couldn’t lead the Nuggets, even though he said he wanted to. Coaching him meant working around his defense and compensating for his attitude.”
Karl added that he believes Anthony could have become “the best defender at his position in the NBA,”
“That was never going to happen with Melo,” Karl said, “whose amazing ability to score with the ball made him a star but didn’t make him a winner.”
Anthony was asked for his thoughts on Karl’s critiques before Thursday’s game against the Orlando Magic, but deferred.
“No way,” Anthony said.
Karl also criticized retired Nuggets forward Kenyon Martin and former Nuggets guard J.R. Smith, now with the Cleveland Cavaliers, along with Anthony, calling the trio “AAU babies” and like “spoiled brats.”
Smith had “a huge sense of entitlement, a distracting posse, his eye always on the next contract and some really unbelievable shot selection,” Karl wrote. Karl shared his disappointment that he could not help “a clearly talented player” in Smith advance his game.
Smith dismissed Karl’s comments on his Twitter account, writing, “Still trying to be relevant. Sad just sad.”
Part of Anthony’s and Martin’s immaturity stemmed from the absence of their fathers in their lives, Karl claimed.
“Kenyon and Carmelo carried two big burdens: all that money and no father to show them how to act like a man,” he wrote.
Martin responded to Karl’s claims on his Twitter account Thursday evening.
“The nerve of an awful and coward (expletive) coach. More to come,” Martin wrote.
“I didn’t have a father (growing) up. We all know that. What’s George Karl’s excuse for being a terrible person.”
“George Karl is selfish, unhappy, (miserable), cowardly person. No wonder he’s (been) fired every place he has coached.”
“The book he is writing is full of lies and deceit. By far, the worst coach that (I) ever played for.”
Karl spent 27 seasons on NBA sidelines coaching the Nuggets, Cleveland Cavaliers, Golden State Warriors, Seattle Supersonics, Milwaukee Bucks and Sacramento Kings.
His most recent stint was a failed two-year stop in Sacramento from 2014-16, with the Kings going 44-68. Karl owns a lifetime 1,175-824 record as a head coach with 22 playoff appearances, including a losing trip to the NBA Finals in 1995-96 with Seattle.
Karl ranks fifth all-time on the NBA’s coaching victories list.
North American Committee Nominations:
Mark Aguirre (PLA) Geese Ausbie (PLA) Bill Bertka (COA) Muggsy Bogues (PLA)* Junior Bridgeman (PLA) Irv Brown (REF) Maurice Cheeks (PLA) Terry Cummings (PLA) Charles “Lefty” Driesell (COA) Hugh Evans (REF) Bill Fitch (COA) Cotton Fitzsimmons (COA) Tim Hardaway (PLA) Del Harris (COA) Robert Hughes (COA) Kevin Johnson (PLA) Marques Johnson (PLA) Bobby Jones (PLA) Jerry “Tiger” Jones (COA) Gene Keady (COA) Rollie Massimino (COA) Tracy McGrady (PLA)* Gary McKnight (COA) Danny Miles (COA) Sidney Moncrief (PLA) Dick Motta (COA) Swen Nater (PLA) Jake O’Donnell (REF)* Jim Phelan (COA)* Mark Price (PLA) Jere Quinn (COA)* Glenn Robinson (COA) Lee Rose (COA) Bo Ryan (COA) Bob Saulsbury (COA)* Bill Self (COA)* Jack Sikma (PLA) Steve Smith (COA) Fred Snowden (COA) Harry Statham (COA)* Eddie Sutton (COA) Rudy Tomjanovich (COA) Ben Wallace (PLA)* Chris Webber (PLA) Paul Westphal (PLA) Women’s Committee Nominations Leta Andrews (COA) Jennifer Azzi (PLA) Rebecca Lobo (PLA) Muffet McGraw (COA) Susie McConnell (PLA) Pearl Moore (PLA) Kim Mulkey (COA, PLA) Harley Redin (COA) Theresa Shank (PLA) Marianne Stanley (COA) Barbara Stevens (COA) Wayland Baptist (TEA) Therea Weatherspoon (PLA)
DIRECT-ELECT CATEGORY Early African-American Pioneers Committee Nominations: Clarence “Puggy” Bell Sonny Boswell Zack Clayton Chuck Cooper Bill Garrett Inman Jackson Clarence “Fats” Jenkins Bucky Lew Davage “Dave” Minor Hudson Oliver Al “Runt” Pullins James “Pappy” Ricks Paul Robeson Eyre Saitch William “Wee Willie” Smith.
DIRECT-ELECT CATEGORY International Committee Nominations: Tal Brody Jackie Chazalon Vlade Divac Nick Galis Semen Khalipski Vladimir Kondrashin Toni Kukoc Marcos Leite Aldo Ossola Amaury Pasos Dino Radja Manuel Sainz Togo Soares Ranko Zeravica
DIRECT-ELECT CATEGORY Contributor Committee Nominations: Marv Albert Al Attles Dick Baumgartner* Marty Blake Vic Bubas Wayne Duke David Falk* Harry Glickman Marty Glickman Curt Gowdy Tim Grgurich Robert Indiana* Mannie Jackson Tom Jernstedt Johnny “Red” Kerr John Kline Red Klotz Jerry Krause Bobby Lewis* Jack McCloskey Johnny Most Dennis Murphy Joe O’Toole Billy Packer Dee Rowe* Zelda Spoelstra Jim Valvano Donnie Walsh Frank Walsh
DIRECT-ELECT CATEGORY – Veterans Committee Nominations: 1936 US Olympic Team (TEA) 1964 State Department Basketball Ambassadors (TEA) Ron Boone (PLA) Sid Borgia (REF)* Carl Braun (PLA) Frank Brian (PLA) Joe Caldwell (PLA) Mack Calvin (PLA) Charles Eckman (REF) Leroy Edwards (PLA) Leo Ferris (CONT) Clarence “Bevo” Francis (PLA) Buck Freeman (COA) Donnie Freeman (PLA) Travis Grant (PLA) Bob Grody (PLA) Robert Harrison (PLA) Flo Harvey (PLA) Dick Hemric (PLA)* Cam Henderson (COA) Robert Hopkins (PLA) Lou Hudson (PLA) Warren Jabali (PLA) Jimmy Jones (PLA) Charles Kenaith (PLA)* Freddie Lewis (PLA) Jim Loscutoff (PLA) Loyola of Chicago (TEA) Billy Markward (CONT)* George McGinnis (PLA) Ray Mears (COA)* Francis Meehan (PLA) Donald “Dudey” Moore (COA) Willie Naulls (PLA) Philadelphia SPHAS (TEA) Mel Riebe (PLA) Glenn Roberts (PLA) Holcombe Rucker (CONT) Kenny Sailors (PLA) Fred Schaus (PLA)* Charlie Scott (PLA) Kenny Sears (PLA) Frank Selvy (PLA) George Senesky (PLA) Paul Seymour (PLA) Charles Siler (CONT) Talvin Skinner (PLA) Ken Suesens (PLA) Tennessee A&I (TEA) Dick Van Arsdale (PLA) Tom Van Arsdale (PLA) Willie Wise (PLA) Max Zaslofsky (PLA)
PLA – Player
REF – Referee
COA – Coach
TEA – Team
CONT – Contributor