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31 posts from January 2014

January 31, 2014

Friday afternoon update: UM adds a TE, looking to fill other needs

Most of this University of Miami recruiting class is already secured: Nine are enrolled, 16 others are orally committed. But after losing key commitments at cornerback (Nigel Bethel), running back (Brandon Powell) and defensive tackle (Michael Wyche, Travonte Valentine) in the past few weeks, the Hurricanes are trying to bolster a few positions before National Signing Day on Wednesday.   

They picked up one new commitment moments ago when tight end David Njoku announced he is commiting to UM. Njoku, a 6-4, three-star prospect who can also play receiver, was also considering  Connecticut, Temple and Oregon. Penn State and Rutgers also offered him, but Ohio State reportedly pulled his offer.

He caught 40 passes for 981 yards in 2013, averaging 24.5 yards per reception. In his high school career, he caught 76 passes, averaging  23.6 yards per reception.

UM had one tight end/H-back already committed (Christopher Herndon).

Some positions where is still looking for help:

### Defensive tackle: Hialeah Champagnat’s  Valentine, rated by Rivals.com as the nation’s No. 3 defensive tackle and the 59th best player overall, is still considering Miami but isn’t visiting this weekend because he wants to spend time with his family and has already been on UM’s campus several times, according to our Manny Navarro.

Valentine said earlier this week he hasn’t ruled out Miami but said his heart is with LSU. He said he likes the UM coaches but has bonded with players and recruits at LSU more than at UM. He also said LSU “fits my personality.” And Valentine told Manny he’s most comfortable playing at about 315 pounds, and UM wants him bigger than 320 so that he can play nose guard in a 3-4 (not his preference). Manny has more on Valentine on the UM blog, to be posted after 3 today.

… Stung by the loss of Wyche (who dropped his commitment because of an ACC rule requiring junior college transfers), UM has been exploring other options. North Carolina-based three-star Lamont Gaillard is visiting UM this weekend but calls himself a solid Georgia commitment.

### Quarterback: UM already has two firm commitments (Brad Kaaya and Malik Rosier), but is making a pitch to Booker T. Washington’s Treon Harris, who’s visiting this weekend.

Harris, an FSU oral commitment who threw for 28 touchdowns and four picks in 2013, has already visited UF and Auburn. He told a Birmingham, Ala. newspaper that he’s “still solid” to FSU and “I’m just taking my visits, experiencing things I’ve never seen before in my life.” FSU remains the favorite.  

### Running back: With only one committed (Miami Central’s four-star 5-9, 177-pound Joseph Yearby, who’s already enrolled), UM would love to add another back with more size and has targeted Louisiana-based two-star Kameron McKnight (6-2, 220 pounds) and Georgia-based three-star Tavon Ross (6-1, 196), a Missouri oral commitment.

Ross told rivals.com that his visit to UM last weekend “went pretty well” but his decision will hinge on how his trip to Missouri goes this weekend. McKnight will choose from among UM, Louisiana-Monroe, Louisiana Tech and Southern Mississippi.

The wild card here is five-star prospect Bo Scarbrough, who created a buzz by visiting UM last weekend and reportedly was due to return this weekend unless Alabama coaches could talk him out of it. Scarbrough, who has returned to Alabama after attending IMG Academy in Bradenton, is an Alabama oral commitment who said earlier this month that he was considering Mississippi but not Miami. UM has been trying to get him to change his mind.

### Cornerback: UM has only one in this class --- three-star Miami Northwestern prospect Ryan Mayes, who’s already enrolled --- and covets Immokalee four-star prospect JC Jackson, whose finalists are UM and UF. Jackson’s father is a Canes fan, and the lack of an impact cornerback in this UM class could help UM’s chances. But this decision is a toss-up.

### Receivers: UM recruited three three-star receivers in the past week but appears unlikely to get any of the three. California-based Brayden Lenius (Kaaya’s high school teammate) very likely won’t choose Miami for geographic reasons even though he liked the idea of playing with Kaaya, his coach told me Friday.

Jacksonville-based Isaiah Ford canceled his Miami trip last week and is leaning toward Virginia Tech or Louisville, one of his coaches said. And South Dade’s C.J. Worton declined an offer to visit Miami and is considering UM and West Virginia.

### Defensive end: UM is in good shape at this position (with Chad Thomas, Demetrius Jackson, Mike Smith, etc.) but has been trying to entice Dillard's Randy Ramsey to visit. Dillard coach Lorenzo Davis told me today that Ramsey still hasn't decided whether to visit UM this weekend. An Arkansas oral commitment, Ramsey had 23 sacks this past season.... UM also has been linked to Tampa three-star defensive end/linebacker Josh Black, who is considering numerous schools.     

January 29, 2014

5 p.m. Thursday update: Big loss in UM recruiting but some good news, too; Heat; Martin fallout

5 p.m. update: UM got mixed news on the recruiting front today, with National Signing Day less than a week away.

The good news: Brad Kaaya, rated the No. 8 quarterback in the country by rivals.com, removed any doubt about his intentions by announcing on Twitter that he's signing with UM next Wednesday.

The bad news: Michael Wyche, a key defensive tackle commitment in this class, announced on Twitter that he's decommitting from Miami because of an obscure ACC rule that requires players be enrolled three semesters at the same junior college.

Wyche, who was enrolled for only two semesters at East Los Angeles Junior College, had appealed the ruling, but apparently unsuccessfully. Wyche could have stayed committed to UM and enrolled here in May but apparently has chosen not to, at least at this point.

Wyche tweeted: "Due ACC rule I am opening up my commitment and decommitting... from the University of Miami."

Wyche did not immediately respond to a request for comment. His coach said previously that he might not want to stay a third semester at a junior college.

UM people expected Wyche to be a major contributor next season. One UM official thought he would have been the best defensive tackle on last year's team if he had been a member of the Canes.

With Travonte Valentine leaning toward LSU but not completely ruling out UM, the Hurricanes are left with three commitments among defensive tackles: four-star Anthony Moten, three-star junior college transfer Calvin Heurteleu and three-star prospect Courtel Jenkins. Heurteleu is already enrolled here.

This weekend, UM also is expected to host Lamont Gaillard, a three-star defensive tackle from North Carolina. But Gaillard is orally committed to Georgia.



Notes on a late Wednesday night:

### Four-star Hialeah Champagnat defensive tackle Travonte Valentine, whom UM covets, told me today he’s not sure he will take his scheduled visit to UM this weekend because of a “family situation.”

Valentine said he will make a decision on Thursday.

Is LSU still the favorite? “Something like that,” he said.

But he said he will consider UM whether he visits this weekend or not. He met with Al Golden earlier this week. But LSU is in the lead for the highest-rated defensive tackle in South Florida.

### Few other recruiting notes: Four-star Booker T. Washington defensive end Demetrius Jackson announced on Twitter tonight that he will sign his Letter of Intent with UM on Thursday. Then he realized he cannot do that just yet, and clarified that he will sign it next Wednesday, on National Signing Day.

Earlier in the day, Rivals.com quoted Jackson’s coach as saying Jackson would visit Texas this weekend. But Jackson tweeted that he will not visit Texas.... Chaminade (Cal.) High coach Ed Croson told me receiver Brayden Lenius has decided to visit Washington instead of UM this weekend but hasn't completely ruled out UM. South Dade receiver CJ Worton is a UM target.

### UM offensive coordinator James Coley, and his Twitter feed, have boundless energy. “This is survival of the fittest! Wouldn’t have it any other way --- Miami!!!!”…

And: “Stick your hand out the window – feel the FORCE!!!”…

And: “CHANGE just walked in and kicked your front door OPEN.” And, well, you get the picture.

### Jonathan Martin’s interview with Tony Dungy today was disappointing in many regards, largely because of Martin’s unwillingness to offer details and Dungy’s reluctance to ask key questions.

Dungy never asked Martin who harassed him besides Richie Incognito, or who viciously attacked him, or whether he ever stood up to Incognito.

And Martin seemed excessively cautious and scripted and less than convincing at times.

He offered no details about the nature of his harassment beyond saying they were of a “racial nature” and included “sexual comments” about his sister and mother. Everybody knew that already.

Dungy asked Martin three times if he was friends with Incognito. Martin would not answer directly, saying only: “I wanted to be his friend. I was working to be his friend. But it’s a hard situation. I did everything I could. I didn’t know what else I could do.”

Does he have any regrets? Martin wouldn’t say. “Hindsight is 20/20,” he said. “It’s easy to nitpick. I’m focused on moving forward.”

Did he check in the hospital after fleeing from the Dolphins? Martin wouldn't say: “I don’t think that’s important.”

He said he “had to get myself healthy” but refused to say what was wrong with him.

Martin seemed most concerned with trying to sell himself to NFL teams, to convince them that he’s worth taking a shot on. “I know I would fit in any NFL locker-room,” he insisted. “I’m as physical and dedicated a competitor as anyone you’ll find. Teammates will say I’m a great locker-room guy. I’m a leader! Being a leader is part of who I am.”

He volunteered that he “loves” hostile road environments and “fans yelling obscenities at you.” Good to know!

Asked about pro-Incognito, anti-Martin reaction among players in the Dolphins’ locker-room, he said: “Everyone can have their own opinion. They may not have had all the facts.”

No final judgments should be made before Ted Wells’ report is released in February, and there should be a fair share of compassion for Martin if Wells concludes he was a blameless victim here.

But Martin should realize there will be skepticism because he didn’t tell Joe Philbin about the bullying and because he gave no indication that he told Incognito to stop.

“I never intended to be a crusader against the culture in the NFL,’ he said.

For a response from Richie Incognito's attorney, please see our story on The Herald's home page this morning.

### Smart move by OKC coach Scott Brooks to go with a small lineup against the Heat after falling behind by 13 points with Kendrick Perkins to start the game. Down by 18 in the first quarter, OKC spread the floor, Kevin Durant again went nuts (33 points, his 12th straight 30-point game) and the Heat lost at home for only the fourth time this season, this one by a 112-95 count.

By the way, Durant scored 23 points on 9 for 17 shooting when guarded by LeBron James. "We played well all the way until the second quarter," LeBron cracked.

OKC was 16 for 27 on threes, the Heat 3 for 19. And the Heat’s 21 turnovers (its second-most this season) were costly --– including five by Mario Chalmers, four by Dwyane Wade. "Our plan was to protect the paint, and they made us pay by hitting 16 threes," Wade said. ... The Heat was outscored by 24 in Ray Allen’s 31 minutes.

“They out-competed us,” Erik Spoelstra said. “That’s what’s disappointing. They shot the heck out of the ball. Our offense got us in trouble quite a bit tonight. We have some work to do, like everybody else in the league.”

### UM went on a 10-0 late run to tie Wednesday's game against Maryland at 71, before losing 74-71 on a three-pointer with 3.5 seconds left. Maryland then fouled Manu Lecomte, who missed a free throw, then intentionally missed a second. But UM couldn't get a three-point attempt and fell to 10-10 (2-6 in the ACC) despite 25 points by Rion Brown and 19 from Lecomte.

### Quick note on a local charity event, for those with the time or the interest: Former Dolphins receiver Chris Chambers will raise money for student scholarships at his annual celebrity bowling tournament at 8 p.m. Thursday night at Lucky Strikes on South Beach.

Cost: $25, including entry into the event & one drink ticket. Or you can pay $50 for entry, two drink tickets, a sponsor bag and a one-week membership to Chamber Fitness.

Among those expected: Chambers, O.J. McDuffie, Channing Crowder, hip-hop artist Rick Ross and others.

### Please see the last post for a bunch of other developments updated throughout the day Wednesday... Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

January 28, 2014

5 p.m. update: Sapp rant; Fallout from latest Fins' departure; Martin on bullying; Why Hickey's former boss believes he will succeed here; Fins, UM, Heat

The Wednesday buzz column is below. First, three updates:

### 5 p.m. update: Warren Sapp ranted against UM defensive coordinator Mark D'Onofrio today, telling WQAM: "The D coordinator is killing my school. That looks like no Miami defense in the history of our school... Don't talk to me about Al Golden and whatever the d-coordinator's name is. You don't ever hire someone you can't fire. That's the golden rule."

### 1 p.m. update: The Dolphins and assistant GM Brian Gaine have agreed to part ways after Gaine was passed over for the team's GM job. But this was essentially a dismissal. Gaine had been with the Dolphins since 2008. The Herald's Adam Beasley reports he was escorted out of the building.

Said new GM Dennis Hickey, in a statement: “I want to thank Brian for his contributions to the Miami Dolphins. We both agreed that this decision was in everyone’s best interests going forward. This will allow Brian to move forward in his professional pursuits and the Dolphins to move forward with our 2014 plan. I want to wish Brian the very best in the future.”

### In the Wednesday buzz column below, I quote Hickey's former boss in Tampa, Mark Dominik, about Hickey's track record. Dominik has now emerged as a possibility to replace Hickey as Miami's assistant GM.

When I reached him again this afternoon, Dominik was non-committal about whether he would end up here as assistant GM but didn't rule it out. He said he has "a lot of options" and a lot to digest. He called Hickey a "good friend" and said he knows a lot of people in the Dolphins organization.

The Buccaneers were 28-52 during Dominik's five years as GM, with Hickey heading up the personnel department. "The record isn't what we wanted but we were doing something right with the players we signed and drafted," Dominik said.

### 8 a.m. update: In an NBC interview that aired Wednesday morning, Dolphins offensive lineman Jonathan Martin told Tony Dungy that he’s ready to return to the NFL, blamed other Dolphins players besides suspended Richie Incognito for bullying him (without offering names) and didn’t implicate Joe Philbin in the locker-room bullying scandal that created national headlines this past season.

Martin said he never told Philbin that he was bullied by teammates before he left the team on Oct. 28.

Asked if he mentioned anything to coaches about the situation before this past season, Martin said: “I did mention. The organization knew I was struggling. I had some conversations with my coaches, mainly above me. I didn’t get into specifics. You’re not supposed to quote, unquote snitch on your teammates. I didn’t see it as my place to go above the heads of leaders on the offensive line and talk to my coaches about my teammates.”

Martin might have been talking about offensive line coach Jim Turner, who has downplayed the scandal. Turner never spoke to reporters about the scandal but said loudly in the team lobby last November  – with reporters in the room --- that “This is the most overblown story. Everybody knows Richie has a past.”

Turner remains on staff, but the Dolphins have not definitively said whether he will be retained.

Martin said what bothered him were “comments of a racial nature, aggressive, sexual comments related to my sister and mother.”

He said he spoke to former teammates on other teams and asked them, “Does this stuff go on? Is this normal rookie hazing?” He said “the consensus was this was not normal.”

Martin said there “were other” Dolphins players who were subjected to the bullying. “I can’t say why I may have gotten it more,” he said. “I don’t have a problem with the normal hazing you see in the NFL. Get a haircut, stuff like that, little pranks.

“But of a personal, attacking nature, I don’t think there’s any place for that…. It was a culture. I don’t think there’s a place to disrespect people in a professional sport.”

Dungy asked Martin if the sometimes vulgar, but sometimes playful texts, between Martin and Incognito were a sign of friendship.

"Yes it is,” Martin said. “I was trying with all my being to do whatever I could to be a member of this culture and our unit as an offensive line. I worked hard to be friends with Richie Incognito and others. I think it’s important building friendships with your teammates. So I turned the microscope back on myself: What am I doing wrong being treated this?”

Martin said he left the team because the bullying “was extending past my rookie season and I had to remove myself from the situation for my own health.”

In the portion of the interview that aired on The Today Show, Dungy did not ask Martin about his general mental health. He reportedly missed a couple of offseason workouts in April because of mental health reasons and sought treatment for depression after leaving the team.

During The Today Show segment, Martin also was not asked about the "malicious physical attack" that his attorney said he was subjected to by teammates.

Dungy did not ask Martin about where he wants to play, but a close associate said there’s no way Martin can return to the Dolphins locker room, and Dolphins owner Stephen Ross said Tuesday that he does not believe Martin or Incognito will ever play for the team again.

Whereas Incognito is a free agent, the Dolphins are expected to try to trade Martin.

Asked if he’s ready to play in the NFL, Martin said: “I don’t think there’s any question I’m ready. Coach, I’m looking you in the eye and I’m telling you I’m ready to play. I’d be ready to play on Sunday if my team was in the Super Bowl.

“I understand opportunities in the NFL are fleeting. I’m hopeful I get another opportunity and I’m going to make the most of it because this is what I love to do. I don’t know what I would do if I wasn’t playing football.”

Martin said he hasn’t spoken to any Dolphins people since leaving the team. Conversely, Incognito continued to exchange text messages with teammates following his suspension and even watched a game with Mike Pouncey when Pouncey was sidelined by illness.

NBC Sports Network will air a longer version of the interview at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday.




Former Tampa Bay Buccaneers general manager Mark Dominik, who was new Dolphins general manager Dennis Hickey’s boss the past five years, has some theories why he believes Hickey will be a good GM. Among them:

### Dominik believes Hickey, who was Tampa’s player personnel director the past three years, “has a keen eye for talent.”

He said Hickey advocated and was “instrumental” in the drafting of four key players who were outstanding picks in the past two years: impact linebacker Lavonte David (selected 58th in 2012), running back Doug Martin (31st in 2012), quarterback Mike Glennon (73rd in 2013) and former UM running back Mike James (189th in 2013).

He said Hickey was strongly in favor of drafting Glennon, who had a higher quarterback rating in 2013 than Ryan Tannehill (83.9 to 81.7). “He was always the top quarterback on our board, higher than Geno Smith and A.J. Manuel and Matt Barkley,” Dominik said, indicating Hickey agreed with that. “And he was the best quarterback in the rookie class this year.”

Dominik said over the past five seasons, Tampa rookies finished in the top five in snaps by rookie draft classes, and that Hickey deserves some credit there.

Was there any pick that Hickey had to really sell Dominik on? Dominik cited former Michigan State defensive end William Gholston, who was picked 126th last April and flashed potential as a rookie. He also said Hickey suggested selecting FSU linebacker Dekoda Watson in the seventh round in 2010; Watson has become a key reserve.

### He said Hickey is aggressive on waiver wire pickups.

After Tennessee signed and later cut undrafted running back LeGarrette Blount in 2010, Hickey suggested pouncing on him, which Tampa did. He ran for 1007 yards on 5.0 per carry in 2010 and had three solid years before Tampa traded him to New England in 2013. It wouldn’t be surprising if Miami pursues him in free agency this spring.

Dominik said Hickey also advocated the Buccaneers sign undrafted defensive end Michael Bennett after Seattle signed and then cut him. He had 15 sacks in four years for Tampa before returning to Seattle last off-season.

Dominik said Hickey also was involved in the decision to acquire two marquee players last offseason --- free agent Vincent Jackson and a trade for Darrelle Revis.

### Hickey’s character. “He’s got a tremendous work ethic --- strongest I’ve been around,” Dominik said. “He has great integrity, which is very important in this business.”

### Dominik said Hickey was “instrumental” in making the Buccaneers technologically-advanced: “We were one of the first to use I-pads, making everything digital” in draft preparation. (Hickey mentioned using advanced technology in his news conference Tuesday.)

### Dominik said Hickey, who was a Buccaneers scout when they won the 2002 Super Bowl, is a winner. “Everywhere, he’s had success,” Dominik said, citing high school, college and junior college, too. “He’s deserving of this.”

But Tampa was 28-52 the past five seasons, and it’s difficult to overlook that in evaluating any prominent Buccaneers executive. Hickey never had final say but had a “fairly significant” role in decisions, Dominik said.

Hickey, by the way, pointed to draft day trade-ups for David and Martin as what he’s most proud of during his Tampa tenure.    


### Former Dolphins GM Jeff Ireland said he liked to “marry” a team need with the best player available in deciding whom to select in the first round of the draft. But Hickey said he believes in strictly taking the best player available and will rank players 1 through 500 before the draft. He already has done considerable work putting together a draft board because he was involved with that in Tampa Bay.

### Hickey said he believes in making decisions “collectively” with his coach, and resolving differences of opinion before draft day and before he’s ready to pursue a particular free agent. Considering Joe Philbin tried to persuade Ireland to acquire Chiefs left tackle Branden Albert last spring, it won’t be surprising if Albert emerges as a target in free agency in March.

### Stephen Ross said one challenge in his GM search was that “everybody wants to say, ‘I drafted this guy but the bad guy, somebody else did.’ So it’s hard to get a real feel. So you look at how they work together” with the coach.

### Ross, on his failure to land a big name coach or GM: “Sometimes big names deliver. Often times they don’t. Just because you’re a big name doesn’t mean you going to win.”

### Ross was asked where the Ireland/Philbin relationship created the most tangible problems. "Having respect for each other and listening to each other," Ross said. "I didn't feel it."

### Please see the last post for more from Tuesday's Dolphins press conference.

### With his knees feeling better, Dwyane Wade said he will return to the starting lineup on Wednesday. Even though he asked Erik Spoelstra to play him off the bench against the Spurs after missing four games, “I didn’t ask him to take me out as a starter for the whole year. We can quit that conversation right now.”

### Wednesday will be the first meeting between Wade and Oklahoma City’s Kevin Durant since their testy exchange in September, when Durant said James Harden should replace Wade on Sports Illustrated’s list of top 10 players. Wade tweeted then: “Note to self: Make him respect your place in history.” Durant responded: “Show me, don’t tweet me.”

Wade said Tuesday he holds no grudge against Durant. “From what I’ve known of KD, I’ve been cordial, he’s been cordial," Wade said. "I have no ill intent toward him. I don’t live my life that way. I’ve won three championships. I’m living in a dream, from the standpoint of basketball. Somebody has to take shots [at you] somewhere.”

But Wade said, smiling: “My top 10 is different from his top 10.”

And Wade added: "I respect his game. I understand where he is in his career, where everything's going great. I've been there. My job is dealing with what I'm dealing with to still try to be a very good player."

### An NFC scout who watched UM’s Stephen Morris closely at Senior Bowl practices last week told us: “His accuracy was erratic, like he was during the season. He will throw late to a receiver on an out route, or his ball will sail on him – more high than low. I’m not sure he judges the speed of receivers coming across the middle. I’m disappointed he didn’t improve from his junior to senior year. He probably will be picked between the fourth and seventh rounds.”

### We’ll have more on UM recruiting later this week. As our Manny Navarro reported today, key UM target Travonte Valentine said LSU has his "heart" at the moment but UM will get a chance when he visits there this weekend. He was wearing an LSU backpack during his interview Tuesday, and UM clearly has ground to make up....

Booker T. Washington five-star end Chad Thomas said he’s 100 percent committed to UM…. Three-star Jacksonville-based receiver Isaiah Ford canceled his trip to UM last weekend because he had a Friday night basketball game and UM is behind Louisville and Virginia Tech in his thinking, his school’s recruiting coordinator told me.     

### Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

8 p.m. update: Highlights from Stephen Ross, Dennis Hickey news conference

In pairing new general manager Dennis Hickey with incumbent coach Joe Philbin, Dolphins owner Stephen Ross hopes he has found not only a winning formula, but a harmonious one.

Ross said “compatibility” with the coach was the “most important” element he was seeking in his GM search – something he said was lacking between Philbin and former GM Jeff Ireland.

Ross believes he found that in Hickey, who developed a good relationship with Philbin 14 years ago when Hickey was a Midwest scout for the Buccaneers and Philbin was a coach at Iowa.

Hickey, introduced at a news conference Tuesday, didn’t seem bothered that two others rejected the job before him, and that at least four others declined interviews.

"I always believed I was the right person for this job,” he said.

Hickey, who spent 18 years with Tampa Bay including the past three as player personnel director, will have final say on the 53-man roster but said he will consult with Philbin on personnel decisions.

Hickey said when he met with Philbin during his interview, “It was kind of like, this fits. I feel like we’re already on the same page. Our philosophies are the same.

“We want to build a winner and do it collectively. We want a tough, smart, physical football team. A big draw to me was the opportunity to work alongside coach Philbin.”

That was just what Ross wanted to hear. The owner believed the disagreements between Ireland and Philbin -- regarding playing time, personnel decisions and other issues -- were destructive.

Ross said the reason he parted ways with Ireland “wasn’t because I didn’t think highly of Jeff. I have a lot of confidence in Jeff. He’s a good friend. We needed to have harmony in the organization and think as one organization where everyone has respect for each other and operate with the same mindset in all situations.

“Unless you have an organization that could all be together and pulling that same oar with the same common goal, you’re really not going to succeed. That’s why we had a change. We have the right fit [now].”

He said successful GMs, whom he declined to name, told him the GM had to be “joined at the hip with your head coach.”

According to multiple sources, Patriots player personnel director Nick Caserio and Titans player personnel director Lake Dawson turned down the job because they wanted the authority to fire the coach whenever they chose.

Asked why he insisted on retaining that power, Ross said: “I own the team. Let’s start there.”

Regarding his trust in Philbin, Ross said: “We’re not playing fantasy football. With the great organizations, there’s consistency in it. You just don’t change every time something goes wrong, or if you don’t win a game, or something, you just don’t replace everybody. We were in it this year. I feel as bad as anybody we didn’t make the playoffs.

“We were competitive. There’s such a fine line between winning and losing. You just don’t start all over again. Talking to outsiders, we’re not that far away. I have a lot of faith and confidence in coach Philbin and his staff and the direction we’re headed. So there was no reason to make wholesale changes.”

Ross said he doesn’t understand why some candidates were confused about the organizational structure.

“I was pretty clear in the structure,” he said. “Not an unusual structure. General manager reports to me. Coach reports to me. I can’t answer the question for [why several people weren’t interested in the job]. They might have had other reasons.”

Dawn Aponte, the Dolphins’ vice president of football administration, will report to Hickey, who said he was impressed by Aponte’s “knowledge of the cap and… ability to work with people.”

Hickey, who accepted the job Sunday morning when he was driving home from church with his family, said he wasn’t ready to discuss the Dolphins’ personnel needs or whether assistant general manager Brian Gaine will be retained.

But he said he likes the Dolphins’ cap flexibility (about $30 million in space) and “I thought [they] had a good nucleus of young players that I felt could develop into a championship caliber roster.”

Hickey said he is drawn to players “that have been achievers,… team captains… leaders, guys like [former University of Miami running back] Mike James,” whom the Buccaneers drafted last April.

“I’m about winning,” Hickey said. “My competitive outlet is scouting, evaluating players, being innovative, looking at different ways to approach team building that can be better than the other 31 teams.”

The Dolphins know the organization has taken another public relations hit with the public rejections by several candidates.

Asked how the organization is perceived, Ross said: “The organization is perceived by the won/loss records. You are what your record says you are [8-8 in 2013].

“People believe we have a lot of talent on our team. I feel comfortable we’re headed in the right direction.”

### Jonathan Martin, in his first interview since Bullygate hit the Dolphins in late October, told Tony Dungy he left the Dolphins because "I felt trapped like I didn't have a way to make it right." He said he's a "grown man" but "the persistence" of the bullying drove him away. The full interview will air Wednesday morning on The Today show.

Ross said today that he doesn't expect Martin or Richie Incognito to return to the team.

Please check back later tonight for a lot more on Dennis Hickey, plus Canes and Heat.

Stephen Ross addresses issues at Dolphins news conference

Dolphins owner Stephen Ross made clear Tuesday that finding a GM who would have harmony with his coach was the most important element he was seeking and he has found that (even though other candidates turned the job down).

Highlights from Ross’ remarks at Tuesday’s news conference introducing new Dolphins general manager Dennis Hickey:

### Ross: “Looking for a general manager is one of the toughest jobs I’ve had. It’s kind of hard to prepare yourself. You’re interviewing people who haven’t had the responsibility you’re asking them to have.”

“I spoke to some of the most successful general managers about what characteristics you really look for a in a general manager. [He wouldn’t say who.] How do you find the right person? The words that came out of their mouth is you have to find someone that will be joined at the hip with your head coach and put the team and organization first and be totally compatible with the head coach and that the head coach be the representative of the team to the public.

“Trying to determine if he will have that compatibility with a coach --- that was the most important thing.”

### He said the reason he parted ways with Jeff Ireland “wasn’t because I didn’t think highly of Jeff. He’s a good friend. We needed to have harmony in the organization and think as one organization where everyone has respect for each other and operate of the same mindset in all situations.”

He said Hickey’s “knowledge and dedication was a perfect fit for the Dolphins.”

### Ross said Hickey will be responsible for the 53-man roster. Dawn Aponte, who handles the salary cap among other responsibilities, will report to Hickey.

### Ross doesn't understand why some people were confused about the organization's structure: “I set out the characteristics that were looking for. I was pretty clear in the structure. Not an unusual structure. General manager reports to me. Coach reports to me. I can’t answer the question for [why so many people turned it down]. They might have had other reasons. We’re one organization. Unless you have a common goal, you’re not going to succeed. We have the right fit."

### He made clear to candidates that Philbin had to be the head coach. “We’re not playing fantasy football,” Ross said. “With the great organizations, there’s consistency. You don’t change every time something goes wrong, or if you don’t win a game, you don’t replace everybody. We were in it this season. I feel as bad as anybody we didn’t make the playoffs.

“We were competitive. There’s such a fine line between winning and losing. You just don’t start all over again. Talking to outsiders, we’re not that far away. I have a lot of faith and confidence in coach Philbin and his staff and the direction we’re headed. So there was no reason to make wholesale changes.”

### Asked how the organization is perceived, Ross said: “The organization is perceived by the won/loss records. You are what your record says you are [8-8 last season]. People believe we have a lot of talent on the team. We’ve moving in the right direction. How we handled what took place here says an awful lot about this organization. I feel comfortable we’re headed in the right direction.”

### He liked “the compatibility between” Philbin and Hickey.

### Ross: "I was aware of disharmony [between Ireland and Philbin]. It was something I knew I had to address at the end of the season. You have to have one organization with one mindset where everyone is working together.”

### Why does Ross insist on controlling the fate of coach? “I own the team. Let’s start there.... I want to know what’s going on. I do have an interest. I have ideas. I told Dennis: If I tell you to draft a player or play a player, you don’t have to listen to me.”

### Ross said bringing in a big-name coach or GM won't necessarily result in winning: "You bring in the best people and let them do their job.”

### He said he doubted Richie Incognito or Jonathan Martin would play again for the Dolphins but then said he wanted to retract that statement.

### Hickey, by the way, said: "I always believed I was the right person for this job" but said he wasn't ready to address multiple issues, including team needs and the future of assistant GM Brian Gaine. He said he likes the nucleus of players and believed with some additions, this could be a championship-caliber roster.


January 27, 2014

Examining T.B.'s draft record with new Dolphins GM Hickey; UM recruiting news

None of the candidates who interviewed for the Dolphins general manager position has more experience scouting college players than Dennis Hickey, who took the job after two others turned it down and at least four others declined interviews.

Though he never made the final call on draft day, Hickey was very much involved in the Buccaneers’ draft decisions, particularly over the past nine of his 18 years with the team --- six as director of college scouting (2005-2010), the past three as director of player personnel.

How much say did Hickey have in the final decision?

“Fairly significant,” said Mark Dominik, who was Tampa Bay’s general manager from 2009 until his firing at the end of this season. “Dennis got me educated on players.”

Dominik on Monday praised Hickey’s ability as a talent evaluator, and the Buccaneers had some hits during the nine seasons when Hickey had a key position in the front office.

But like all teams, they also had some key misses, including four second-rounders that didn’t meet expectations.

"The record isn't what we wanted [28-52 in Dominik's five years as GM], but we were doing something right in the players we drafted and signed," Dominik said.

A look at those nine drafts that Hickey was intimately involved with, but again, did not make the final decision on: (Note: Bruce Allen, now with Washington, was Tampa Bay's GM during the first four years of these drafts.)

### 2005: Running back Carnell Williams, picked fifth, was a disappointment (3.8 average in seven seasons), with Pacman Jones, Antrel Rolle and DeMarcus Ware among those chosen shortly after. But linebacker Barrett Rudd, selected 36th, became a quality starter.

### 2006: Davin Joseph (23) and Jeremy Trueblood (59) became solid pieces on the offensive line. Third-round receiver Maurice Stovall had just 52 career catches.

### 2007: Defensive end Gaines Adams, taken fourth overall, didn’t quite fulfill expectations, was traded to Chicago for a second-rounder before dying in 2010 from a heart condition. Tampa also took guard Arron Sears (35), who was very good for two years before developing a neurological condition that ended his career; selected a four-year starting safety in Tanard Jackson (106); and over-drafted journeyman safety Sabby Piscitelli at 64.

### 2008: Talented Aqib Talib (picked 20th) had 17 picks in his first four seasons before being traded to New England. Receiver Dexter Jackson (58th) was out of the league within two years, but Jeremy Zuttah (83rd) has been a decent starter.

### 2009: Quarterback Josh Freeman, picked 17th, made the Pro Bowl in his second season before a sharp decline in performance led to his eventual release this past October. Defensive tackle Roy Miller, picked 83rd, started in Jacksonville this season. Only one of the Buccaneers’ other four picks (EJ Biggers) is still in the league.

### 2010: Gerald McCoy (picked third) has become a Pro Bowl defensive tackle, but the 35th pick (UCLA defensive tackle Brian Price) --- chosen one spot before Chiefs running back/Pro Bowl punt returner Dexter McCluster – is out of the league. Receiver Arrelious Benn, picked 39th (three spots before Rob Gronkowski), disappointed and was traded to Philadelphia last year. But receivers Mike Williams (101) and linebacker Dekoda Watson (217) were good value picks.

### 2011: Tampa made prudent selections at No. 20 with Adrian Clayborn (13 sacks in 35 games) and at 84 with linebacker Mason Foster (92 tackles, two sacks, three interceptions this season). But Da’Quan Bowers, picked 51st, has faded (one sack this season) after showing flashes early on.

### 2012: Dominik gives Hickey some of the credit for a draft that yielded three players that made the All-rookie team: safety Mark Barron (No. 7), running back Doug Martin (No. 31) and linebacker Lavonte David, the 58th pick, who has blossomed into a standout (144 tackles, six sacks, five interceptions this season). Safety Keith Tandy (three picks in 2013) was good value at 174.

### 2013: Tampa Bay didn’t have a first-round pick, and cornerback Johnthan Banks (chosen 43rd) has three interceptions in a backup role.

Dominik said Hickey supported the selection of quarterback Mike Glennon at No. 73, and he was the best of the rookie quarterbacks. Hickey also liked the sixth-round selection of UM’s Mike James, who averaged 4.9 yards on 60 carries before fracturing his ankle.


Patriots personnel director Nick Caserio on Monday declined to comment about the Dolphins’ assertion that he wanted the job but did not take it because the Dolphins would not allow him to “clean house” and immediately fire coach Joe Philbin.

ProFootballTalk.com reported that Caserio likes Philbin and planned to keep him, but the Dolphins dispute that. Comcast Sports New England reported that Caserio did not demand that Philbin be fired but wanted to have a role in determining whether he would be retained after this season.

### The Dolphins also have said that Tennessee Titans player personnel director LakeDawson was willing to retain Philbin but insisted on having the ability to dismiss him after the season. ESPN reported that Dawson did not ask for that authority, and Dawson was in meetings Monday and not immediately available to discuss it.


We’ll have a lot more on UM recruiting in the next few days, but this much is clear: This will be a stressful week for the Hurricanes with regard to three elite local defensive prospects: Chad Thomas, Travonte Valentine and Demetrius Jackson.

Thomas, the five-star Booker T. Washington defensive end, said he remains solidly committed to UM but enjoyed his visit to FSU and hasn’t ruled out the Seminoles in interviews with several recruiting web sites.

Valentine, the four-star Hialeah Champagnat defensive tackle, previously identified LSU as his favorite and told SFHSSports.com that his LSU visit this past weekend was “amazing.” He will visit UM this weekend; the Canes are his only other finalist.

Jackson, the four-star defensive end from Booker T. Washington, told Canesport.com a couple weeks ago that he would cancel his remaining visits and fully intends to honor his UM commitment. But he visited Arkansas over the weekend and hasn’t addressed his future.

January 25, 2014

Fins hire Hickey as GM; Mike Wallace says things must change; Dolphins, Heat, UM, Marlins chatter

11 a.m. update: The Dolphins have hired Tampa Bay personnel director Dennis Hickey as their new general manager, ending a search in which at least seven people either declined to be interviewed or turned down the job.

Tennessee's Lake Dawson turned the job down today, a day after New England's Nick Caserio did the same. "Details of the offer didn't align with my vision," Dawson said in a statement, adding it wasn't "an ideal fit."

Tampa Bay did not consider Hickey for their GM opening, even though he had been with the organization for 18 years. Hickey spent the past three years as the team's director of player personnel, after serving six years as their director of college scouting.

The Buccaneers had several regrettable draft picks (Josh Freeman, receiver Dexter Jackson and others) during his tenure as director of college scouting, though it's important to note that Hickey wasn't making the final decision.

Hickey is given credit for advocating the signing of undrafted running back LeGarrette Blount after Tennessee cut him. But the Bucs later traded Blount to New England, where he had a big role in the Patriots' 2013 season.

Now last night's post....



SUNDAY BUZZ COLUMN (We interrupt this underwhelming Dolphins GM search --- and Saturday night's rejection from the Patriots' Nick Caserio --- for some on-field chatter and thoughts from the Dolphins' highest-paid player):

The Super Bowl features the quarterbacks who were the most accurate on deep balls this season: Russell Wilson (48.3 percent) and Peyton Manning (48.2 percent) --- yet another illustration of the importance of explosive passing plays.

On the other end of the spectrum? Miami’s Ryan Tannehill.

Even if you give him credit for his five deep balls that were dropped, which Pro Football Focus does, he was accurate on just 32.8 percent of passes thrown 20 yards or more and completed 25 percent of them (16 for 64) – better than only Joe Flacco among qualifiers.

Mike Wallace knows this lack of chemistry simply cannot happen again in 2014.

And Wallace also knows this: They need to get together in February. And March. And every month before training camp. And Tannehill needs to throw deep balls and Wallace needs to catch them. Hundreds of them.



"We have to,” Wallace said. “Definitely have got to get the deep ball going. That’s the difference between winning and losing a couple games. I should have had 15 or 20 more touchdowns. And that’s being modest. If you press me, you have no shot to cover me. Once I get you to stop your feet, it’s over.”

But if the deep ball isn’t thrown accurately, or caught, it’s moot.

Consider: Of balls in the air at least 20 yards, Tannehill threw 36 such passes to Wallace, and only six were completed --- the worst percentage of 22 deep-threat receivers ranked by PFF. Of those 36, only eight were deemed catchable and Wallace dropped two.

Conversely, DeSean Jackson caught 16 of 33, T.Y. Hilton 11 of 26, Josh Gordon 15 of 36 and AJ Green 15 of 38.

Overall, Wallace caught just 53 percent of all passes thrown to him, which ranks 88th of 111 receivers.

It’s also troubling that Tannehill’s deep ball accuracy regressed from his rookie season, when he completed 39 percent (20 of 51).

Wallace, whose 11 dropped passes tied for the NFL’s fourth-most (four fewer than Brandon Marshall), said he will spend only a month away before returning to South Florida in February. He will run on the UM track with Hurricanes track coach Amy Deen, in addition to working with Tannehill and new coordinator Bill Lazor.


### One person who interviewed for the Dolphins’ general manager job said Stephen Ross never clarified whether executive vice president/football administration Dawn Aponte would report to him or the owner, which has caused confusion. The Dolphins publicly remain non-committal about that, even though Aponte previously reported to Jeff Ireland. Ireland would have reported to Aponte if Ireland had agreed to the demotion that Ross pitched.

One former NFL general manager said having Aponte report to Ross, instead of the GM, potentially would cause problems: “If your general manager says he’s already drawn up a contract with Drew Rosenhaus, will Dawn then say, ‘We don’t have the money to do that?’ The GM typically would be over a football administrative person.”

One candidate said Aponte participated in his interview but that he also met alone with Ross and alone with Joe Philbin.

### Patriots personnel director Nick Caserio, who turned down an offer to be the Dolphins GM on Saturday night, is highly-regarded. But several NFL types (a candidate who declined to interview, a respected former GM and others) called the Dolphins’ other candidates unimpressive.

One source who has dealt with Tennessee's Lake Dawson said he simply isn't as knowledgable as many of the league's other personnel directors. Former Dolphins candidate Jason Licht, who was hired by Tampa Bay, “was the best candidate of all of them” before Caserio interviewed and turned down the job, the former GM said. But Licht wasn't about to turn down an offer from Buccaneers merely to be a finalist in Miami.

What a humbling, disappointing search --- with at least four candidates declining to be interviewed, at least one declining a follow-up interview, one rejecting an offer, and now three finalists from teams that have experienced far more failure than success in recent years. Sort of typical for these Dolphins. And doesn't Ross need to ask a bunch of smart NFL people why this job is so unappealing and attempt to fix it?

### The Marlins, who privately sense Giancarlo Stanton’s interest in playing in California someday, decided this wasn’t the right time to make a multiyear offer and are hesitant to broach the issue once the season starts. But the Marlins expect to make a multiyear offer before they consider trading him as early as next winter.

According to a close associate, Stanton is in a good spirits because he believes the Marlins have improved their roster and because they gave him a fair contract in his first year of arbitration eligibility ($6.5 million) after automatically renewing him in the past for less than what he believed he deserved.

### Negativity has swirled among some UM football fans, with many upset about defensive coordinator Mark D’Onofrio and the four blowout losses this past season. Associates say Al Golden has grown weary of some of the criticism.

“What the hell do people want?” one high ranking UM Board of Trustee member said. “Does anyone realize what the NCAA thing did to us? That team this year was an ordinary team, and we went 9-4. It will take three years to build this up, but this is the right guy to do it.”

### UM still hopes the NCAA will reduce its penalty of nine docked football scholarships because UM withheld some last year. But the NCAA hasn’t given UM an answer yet.

### UM continues to show a peculiar lack of interest in the highly-regarded sons of former Heat stars. Former coach Frank Haith never pursued former Michigan star Tim Hardaway Jr. (a first-round pick last June) and was late and lukewarm in recruiting former Georgia Tech standout Glen Rice Jr. (a second-round pick last June).

One UM source said the former staff had concerns their fathers might meddle, and UM had concerns about Rice's attitude; he was later dismissed from the Georgia Tech team as a junior.

Now, Ransom Everglades coach Claude Grubair said he’s surprised UM has not shown more interest in forward Alonzo Mourning III, Alonzo’s son.

 “I feel they’re not really interested,” Grubair said. “There are very few big men in the country that shoot like him. He’s still growing, and doctors say he’s going to be 7-foot, 7-1. Maybe he doesn’t fit what Miami wants to do. They haven’t offered him.”

UF and Duke have aggressively recruited Mourning, but Grubair said both schools told him that he needs to tell them he’s not going to go to Georgetown before they offer him officially.

“Other schools are saying he must be going to Georgetown like his father did, but I’m not sure about that,” Grubair said. Mourning, averaging 34.3 points and 10 rebounds, is graduating in May, according to his coach....

### Check out the Twitter feed of Herald colleague @Safid_Deen if you're interested in the names of the top Class of 2015 players visiting UM on Sunday.... As it turned out, UM had only two Class of 2014 official visits this weekend: Quarterback Malik Rosier (a strong UM oral commitment) and Georgia-based athlete Tavon Ross, a Missouri oral commitment. Ross told canesport.com that his visit went well but his decision will be based on how next weekend's Missouri visit goes. He's also considering Georgia and Auburn. UM wants him as a running back, though he can also play safety.

### Chris Bosh not only is in the midst of one of the best offensive stretches of his Heat career (58 percent shooting, 24 points per game in his past six, with Dwyane Wade missing four of them), but he has never felt more comfortable offensively here than the past month.

He admitted in a private moment recently that at times in the past, "I was thinking, ‘No play calls for me. I don’t feel comfortable doing this.’ Now, I just let it rip.

“Before, I was always just trying to figure it out. It was to the point where it frustrated me because I wasn’t in my comfort zone. I wasn’t getting on that right block and getting play calls. Now I’m a totally different player, where the defense never knows when I’m going to shoot it.”

Bosh, who has averaged 17.6 points in his Heat career, said Erik Spoelstra still doesn’t call plays for him but said some calls have built-in options that allow him to shoot.

### Wade, who blamed knee soreness on his four-game absence, practiced Saturday and hopes to play Sunday against San Antonio.

### Miami-Dade County deputy mayor Chip Iglesias said the county commission probably won’t vote until April or May on whether to approve a proposed MLS stadium at the Port Miami site. There is optimism it will be approved, but final resolution --- especially with Beckham’s group seeking state money --– is a ways off.

### Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

Report: Caserio declines Dolphins' GM offer; UM recruiting; Marlins signing

10:30 p.m. update: Patriots personnel director Nick Caserio has turned down an offer to become the Dolphins' GM, NFL Network's Ian Rapaport reported tonight. If true, that leaves Brian Gaine, Lake Dawson and Dennis Hickey in the running to replace Jeff Ireland. None of those three has been a GM before and none of their teams had winning records this season.


A few quick Saturday notes:

### What would the Dolphins be getting if they grab Nick Caserio from the Patriots? The Patriots personnel director remained in Miami for a second interview today, as they close in on hiring a general manager.

"To me, what was so impressive about Nick is everything he does, there's a selflessness about it," Scott Pioli, who hired Caserio in New England in 2001, told NFL Network’s Albert Breer earlier this month. "People in this industry, there's a lot of ego, a lot of testosterone, but Nick was always more concerned about the greater good than his own mission. For young guys in our business, that's a vanishing commodity these days, and it's an important quality of his. It's loyalty, but it's more. It's selflessness. He's a team guy.

"When he was asked to coach, he coached; when he was asked to work in personnel, he worked in personnel. He was only concerned with what the team needed. A lot of guys are in there for two yearsand are worried about being directors or GMs. That's not what Nick's focus was."

Falcons GM Thomas Dimitroff, who previously worked with Caserio in New England, told Breer: "Nick's gotten where he's gotten for good reasons, because he's incredibly driven and intelligent. It's a huge asset to Nick that he can move from personnel to coaching and coaching personnel, and even perform those tasks in the same day.

“To be able to handle that multitasking and understand what someone as talented as Bill Belichick wants, it's huge. When you work for Bill, you better come to the table with your I's dotted and your T's crossed. Nick is able to do that, and Bill has great respect for that."

When I mentioned his name to an NFL official Friday, the first response was "very sharp guy."

Belichick makes final decisions in New England, so it’s unclear which decisions Caserio suggested. But the Patriots have made a bunch of good ones in the draft and the fact he has earned Belichick’s complete faith and trust speaks volumes.

It Stephen Ross wants Caserio, it wouldn't be surprising if he offers him a ton of money to lure him.

Tennessee's Lake Dawson also interviews a second time today, but the feedback I've received on him (from two NFL executives) has been lukewarm at best. Dennis Hickey also is set for another interview today. The Dolphins' Brian Gaine had a second interview Friday.

###It’s a light weekend for UM recruiting visits, among seniors. Mobile (Ala.)-based Malik Rosier --- rated the nation’s 22nd-best dual purpose quarterback --- is visiting and is considered a solid UM oral commitment.

At least two others were expected this weekend: Three-star Georgia-based prospect Tavon Ross (who’s committed to Missouri) and three-star Jacksonville-based receiver Isaiah Ford, who’s uncommitted.

UM has interest in Ross as a running back, but Ross told Rivals.com that his commitment to Mizzou is “pretty solid.”

Ford, rated the nation’s No. 67 receiver, is considering Louisville, Virginia Tech, UM, UF and South Carolina. [UPDATE: FORD REPORTEDLY ENDED UP CANCELING HIS VISIT.]

UM will host a bunch of juniors on Sunday.

### UM basketball is getting more exposure this week than any other week this season, with two consecutive games on national television and both being called by the lead analyst at their respective networks. Wednesday, it was ESPN2 and Dick Vitale for UM- Duke. Today, it’s a full national telecast on CBS for UM-Syracuse, with new CBS lead analyst Greg Anthony providing commentary (alongside Ian Eagle).

### The Marlins had been considering four players as a right-handed bat off the bench: Vernon Wells, Jeff Baker, Reed Johnson and Ty Wigginton. They signed Wigginton on Friday, even though he hit just .158 in 57 at-bats for St. Louis last season before being released in July.

He was better for Philadelphia in 2012, hitting .235 with 11 homers and 43 RBI. Wigginton, 36, has a .261 career average with 169 homers.  He signed a minor-league deal with an invitation to spring training. 

January 23, 2014

Noon Fins GM update; Loria changes approach; Fins, UM, Heat chatter; Kobe's UM class

Noon update: The Dolphins have added a new candidate for their GM job: New England Patriots  personnel director Nick Caserio. He's interviewing here today, per ESPN's Adam Schefter.

The Patriots are the only team Caserio, 38, has worked for. He was previously a scout, assistant offensive coach and receivers coach in 2007. He has been their pro personnel director since 2008. He becomes the fourth known candidate for the job as of Friday morning. He's concerned very smart, sharp, and Bill Belichick trusts him.

The others: Lake Dawson, Brian Gaine and Dennis Hickey. Dawson and Gaine have second interviews scheduled. Hickey has been in discussions with Miami over the past 24 hours and might interview again.



Among the positives to emerge from the Marlins’ front-office changes: Owner Jeffrey Loria has such faith in his executives that for the first time, he has been deferring to them on baseball decisions.

“He’s far happier with the baseball department now,” a friend of Loria said. “They presented him with a plan and he has agreed to everything.”

Loria has ordered many moves in the past – everything from significant (such as pursuing Jose Reyes and John Buck and giving a three-year deal to Heath Bell) to minor ones (demoting Chris Volstad, not promoting journeyman Chris Valaika after last summer's Tino Martinez fiasco). But he hasn’t demanded anything this offseason, according to an official who has spoken to the Marlins’ front office.

Loria still sits in the meetings and gives opinions but has apparently concluded, at least so far, that he needs to let his baseball people do their jobs. The staff is now headed up by president of baseball operations Michael Hill, general manager Dan Jennings and three new hires.

The question is whether Loria will be tempted to start meddling again when the season starts or as soon as something goes wrong.

With a promising young rotation and four new starting position players, the Marlins believe they will be much improved from last season’s 100-loss team.


### Though owner Stephen Ross loves Tony Dungy and gave thought to hiring a football czar who would oversee over his GM, he knew luring Dungy wasn’t realistic, and he decided not to give Carl Peterson the job, even though a friend said Peterson would be interested.

“I have not had any conversation with the Dolphins about a position with their organization, nor do I intend to do so,” Dungy said this week. “…I have retired from the NFL and will not be returning in any capacity.”

So instead of a football czar choosing a GM, Ross is doing it himself, and as of early afternoon Friday, had candidates remaining from only losing franchises (his own, Tennessee, Tampa Bay), with four candidates having declined interviews and a fifth (Ray Farmer) declining a follow-up interview. And so it goes.

But internal candidate Brian Gaine is respected around the league, and his chances increase at least somewhat with Farmer's decision not to pursue the job further. If Lake Dawson gets the job, Peterson's influence would again be apparent; he drafted Dawson and thinks highly of him.

### As the Dolphins prepare to interview Dawson and Gaine again, they also remain in conversations with Tampa Bay player personnel executive Dennis Hickey.

### Hialeah Champagnat four-star defensive tackle Travonte Valentine, a UM priority, will visit LSU this weekend and is down to LSU and UM. He said UM’s Al Golden and LSU’s Les Miles will visit him on the same day in late January, and told ESPN his decision will hinge partly on “the last words they tell me. Who proves that they need me more is going to put one school over the top.”

Valentine plans to announce on National Signing Day (Feb. 5).

It’s highly unlikely three-star North Carolina-based prospect Lamont Gaillard will emerge as a realistic option at defensive tackle for UM. Gaillard, who calls himself a solid Georgia commitment, canceled his visit to UM this weekend and isn’t sure he will rebook.

### Highly-regarded former junior college defensive tackle Calvin Heurtelou is expected to enroll at UM in the next few days. He had 14 tackles for loss and four sacks this past season for Scottsdale (Ariz.) CC.... Louisville and former UM assistant Clint Hurtt took a job as the Chicago Bears’ defensive line coach. He won’t have to worry about serving out the NCAA’s two-year show-cause penalty if he spends the rest of his career in the NFL.

### With the Spurs visiting Sunday, Heat guard Ray Allen will be reminded a lot this week about the shot that tied Game 6 of the NBA Finals and ultimately saved the Heat’s season. But Allen is also reminded of the shot every time he walks into his home.

As a Christmas gift for her husband, Allen’s wife paid artist Alexander Mijares to paint a photograph of Allen holding the ball in the corner before launching that three-pointer. Allen recently hung it over his fireplace.

“I totally don’t mind if people define me by that shot,” he said. “It holds great relevance to any guy on this team. It’s something that takes this franchise to the next level, so you can start building a dynasty.”

Months later, strangers continue to ask him about the shot, which tied Game 6 with 5.3 seconds left in the fourth quarter and ultimately propelled the Heat to an overtime win. They’ve broached the topic to him in restaurants, gas stations, even at a urinals (which can be pretty awkward), and Allen is always happy to oblige.

“As much as people want to say congratulations, it’s more about them, how they feel, what they were doing at the time,” he said. “I let people have those moments.”

 Allen believes Jamie Foxx is still planning a commercial on the shot. “Last I heard it was [still on],” he said. “He has it written.”

Curiously, Allen said he hasn’t once gone to his computer or VCR to watch a tape of the shot. But he said he has seen it more than a dozen times just by happenstance.

“When you’re on Instagram or some social network, it always pops up,” he said. “It’s one of those things I’m a part of forever.

“I can describe my whole life around that single shot. It didn’t start with just that shot, it was about everything I did up to that point…. Anybody that knows me or has been around me knows that it wasn’t luck. Everybody who is around me said, 'Yep, that’s what he does.'”

### To appreciate the impact Greg Oden already has made on defense, consider: In his appearances before Thursday night, the opposing team managed just four points in the 12 possessions that ended when the man Oden was guarding took a shot or committed a turnover. That points-per-possession (.333) --- albeit in very limited minutes --- is exceptional. (Indiana’s Roy Hibbert is at .732).

Chris Bosh said he has felt “an initial comfort level” playing alongside Oden: “We keep things simple. You know where he’s going to be… To have that ready for [Indiana], it will be good.”

Offensively, we saw an impressive left-handed jump hook tonight from Oden, who closed with five points, five rebounds and a block in 10 minutes, his longest stint to date. He said afterward that his timing "isn't that great" -- which is understandable -- but said "tonight was good and very encouraging for me."

### Imagine taking a class at UM, showing up and seeing Kobe Bryant in the back? That's what happened Wednesday afternoon, when the injured Lakers star --- in town for Thursday's Heat game --- sat in the back of a marketing management class at UM, soaking in a discussion about the role of social media in the re-launch of the Ford Fiesta.

The office of Eugene Anderson, the dean of UM’s School of Business, got a call Wednesday morning saying Bryant wanted to attend a marketing or management class at UM, as he had done at Boston College the previous week.

“He picked mine,” UM professor Jeffrey Weinstock said. “I was flattered…. The [students] were excited but not distracted.”

Accompanied by the dean, Bryant arrived a minute after the class started, quietly acknowledged the boisterous applause, then took a seat for the 75-minute class. Bryant, who went from high school to the NBA, conducted a five-minute Q & A session at the end. “He said he’s a psycho-perfectionist,” Weinstock said.

### Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

January 22, 2014

Noon update: Wade out; Peterson's Dolphins influence apparent; UM, Heat, Marlins; ABC/ESPN shakeup

Noon update: Dwyane Wade won't play against the Lakers tonight; he's missing his fourth consecutive game to rest his knees. Wade said Monday he feels soreness in the knees but hasn't spoken to reporters since then.

Asked if the Heat should be alarmed, Erik Spoelstra said no. "Heat nation does not need to be panicked," he said. But this has the feel of a mini-shut down.

Spoelstra declined to speculate if Wade would be available Sunday against San Antonio.

### USA Basketball chief Jerry Colangelo, on Wade not being a part of the 2016 Olympic team: "He's concentrating on his NBA career like he should. We appreciate the service he gave us. But it's time for us to move on."

Chris Bosh said he will not play in the 2016 Olympics because he wants to spend time with his family and wants others to get the opportunity. But he said he did not relay that message to USA Basketball, suggesting that USA Basketball might have gone in a different direction anyway.

LeBron James is expected to play in the 2016 Games in Brazil --- his fourth Olympics.

### After two published reports last night that Tennessee Titans executive Lake Dawson is not a finalist for the Dolphins' GM job, The Herald's Armando Salguero reports he is. Cleveland's Ray Farmer is also reportedly a finalist.


Notes on a Wednesday night:

### Despite Stephen Ross’ fondness and respect for friend and confidante Carl Peterson, the Dolphins owner never has been quite motivated enough to give him a big salary and a lofty title --- a role that would hold appeal to Peterson, according to a friend.

But in some ways, Peterson’s influence over the Dolphins has never been greater, and it’s evident now in his role as Ross’ chief advisor in the general manager search.

Ray Farmer reportedly is a favorite for the Dolphins’ GM job, and it’s no coincidence that he’s the one candidate with whom Peterson worked closely, for three years in Kansas City.

Scott Pioli, the former two-time NFL Executive of the Year, was never a candidate for the Dolphins’ GM job, and it’s no coincidence that Peterson wasn’t a fan of Pioli and is believed to have told Ross as much.

Not only did Pioli replace Peterson in Kansas City, but Peterson’s former Chiefs colleagues called Peterson and bad-mouthed Pioli, according to someone with direct knowledge.

So Peterson wasn’t about to recommend Pioli to Ross, and Ross thus had no reason to pursue him. Pioli, who would have considered Dolphins overtures, never heard from Miami and took an assistant general manager job with the Falcons on Wednesday.

And remember, when the Dolphins were trying to decide whether to hire Joe Philbin or Mike McCoy as coach two years ago, Peterson told Ross that he never saw a coach’s presentation more impressive than Philbin’s.

So even without a title, Peterson still wields more influence over the owner than most of the people who do. And that’s even with Ross already announcing that he won’t hire Peterson for anything after the GM search is over.

### The Dolphins whittled their list of GM candidates on Wednesday, and based on reports (if accurate) and process of elimination, the job should go to Browns assistant GM Ray Farmer, Titans personnel man Dawson, Dolphins assistant GM Brian Gaine or Buccaneers director of player personnel Dennis Hickey --- unless a new candidate surprisingly emerges.

Interviews with finalists with take place this weekend. Several reports have established Farmer as the front-runner.

### Duke’s 67-46 win over UM tonight was Miami’s first lopsided loss in six conference games, and it exposed all of the Hurricanes’ offensive limitations. There’s simply no way UM can give Duke a competitive game when its two most experienced perimeter players, Rion Brown and Garrius Adams, shoot a combined 4 for 17, with Brown 1 for 6 and Adams 3 for 11.

Freshman Manu Lecomte, who had displayed growth recently, played an unsteady floor game, with six turnovers and two assists. At 10-8 overall and 2-4 in the conference, UM faces an uphill climb to make a push for an NIT berth.

### ESPN.com obtained a list of the 28-player pool from which USA Basketball will select 12 participants for this summer's World Cup and the 2016 Olympics in Brazil. Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, who are headed into potential free agency this summer, are not on the list. LeBron James, naturally, is on the list but reportedly won't participate in Team USA's international competition this summer.

### Viewer alert: TNT is allowing Charles Barkley to work games occasionally this year, at his request, and Sir Charles will join Marv Albert and Steve Kerr for the call of Heat-Lakers on Thursday night. Barkley again stated this week that the Pacers are the best team in the East.

### Among the 17 people that CBS announced today will be competing against Marlins president David Samson in the new installment of the reality series Survivor: former NBA forward Cliff Robinson, a poker player, nuclear engineer, hair stylist and two police officers. The show, taped last summer in the Philippines, begins airing Feb. 28.

### Barring a change of heart, ESPN and ABC are planning to replace Brent Musburger as their lead college football announcer, as first reported by ESPN biographer James Andrew Miller.

A source confirmed Chris Fowler is the front-runner for the job, even though Brad Nessler is the more experienced and deserving play-by-play man. Fowler, an exceptional studio host, has expressed interest in doing play-by-play and his expiring contract gives him leverage in negotiations.

Musburger, whose contract is expiring, has been offered a play-by-play position with the new SEC Network, which is owned by ESPN. Musburger will turn 75 in May.