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30 posts from January 2016

January 30, 2016

How good can Justise Winslow be? Answer critical to Heat's long term success; Dolphins, Canes, Marlins nuggets




What’s the quickest way for the Heat to become a legitimate championship contender, outside of the unlikely acquisition of Kevin Durant in free agency this summer?

If Justise Winslow, drafted 10th, can somehow become as impactful, or nearly as impactful, as Kawhi Leonard (selected 15th) or Paul George (10th) or Draymond Green (35th).

Whether Winslow can progress to their level is obviously impossible to predict. But at least one Heat star insists Winslow can be a star if he improves his jumper. And remember, nobody could have predicted Leonard or Green, off their rookie seasons, would be nearly as good as they've become.

Winslow is already Miami’s best defender, according to NBA TV’s Grant Hill, and his nine rebounds, four assists, two steals and stout defense on Jimmy Butler in Chicago on Monday, followed by 6-for-7 shooting Tuesday in Brooklyn, were a reassuring reminder of his diverse, dynamic skill set. All week, he showed an ability to facilitate, to bring the ball up the court at times, and get the Heat into offense when needed.

Players he guards this season are shooting 41.6 percent, compared to 43.7 overall, and Miami has outscored teams by 52 with Winslow in the game, compared to a negative-97 with Luol Deng on the court.

The big question, of course, is whether Winslow can fix what has been his glaring shortcoming: perimeter shooting. What we’ve seen the last week has been encouraging.

What if he develops a consistent jump shot?

“Then he could be one of the best players in the league,” Heat forward Chris Bosh said. “He has that type of talent. One of the best two-way players that he can possibly be. His upside is huge. That’s the last frontier for him.”

Winslow struggled through an 18-game stretch, ending with the Jan. 12 Clippers game, in which he shot 29 for 81 and made at least half his shots only twice in 18 games. Since then (entering Friday), he was 22 for 46 and 7 for 15 on threes.

“I know I’m a capable shooter; I shot 41 percent on threes [with a shorter three-point line at Duke],” he said, adding he’s receptive to subtle technique tweaks that Heat coaches have suggested. “But obviously, I’m not consistent enough. I have to keep repetition, repetition and shooting with confidence.”

Teams have been sagging off him, with Nuggets coach Mike Malone admitting that “lately you see a lot of teams trying to hide their [centers] on a guy like Winslow and guarding Bosh with a smaller, more versatile defender.”

Here’s what’s encouraging: Winslow is only 19, having played just one year in college, and there is considerable precedent for significant increases in shooting percentages. As a shooter, Winslow is further along as a rookie than another 6-7 defensively-skilled forward was at a similar stage: Golden State’s Green, who was named an All-Star on Thursday.

As a 22-year-rookie, Green shot 84 for 257; Winslow so far is 95 for 233 (40.8 percent).

Green shot 14 for 67 on threes as a rookie. Winslow is 22 for 83 (26.5 percent).

In his four seasons, Green has boosted his overall shooting percentage from 32.7 to 40.7 to 44.3 to 47.5. On threes, he has ascended from 20.9 to 33.3 to 33.7 to 41.4 percent this season.

“For [Winslow] to take the next step and be talked about, Draymond Green has become that guy you should look at and say, ‘I want to develop my game like that,’” ABC's Doug Collins told me off the air.

Though Leonard was a much better shooter than Winslow as a rookie (49.3 percent), the Spurs’ standout has lifted his three-point accuracy from 37.6 then to an NBA-leading 48.8 now. George’s three-point percentage rose from 29.7 as a rookie to 38.1 now. As rookies, both scored about two points more per game than Winslow.

Winslow also can look inside the Heat organization at director of college and pro scouting Keith Askins, who shot 29.8 on threes his first five seasons (78 for 262) but 41.1 percent (168-409) the next two.

“Shooting is a skill; through working on your shot, breaking down your shot, if you really dedicate yourself, you can improve it,” said Malone, whose team might have drafted Winslow at No. 7 if Emmanuel Mudiay hadn’t been available. “The best example is a guy like Jason Kidd. Jason Kidd came in and was a non-shooter. [Late in] his career, he was 40 percent from three.

“Justise just has to commit to putting the time in the gym, getting the reps up, and he will become a better shooter because of that. I like his athleticism, his versatility, his defensive ability and potential. The kid has a hell of a future.”

Winslow is shooting just 31.7 percent on shots beyond two feet (45 for 162) compared with 55.8 percent at the rim. Though a veteran scout said Winslow’s shot is “broken,” Collins disagrees.

“I don’t think a bad shooter becomes a great shooter but he can become an adequate shooter,” Collins said. "[Winslow] has to make the commitment. Is his shot broke? Is it something he has to totally break down? I don’t think it’s broken.

“It’s a shot you can continue to tweak. It’s repetition and repetition and repetition. He can put the ball on the floor. He has a high motor. But the game gets harder and harder if you can’t shoot. There is such a premium on shooting. If you can’t shoot, you better be on the court with four guys who can. You can’t play two guys who can’t shoot."       

Winslow believes he's starting to figure out the NBA game and vows to keep putting in the work. Besides getting up a lot of shots, he says he analyzes film of his shot, and he already has a plan for this summer, not only to work on his distance shooting but also his ball-handling “so we can get better spacing.”

He won’t be satisfied until perimeter shooting has gone from perceived liability to strength.

“We’re working on the three obviously, but also the catch and go, attacking them off the dribble with a head of steam,” he said. “A lot of Milwaukee players do that great. I’m still young. That’s not an excuse at all but I’ll have time to grow [as a shooter]. Just trying to get more consistent with it.”

That consistency will determine whether Bosh’s words prove prophetic, whether the Heat has a high-end cornerstone player or merely a nice supporting piece. It will be fascinating to watch unfold, and the Heat will be much closer to being a true contender if Winslow somehow can improve over the next four years as much as Green has with the Warriors.


### This interesting Heat nugget from Elias today: Dwyane Wade has scored at least 20 points and made at least 50 percent of his shots --- as he did Friday in Milwaukee --- in 360 games since he entered the league, which is by far the highest total for any starting guard over that span.

Next highest: Tony Parker's 273. The only two players with more 20-point/50 plus field-goal percentage games than Wade since he entered the NBA are LeBron James (478) and Dirk Nowitzki (370).

### We hear UM players are very excited about Manny Diaz’s attacking defense, believing it is better suited to many of their skill sets.

“Coming back is the best choice I ever made,” defensive end Al-Quadin Muhammad said on Twitter. “This staff is unbelievable. They have our best interest [in mind].”

### We’re told Mark Richt signed a six-year deal, not the five-year contract that is more typical, because UM preferred six. The deal averages more than $4 million per season.

### Receivers coach Ron Dugans revealed that Richt opens every staff meeting with a prayer, something Bobby Bowden did at FSU.

### Four-star Wellington receiver Ahmmon Richards, a key UM target, tweeted his finalists tonight: UM, Alabama and Auburn.

### Winning on the road in the ACC is awfully difficult, but UM's 85-69 loss at North Carolina State today was especially disappointing because the Wolfpack entered 1-7 in the conference.

Sheldon McClellan (5 for 14 shooting) and Ja'Quan Newton (4 for 13) were off their games, and Tonye Jekiri (six points, five rebounds, no blocks) didn't make nearly the type of impact on the boards, or as defender, as we've come to expect. NC State shot 51 percent, with UM offering little deterrence.

UM (16-4, 5-3) reaches the midpoint of the ACC schedule when it hosts Notre Dame on Wednesday.

### CBS lead analyst Phil Simms, on a Super Bowl call Thursday, told me that when Dolphins coach Adam Gase was Denver’s offensive coordinator, “you walk by a meeting room in the hotel when he’s on the road, and he’s the only guy in there still working. No other coaches, just him doing work. Tireless worker. He’s the right man for the job.

“We’ve seen what he did with Peyton Manning, how they changed the offense to make it really good for him. He was there with Tim Tebow. What he did this past year in Chicago just another reason why he got a head coach and why I’m sure Ryan Tannehill is pretty excited to have him as the head coach and [play-caller].”

### Because Gase really likes what he has seen in Tannehill, and Mike Tannenbaum is convinced Miami can win with him, the Dolphins do not feel compelled to draft legitimate competition.

### Former UM assistant coach Clint Hurtt's chances for a homecoming were dashed when the Bears denied Gase’s request to interview (and hire) him. Hurtt, who very likely would have been Miami’s defensive line coach, will be an option for Gase when his contract as Bears’ outside linebacker coach expires next offseason --- if the Dolphins’ defensive line struggles under Terrell Williams….

Whereas Hurtt is in the NFL, the two other ex-UM assistants who got NCAA show-cause penalties from the Nevin Shapiro scandal are head coaches at the high-school level: football coach Aubrey Hill at Carol City, basketball coach Jorge Fernandez at Doral. Basketball coach Jake Morton, who received a notice of allegations but no penalties, is an assistant at Coppin State.

### Incidentally, Dan Campbell could have stayed on Miami’s staff if he had wanted (he chose New Orleans), while the Dolphins declined to allow multiple teams to hire special teams coach Darren Rizzi.

### Marlins executive Michael Hill said new hitting coach Barry Bonds is already immersed in the job, studying tape of Marlins hitters. Word is, he’s excited about working with Marcell Ozuna, among others.

### Among familiar names invited to Marlins spring training: former big-league infielder Robert Andino, the Miami Southridge High product who spent the first four seasons of his career with the Marlins (2005-2008). Andino -- who has hit .232 with 18 homers and 96 RBI in 468 career games --- hasn't played in the majors since a stint with Seattle in 2013. Andino, 31, spent last season with the Somerset Patriots of the Atlantic League. 

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

January 29, 2016

Postscripts, reaction from Heat's win in Milwaukee; Wade's clutch numbers; UM recruiting news; Dolphins notes

A six-pack of notes on a Friday night:

### So in five days, the Heat has gone from its season nadir (losing seven of eight) to the satisfaction of a three-game win streak to close a five-game road trip.

Friday’s 107-103 win in Milwaukee featured some of the best offensive pacing we’ve seen all season from Miami, another immaculate night from Dwyane Wade, Amar’e Stoudemire’s most impactful work of the season, and solid contributions from Chris Bosh (20 points), Luol Deng (16 points, 7 boards, and a big three with 2:23 left) and Goran Dragic (who returned from his calf injury, set the tempo early, scored 10 of his 12 in the first half and chipped in eight assists).

Wade filled the box score with 24 points (7 for 13 shooting), 7 assists, 4 rebounds, 3 blocks and 3 steals. His scored the Heat’s final six points and 10 of their final 13, with his jumper putting Miami ahead for good, 103-101, with 44 seconds left.

How good has Wade been in the clutch? Using the NBA’s definition (final five minutes of games with a margin of five points or fewer), Wade entered tonight with 77 clutch points (13th best in the league). More impressively, he entering shooting 49.1 percent in the clutch (28 for 57).

Of the 16 players who have attempted at least 50 clutch shots (again, using the NBA’s aforementioned definition), only Dirk Nowitzki (49.2 percent) and Deron Williams (50 percent) have shot as well as Wade in the clutch.

By comparison, LeBron James is shooting 46.8 percent in the clutch, James Harden 36.3.

When Wade plays, the Heat is 14-9 in games featuring “clutch minutes” and the Heat has outscored opponents by 50 points during those clutch minutes when Wade is on the floor.

And one more: As AP's Tim Reynolds noted, this is the first time since December 2010 that Wade has scored in double figures in three consecutive fourth quarters.

Regarding his go-ahead jumper with 44 seconds left, Wade said: "I came off as soon as I got a little seam. [Milwaukee] is very long. I shot it on one leg, fading back. I thought it was the best shot I was going to get."

Wade called this a "great win for us, a place we haven't had much success. I'm very proud of our team for figuring it out [after losing the lead briefly]."

Stoudemire, starting his third game in Hassan Whiteside’s absence, was outstanding, with 12 points, 8 rebounds and two blocks in 24 minutes. Josh McRoberts played his first game since Dec. 9, closing with two points and two assists in 16 minutes.

Erik Spoelstra called Stoudemire "incredible," and it's impressive to see what he's done after being taken out of mothballs --- not only the dunks, rebounds and blocks tonight, but also how he set screens.

Miami closed at 50 percent from the field. Before scoring 102 in Brooklyn and 107 tonight, the Heat had scored 74, 79, 87, 81 and 89 in its previous five.

So what changed?

“We’re running our offense a little better, knowing what we’re looking for,” Bosh said.

Spoelstra said "the biggest area we've shown improvement is grit and toughness.... We look a lot different with [Dragic and McRoberts]. Goran is special, unique. He can really ignite your offense. He's a one-man fastbreak. He's grown so much in his ability to run the offense."

Dragic said he "felt great. Second half, I was not so aggressive because they played really well on pick-and-rolls. We did an amazing job sharing the ball. When we play like that, it's really tough to stop us."

Wade said "it was great to have [Dragic] back out there. We don't win this game without Goran's and J-Mac's contributions."

Of Wade and Bosh, Spoelstra said "on the court, they're being who they are" and off the court, "they're letting everyone know how important the details are."

The Heat (26-21) plays host to Atlanta on Sunday, then goes back on the road for Houston, Dallas and Charlotte.

### Among the visitors expected on UM’s campus on Saturday, the final weekend before National Signing Day: Orlando-based offensive lineman Tre Johnson (a soft Illinois commit now taking a hard look at UM); four-star Niceville (Fla.) receiver Elijah Stove (UM a long shot; he’s considered a solid Auburn commit), safety Romeo Finley and defensive end Tyreic Martin.

Finley, a four-star prospect out of Niceville, also is considering Clemson and Georgia Tech and told Rivals that he already has a pretty good idea where he’s going. That doesn’t sound encouraging for UM, because Finley raved about his visits to the two other ACC schools.

Martin, a three-star prospect out of Valley, Ala., was a Missouri commitment until defensive line coach Craig Kuligowski left the Tigers (or more precisely, wasn't retained by the new coach) and joined join Mark Richt’s staff here. Indiana, South Carolina and Jacksonville State are also under consideration.

### New Jersey-based four-star receiver Kelvin Harmon, one of a half dozen undecided receivers UM is pursuing, narrowed his choices to UM and North Carolina State and will announce Monday. (He will base the pick on whoever wins the Hurricanes-Wolfpack basketball game Saturday. No, just kidding.)

### It was notable that during his introductory press conference Thursday, new Dolphins defensive coordinator Vance Joseph praised two players he coached with the Bengals: cornerback Adam “Pacman” Jones and safety Reggie Nelson. Both are impending free agents, and expect the Dolphins to consider both.

### With the Chargers announcing they will play 2016 in San Diego, here’s where the Dolphins will play next season: Los Angeles (to meet the Rams), Seattle, San Diego, Baltimore, Cincinnati, Buffalo, New England and East Rutherford, N.J. (Jets).

Miami’s home schedule: Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Arizona, San Francisco, Tennessee, New England, Buffalo, Jets.

### New Dolphins offensive coordinator Clyde Christensen won’t get to call the plays, but he believes it’s a good idea that Adam Gase is keeping that responsibility for himself.

"I think it's how [Gase] got the head coaching job,” Christensen said. “I think a lot of those guys rise to the top because they have a knack for it. [Arizona Cardinals coach] Bruce Arians, who I've worked for a couple of times, just has a knack for calling games. I think some of the head coaches make a mistake not doing it.

“The reason that they kind of go up the ladder if you will, is because they have a knack for doing it and then all of a sudden they become an administrator, or a guy from the sideline. So I'm for it. Some guys just have a knack for it and I think Coach Gase is that, the  Andy Reid's. So I'm kind of for it."

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

January 28, 2016

MacLean, opposing team executive assess Panthers at the break; Dolphins, Heat, UM, broadcast news



With the Panthers hitting the All-Star break, we asked ex-Panthers coach/Delray Beach resident Doug MacLean (an NHL analyst for Canada-based SportsNet) and a high-ranking front-office executive with another top NHL contender to assess the Panthers’ roster and their chances. Some feedback:

### MacLean: “They’ve had three or four rebuilds that turned out to be disasters since I was there. Olli Jokinen and [Roberto] Luongo were the first rebuild; then [Nathan] Horton and [Jay] Bouwmeester. Hopefully this is a real one. The others were fake ones.

“There are lots of good things happening. They can be dominated some nights and still get points. They're a playoff contender. I’m not going to say they’re a Cup contender. The Blackhawks, L.A. Kings, Washington Capitals have a lot more experience and probably depth. That is not a knock on the Panthers. If I was to say today, I would say a Chicago-Washington final makes a lot of sense. But the Panthers are a great story. They have good leadership and youth.”

The executive, who requested his name not be used: “There was a time I thought they may or may not make the playoffs. Now I’m starting to look at them as one of the elite teams. Six to eight teams have a chance to win the Cup, and they are in that group. Depth is my only concern. A lot of success depends on luck. They have a real chance if they go through without a major injury. Dale [Tallon] has done a magnificent job putting that group together.”

### On the defensemen: MacLean: “They are a really big group and they’re skilled. I coached Aaron Ekblad in the Canadian prospects game – I was blown away at that time as an 18-year-old, the level of maturity he had. He has taken it to another level. You get lucky when you find those guys. They wanted to run [Dimitry] Kulikov out of town; [coach] Gerard [Gallant] showed confidence in him. Erik Gubrandson is maybe at best a No. 4 guy, but that’s fine. [Alex] Petrovic has a mean streak. I like the mix they have there.”

The executive: “Ekblad already is legitimately one of the top defensemen in the league. There aren’t very many legitimate No. 1 defensemen. He is one of them. They drafted a guy who will be a top defenseman for 15 years. He will end up playing 25 to 30 minutes on a regular basis, and that’s helpful because it cuts down the minutes of everyone else. Every time I watch him, he continues to get better…

"Brian Campbell is a much better player than people give him credit for. Effortless skater, can play a lot of minutes; he’s going to do high risk things but he does a hell of a lot more good than bad. If he costs you a goal, he will be responsible for three or four….

“Gudbranson adds a physical element. [Willie] Mitchell has done a pretty good job. Petrovic is still earning his stripes. They can go a long way if Kulikov plays at or near optimal level. He is an inconsistent player, so people will always question if he will. But he’s capable of being a top four defenseman.”

### On their centers: MacLean: “I remember [six-time All Star Sergei] Federov came in as a 20-year-old. First practice, Bryan Murray looked at me and said, ‘Can you believe the way this guy plays in all three zones?’ With [Aleksander] Barkov, that’s what people around the league are looking at, the way he plays all three zones. He brings the total package. Gerard told me he’s their best player. [Nick] Bjugstad is going to be a real good player when you’re that big and strong.”

Executive: “They are the best in the league at that position. What’s not to like about Barkov? You love the size, the intelligence, the skill. Not much missing. He wasn’t a consensus No. 2 pick in that [2013] draft; we didn’t have him that high. Now he’s arguably the best player in that draft. That was a brilliant pick.

Nick Bjugstad is just scratching the surface of what he can be, with his size, speed, his shot. Not only is he a monster, but a monster that can move and make plays. I like [Vincent] Trocheck’s improvement. As a junior, a lot of people liked him but didn’t love him. His game is at a point now where you notice him.”

### Forward: MacLean: “I’m surprised what [Jaromir] Jagr is doing. At 43, I mean, seriously. But he’s just such a natural. Jonathan Huberdeau was a third overall pick, a real good player.  People underestimate how smart Reilly Smith is; high hockey IQ.”

Executive: “What Jagr is doing is mind-boggling because of the age. You expect people to slow down [at 43]. The one thing he hasn’t lost is his strength. He’s a handful anytime the puck is in the offensive zone when someone is trying to check him…. Huberdeau is an amazing playmaker. His vision is off the charts. There was a reason he was drafted [third overall in 2011]….

“I was surprised Boston let go of Reilly Smith. He has proven to be a very good player. Not a tremendous skater, but a deceptive skater, and he does so many other things.

“They’ve got enough people who are capable of high-end scoring that if they get any kind of third- and fourth-line scoring, they are probably going to be fine. That’s where Trocheck becomes so important.”

### On goaltender Roberto Luongo: MacLean said he’s surprised how well he is playing considering his age (36). “You’ve got to put him in the top third of goaltenders,” MacLean said. “He’s playing like he deserves to be in the top six. Everyone knew [Florida] is where he wanted to be. And what about Al Montoya? He has won games for them in tough back to backs.”

Executive: “Luongo settles everything down and gives everyone confidence. He’s a driven kid. He wanted to prove a point.”


### With Goran Dragic expected back Friday at Milwaukee, it will be interesting to see if he can achieve his goal to improve the Heat’s pace (Miami is 29th in possessions per game) and if he can play as well with Dwyane Wade alongside as without him.

Consider: The Heat has outscored teams by 62 points in 300 minutes when Dragic plays without Wade, but only by eight in Dragic’s 902 minutes with Wade. For Wade, it’s the opposite: He’s plus eight with Dragic, but minus 50 without him.

### New Dolphins defensive coordinator Vance Joseph is trying to forge a good relationship with Ndamukmong Suh, who a teammate said had little use for former coordinator Kevin Coyle. And Joseph will grant Suh’s request for input. Suh told Joseph he wants to be involved "in the scheme," and Joseph said “every player is going to have a voice. Whoever puts the work in and brings me ideas, I'll listen.”

### Dolphins special teams coordinator Darren Rizzi said today he wishes Andrew Franks could have gotten more than 16 field goal attempts (he made 13), but "for an undrafted Division III guy that really was not on anybody's radar, I'd have to say that I'm pretty pleased with what he did. Our touchback percentage went up tremendously this year; we ended up being (11th) in the league in touchbacks or touchback percentage.

"I'm a big believer that you have to bring in competition at every position. I think if we sat here last year and if anybody thought that Brandon Fields wasn't going to be the punter in 2015, we all thought he was going to be. But we brought in a guy [Matt Darr] that beat him out. We're always going to be looking to bringing in competition at every position and so I think it'll be the same thing with Andrew. But with that said, I think Andrew did a great job. I really believe this guy can play in the NFL for a long time with his skill set."...

For more on coordinators' availability today: On the home page, check out the Clyde Christensen story by our Adam Beasley, who broke the story of Miami hiring Adam Gase. 

### Even though they’re not assuming anything, the Dolphins are open to giving Dion Jordan another shot if he’s reinstated in April, as long as he's clean and has a good attitude.

### UM landed three-star New Jersey-based Jovani Haskins tonight, giving Miami a second tight end in this class (with Michael Irvin Jr.), and a player ranked 29th among all tight ends by Rivals.com.

I love Miami," Haskins told Canesport tonight. "I like watching Miami on TV, the attitude they play with. To be honest, when I play a college football video game I always choose Miami. 

"I already had my mind made up so I decided tonight that I might as well go ahead and commit.... [Mark Richt] is a legendary coach. He's as genuine as it gets. He was talking how it's more than just football,... how he cares about his guys, how I'd be used in the offense.... [Richt] said I'm a true hybrid, he would flex me out and put me in the slot, put me in the formation on the line."

### Though Irvin (who, like Haskins, also can play receiver) isn’t the caliber prospect his father was, St. Thomas Aquinas coach Roger Harriott told me the similarities are uncanny.

“He catches the ball the same exact way, which is bizarre to me,” Harriott said. “It’s interesting how genetics work. He has soft hands like his father, the same hand/eye coordination.” Irvin projects as a tight end; his father, of course, was a receiver.

### Defensive tackle Jelani Hamilton, who didn’t fulfill expectations, has left the UM football team. He's the sixth non-senior to leave, following Artie Burns (who turned pro), Gray Crow, Jake O'Donnell, Tyre Brady and Joe Brown. A UM spokesman said nobody else has left.... UM said Jamal Carter and Courtel Jenkins have been reinstated after Sun Bowl suspensions.

### 790 The Ticket morning co-host Joy Taylor informed the station that she has a TV offer to work for Fox in Los Angeles and Ticket GM Doug Abernathy says he assumes she will take the job but that she hasn't given notice yet. Taylor, who isn't commenting, was yanked from the air last week because she has been working for five weeks without a contract and Abernathy was pushing for resolution. Abernathy said he hopes Taylor can still have some role at the station.

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

January 27, 2016

Wednesday night notes: Dolphins draft chatter; Tannehill; UM recruiting; Two UM assistants speak; Heat; Panthers

A dozen notes on a Wednesday night:

### This is one of the types of subplots that makes sports so interesting: Most recruiting services say the best recruit in this UM class is cornerback Tyler Byrd. And who’s the person charged with taking him away from Miami?

Larry Scott, Miami’s interim coach for the final six games last season. Scott, now Tennessee’s tight ends coach, has been courting Byrd, and Byrd has agreed to take a visit to Knoxville this week. Tennessee began pursuing Byrd vigorously after Scott joined the staff, not a coincidence.

Based on what Byrd has said, Scott apparently isn’t doing any negative-recruiting against Miami. That’s not surprising; Scott is a classy guy.

Another factor that has UM feeling a bit anxious: Byrd lives with Volunteer running back commit Carlin Fils-aime and considers him a brother. Fils-aime has been committed to the Vols since July and will join Byrd in Knoxville this weekend.

UM must hope that Byrd doesn’t fall in love with the Tennessee coaching staff and the UT campus this weekend. Byrd has said Tennessee has a lot of ground to cover to reach Miami’s level in his eyes.

### UM, with no offensive linemen committed, learned this week that four-star guard Johncarlo Valentin canceled his visit to UM this weekend. But according to Canesport, three-star Orlando-based Tre Johnson (an Illinois commit) will visit.

### UM lost out on Virginia-based three-star defensive back J.J. Givens, who picked N.C. State today.

### New receivers coach Ron Dugans, appearing on WQAM’s Hurricane Hotline with Joe Zagacki and Don Bailey, said Stacy Coley made a “great decision” coming back to school and “is going to be a great leader…. Lawrence Cager has done a great job. Braxton Berrios has done a really good job. Darrell Langham has talent.”…. In recruiting, he said he’s looking for toughness at his position: “They’ve already called us prima donnas at that position.”….  Dugans previously coached the Dolphins’ DeVante Parker at Louisville and said: “Everything you threw his way, he was going to snag it. I’m excited for the kid. I know how hard he’s worked.”

### New UM cornerbacks coach Mike Rumph, the only former Canes player on the assistant coaching staff (besides head coach Mark Richt, obviously), said on Hurricane Hotline than UM will play “a good amount of man to man. It’s going to look like we’re doing something but not.” (In other words, disguising.) He said that’s what NFL top five defenses do.

Rumph said he likes “long corners, anyone similar to me. There’s tremendous support for our corners. We’re not going to leave you on an island 90 percent of the time.”

### Rumph said defensive coordinator Manny Diaz has emphasized what others before him have said about recruiting: “Coach Diaz wants to lock down South Florida… I feel like no one is going to tell me no… Who’s going to tell me no?”

### Dwyane Wade joked Tuesday that people use the word “vintage” when he plays as well as he did this week, when he scored 28 against Chicago and 27 against the Nets.

Wade, who turned 34 on January 17, is the oldest player to score at least 25 points on two consecutive days since Kobe Bryant (at age 36) on November 18 and 19, 2014. For more on Wade, check out Ethan Skolnick's column on the home page.

### Found it funny today that LeBron James said he never met Heat minority owner Ranaan Katz. In fact, Katz told me James routinely came to Katz’s courtside seat to shake Katz’s hand and hug Katz’s wife. But Katz said he doesn’t know if James knew his name. (Please see the last post if you’re not familiar with the Katz/James controversy of the past 24 hours.)

### As NFL cap guru Joel Corry notes, Ndamukong Suh cannot refuse a contract restructuring that would reduce his cap number from $28 million to $10 million next season. His contract gives Miami the right to automatically convert his base salary into a signing bonus and the Dolphins intend to do that.

The Dolphins could ask Ryan Tannehill if he’s willing to do the same, which would cut his cap number from $11.6 million to $4.7 million. But the Dolphins prefer not to restructure Tannehill if they can clear enough money with restructuring Suh and executing other moves. They’ll revisit the Tannehill idea if they believe it necessary.

### As we first reported Sunday (and The Palm Beach Post reported today), Miami will keep a 4-3 defense. That means the Dolphins would like to add a natural mike linebacker to upgrade on Kelvin Sheppard, with the knowledge that they can move Koa Misi back there as a last resort if their search turns up empty.

The best player at the Senior Bowl this week might be Reggie Ragland, a standout at middle linebacker for Alabama the past two seasons. Ragland, whom Mel Kiper projects to go within a few picks after the Dolphins’ selection at No. 8, will play outside linebacker Saturday at the Senior Bowl.

“I just want to show I can cover, rush the passer,” Ragland said, via The Detroit Free Press. “I want to show I can do a multitude of things at the next level. I know I can play inside and play that, but I want to also show I can play outside, too. If a guy goes down, I want to show I can go out there and play it, too, so we don’t miss a beat.”

Former Browns GM Phil Savage, now executive director of the Senior Bowl, said Ragland “has the size of a [middle linebacker], but he’s got the speed of a [weak-side linebacker],” Savage said. “He’s a good combination linebacker that’s playing off the line of scrimmage, can key and diagnose and then take off and run to the perimeter and make plays.”

Ragland had 6.5 tackles for loss,  7 pass breakups, 6 QB hurries and 2 forced fumbles.

### Pressed by WQAM’s Orlando Alzugaray about why the Dolphins don’t automatically bring in legitimate competition for Ryan Tannehill, Mike Tannenbaum reiterated today: “My belief is we can win with him. If there is the right opportunity to add another quarterback, we would certainly consider it.”

Tannenbaum mentioned backups Logan Thomas and Zac Dysert but didn’t mention free agent Matt Moore during the WQAM interview. (Tannenbaum did mention Moore during an earlier media session in Mobile.)

### ESPN’s Todd McShay ranks UCLA linebacker Myles Jack the eighth-best player in this draft, right where Miami picks.

“He's the highest-rated linebacker on my board -- and he's coming off a torn ACL in September,” McShay said. “An explosive athlete who moonlighted as a running back for the Bruins, Jack holds up well in space and displays easy change-of-direction skills. He has shown the ability to cover bigger receivers in the slot and has excellent awareness and instincts in coverage.”

### This stat from Elias speaks to how moribund this Panthers franchise was for years, and how good this team is: This is the first time in the Panthers' 22-year history that they have won three consecutive games with each victory by at least a three-goal margin. They beat last year's Stanley Cup finalists on consecutive days, 4-0 again Chicago on Friday and 5-2 against Tampa Bay on Saturday, and defeated Toronto 5-1 on Tuesday.

The Panthers have 63 points after 49 games. They’ve had more than that at the same juncture only once before --- 67 in 1996, when they made the Stanley Cup finals.

If you missed it, check out the last post for a full UM recruiting update... Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

January 26, 2016

Updating where UM stands a week before National Signing Day; Heat, Panthers chatter


With a week to go before National Signing Day, UM still doesn’t have a single commitment from an offensive linemen or defensive tackle --- two positions in need of improvement, considering Miami ranked 112th in yards per carry on offense last season and finished 10th-worst (118th) in yards per carry allowed on defense.

The offensive line isn't a big priority in this class, because every starter returns and UM added six in last year's class, led by four-star Tyree St. Louis and Bar Milo.

But the defensive line needs an impact tackle or two to augment a group including Kendrick Norton, Courtel Jenkins, Anthony Moten, Gerald Willis, Ryan Fines and R.J. McIntosh.

Mark Richt’s staff has pursued several top defensive tackles in recent weeks, but four-star Glen Logan (an LSU commit) canceled a Miami visit this past weekend; four-star Briston Guidry reiterated his “100 percent” commitment to Arkansas (though he told Caneport that UM coaches are visiting him this week and the Canes are still in contention); and efforts to land four-star New Orleans based D’Andre Christmas have been “to no avail,” according to Caneinsight.com.

Though Oklahoma long has been considered the favorite, UM still has a legitimate chance with three-star Texas-based Marcel Southall (Rivals.com’s 30th-best defensive tackle). He grew up a Canes fan and tweeted “#GoCanes” during his Coral Gables campus visit last weekend.  Texas is also in the mix. His coach told Canesport that Miami is high on his list.

UM also is pushing hard for three-star Mississippi-based defensive tackle Kobe Jones, who reportedly visited Monday after previously announcing a final four of Alabama, Mississippi, Mississippi State and Missouri.

The good news: UM has two quality defensive ends committed: Patrick Bethel (already enrolled) and four-star Joseph Jackson. Four-star Houston-based end Isaiah Chambers visited this past weekend, but he’s a TCU commit and many expect him to stick with the Horned Frogs.

On the offensive line, UM wants to add one or two but lost out to TCU for Connecticut-based three-star tackle Lucas Niang

Four-star Philadelphia-based guard Johncarlo Valentin said he would visit this weekend, but it will be difficult to get to him to flip from Oklahoma to UM. (Update: Rivals.com said he has canceled his visit, but Canesport reports Orlando-based offensive tackle Tre Johnson, an Illinois commit, will visit.)

As most of you know, Jack Allison (already enrolled) was told he will be the only quarterback in the class.

An update on where UM stands at several other positions with Signing Day looming:

### Running back: Three-star Travis Homer is a solid commitment, but UM hasn’t been able to sway four-star Coral Gables back Amir Rasul, who told Rivals that he’s “100 percent” committed to FSU but also considering Alabama.

### Receiver: Two top four-star prospects are solid commits: Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas' Sam Bruce and Gulliver Prep's Dionte Mullins. Latrell Williams, a speedy two-star UM oral commitment from Columbia High in Lake City, told one web site that there’s a “100 percent chance” he will be a Cane but told another that Tennessee very much surpassed his expectations during his visit this past weekend. Now he's declining to say whether he will stick with the Canes.

UM is in the mix for a bunch of other receivers: four-star Hinds (Miss.) CC receiver Javon Wims (a Georgia commit who said he is “really, really considering Miami” and South Carolina); four-star Wellington standout Ahmmon Richards (loved his Alabama visit last weekend, including driving a golf cart around Nick Saban’s home, but he’s also still considering UM, Auburn and Tennessee); four-star Pembroke Pines Flanagan prospect Dredrick Snelson (a soft Minnesota commit who said he’s also considering UM, UCF, Penn State and Maryland); Atlanta-based four-star receiver Randrecous Davis (told Canesport that he is leaning toward UM but will visit his other finalist, South Carolina, this weekend); four-star New Jersey-based Kelvin Harmon (down to UM, N.C. State, Indiana and West Virginia) and three-star Tennessee-based Nate Johnson (a Michigan oral commit who said he’s also considering UM and Notre Dame).

With only six scholarship receivers on the roster (Stacy Coley, Braxton Berrios, Malcolm Lewis, Lawrence Cager, Darrell Langham and D’Mauri Jones), UM would love to land several in this class.

### Tight end: There’s one solid commitment in three-star Michael Irvin Jr., who can also play receiver. Three-star New Jersey-based Jovani Hoskins, who visited last weekend, told Canesport that UM has “a great shot at landing me” and Miami is “up there” with West Virginia, who some previously had considered the favorite. UM has been trying to lure Plantation American Heritage four-star prospect Nick Eubanks, but UF is reportedly the favorite, with Alabama also in the mix.

### Linebacker: Three good ones enrolled early: Shaquille Quarterman, Mike Pinckney and Zach McCloud.

### Defensive back: Cornerback Tyler Byrd, UM’s top oral commitment, plans to visit Tennessee this weekend and told Canesport that “it will be really hard for Tennessee to catch up. I’d still say I’m solid [to Miami]. I just have no idea how good that visit is going to be.”

UM has three other defensive back oral commitments (Deion Jackson, Cedrick Wright, Malek Young), but is pursuing several others, including three-star Kissimmee-based Henry Miller, a Pittsburgh oral commitment. Miller told Canesport that his UM visit made it “close” with Pitt. He “didn’t really like any” of the former UM coaches but indicated he is impressed by this new staff.

UM also is pursuing three-star Miami Southwest safety Christopher McWilliams (a UF commit who said he’s going back and forth between the Canes and Gators; Florida appears the favorite); Virginia-based safety J.J. Givens (said UM visit “was awesome” and Miami has a legitimate shot against Maryland, N.C. State, Arizona State, South Carolina, Michigan State and Clemson); four-star cornerback Shyheim Carter (USA Today’s Louisiana Defensive Player of the Year has UM in his final four with Mississippi, Alabama and LSU, but Miami is considered an underdog); Niceville four-star safety Romeo Finley (visiting this week; was very impressed by visits to Georgia Tech and Clemson) and three-star Deerfield Beach safety James Pierre (a former UM commitment now committed to North Carolina).


### Dwyane Wade said his shoulders are feeling a lot better, and it's no coincidence he was very good again tonight, with 27 points (11 for 22 shooting), 8 assists, 3 steals, 4 rebounds and 2 blocks in a 102-98 win at Brooklyn.

Chris Bosh (27 points, 12 for 18) also was excellent, and Justise Winslow's recent play has been very encouraging. Winslow had 13 points, 7 boards, 2 steals and shot 6 for 7. "Swiss army knife," Erik Spoelstra calls him.... Miami shot 54 percent tonight. 

### Wade said coaches are doing a good job putting himself and Bosh in good position offensively. "It's our job to lead this team," he said.... Another key is getting into offense more quickly, an emphasis the past few days.

### Even without Hassan Whiteside the past two nights, Miami held its own on the boards. The Heat was outrebounded by three against Chicago (which is eighth in the league in rebounding differential) and outrebounded the Nets by five. (The Nets are 16th in differential.)

### Udonis Haslem tells us Spoelstra is giving players more autonomy to make in-game changes than ever before.

“If something goes wrong in the game, he tells us all the time: Fix it,” Haslem said. “He gives us the freedom to make adjustments that can help us win. It's new for everybody. Defensive schemes, different things like that, if we see it, he gives us the opportunity to change it [during the game]. He preaches leadership at all levels. He’s put a lot of onus on us, make sure we police each other.”

### Heat minority owner Ranaan Katz did an interview with an Israeli radio station today and Bleacher Report, in a translation of the interview from Hebrew to English, asserted that Katz claimed LeBron James tried to get Spoelstra fired when James played for the Heat, and that James told the Heat to draft Shabazz Napier two weeks before he signed with Cleveland.

Katz, by phone, denied making any of those comments and said Bleacher Report incorrectly translated his quotes from Hebrew to English.

"Nothing was correct [in the Bleacher Report story]," Katz said, adding that he conveyed that to Heat general manager Andy Elisburg.

Meanwhile, a Heat spokesman said this evening that James never attempted to have Spoelstra fired. 

### Al Golden, who was passed over for the Rutgers head job, is in line to land a defensive assistant coaching job with the Dallas Cowboys, according to Fox and NFL Network. Meanwhile, the Fort Worth Star Telegram said he will interview with the Cowboys on Wednesday.

Golden has a very good relationship with Cowboys coach Jason Garrett and visited the Cowboys last offseason to learn new ideas.

### Not only have the Panthers won 15 in a row when elite second-year defenseman Aaron Ekblad plays, but they have outscored teams by 19 goals (fifth-best in the league entering tonight) when he’s on the ice, compared with plus-seven when he’s off. Ekblad is plus 31 in 1 ½ seasons --- one of the best plus/minuses in Panthers history.

The Panthers, who beat Toronto tonight, go to the All-Star break first in the Atlantic with 63 points and a 29-15-5 record.

### GM Dale Tallon said the six-year, $35.4 million deal for center Aleksander Barkov, announced today, was an easy decision because "he's one of the best players in the league in all three zones of the ice. Not only a great player, but a better person, and that's what we're all about is about character and developing an unbelievable culture here."... Barkov scored his 13th goal tonight, while summer trade pickup Reilly Smith took the team lead in goals with his 16th.

Please see the last post for local sports radio news from this afternoon.

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

The Ticket fills one job and yanks a host from the air

790 The Ticket has yanked Joy Taylor from the station’s morning show while the sides try to negotiate a new contract, the station said today.

Taylor had been working without a contract for five weeks and The Ticket believes the situation wasn’t going to get resolved with her continuing to appear on the morning show.

General manager Doug Abernathy made clear he wants to retain Taylor as Jonathan Zaslow’s co-host. (Brett Romberg also is a regular on the show.)

“I think we’re close [on a new contract],” Abernathy said. “We’re tried really hard. We love her. Our desire is to retain her. I’m cautiously optimistic. We made the decision for her not to be on until resolution.”

Taylor, the sister of former Dolphins star Jason Taylor, did not immediately return a message seeking comment.

Meanwhile, Abernathy officially named The Herald’s Ethan Skolnick as the host of the 4 to 7 p.m. show. Skolnick had been auditioning in the role for several months.

Though Chris Wittyngham has appeared alongside Skolnick for several weeks, Abernathy said he hasn’t decided if Wittyngham will be the permanent co-host. Leroy Hoard, Alex Marvez, Michael Wallace and others have appeared as a third voice on the show, but Abernathy said he isn’t sure whether to use one or two co-hosts with Skolnick.

“Could be one or could be two,” Abernathy said. “I like the variety.”

He said no changes are planned with the 1 p.m. show (Eric Reed, Hoard) or the 7 p.m. program (Josh Friedman).

Abernathy did not say this, but it wouldn’t be surprising if Adam Kuperstein assumes a larger role at the station at some point.

Please see the last post for Heat and UM basketball fodder, if you missed it. And check back in a few hours for the Wednesday buzz column... Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

January 25, 2016

Monday night postscripts, reaction, thoughts from big Heat, Hurricanes wins

Postscripts and reaction from the best night in Miami basketball this season, with the Heat beating Chicago and UM defeating Duke:

### We see moments like this from the Heat, sterling wins against Oklahoma City and Cleveland and this 89-84 triumph, short-handed, on the road against Chicago and naturally wonder how this team can be just 24-21, behind a middling Boston team, and how Miami can lose at home to Minnesota and Brooklyn.

But no complaining after this one. Dwyane Wade was stupendous (28 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists, 1 turnover) and made two splendid plays down the stretch: a nifty pass to Justise Winslow for a dunk with 2:14 left, and a 21-foot jumper to essentially settle matters with 22 seconds left.

“This is a very good win for us against a team playing very well,” Wade said. “We needed this one bad. At [Sunday's] practice session, we really just got back to the basics. When you go through injuries and losing the way we have as of late, everyone is frustrated.”

Wade spoke of himself, Chris Bosh and Udonis Haslem exerting leadership in the past two days.

### Bosh added 18 points and 7 boards and helped limit Pau Gasol to six points over the final three quarters. Gasol had 13 points and 10 rebounds in the first quarter, becoming the first NBA player to post a double-double in the first quarter this season. But he closed with 19 points and 17 boards.

"I kept getting good looks; my confidence never wavers," said Bosh, who had several shots rim in and out before making a 19-footer to put the Heat ahead for good with 1:01 left.  

Bosh: "We really needed it. It was great to have Luo [Deng] back and Beno [Udrih] back. That helped us tremendously. The energy was good tonight."

### Also key: Justise Winslow filled the boxscore with 8 points, 9 rebounds, 4 assists and 2 steals and did good work on Jimmy Butler, who shot 5 for 15.                                                                                

Winslow was a plus 17 in 35 minutes. “Justise had one of the toughest covers in the league,” Erik Spoelstra said.

### And Amar’e Stoudemire, making his second start in the absence of Hassan Whiteside, had 10 boards in 26 minutes. “Stoud was tremendous,” Spoelstra said. It was his most rebounds since December 7, 2014, as a member of the Knicks.

Wade said Stoudemire “did a great job setting screens” – allowing him and others to get in the paint.

### Miami, of course, did this without Hassan Whiteside and Goran Dragic, and with Gerald Green shooting 4 for 12, making him 10 for his last 51.

Udrih stabilized the offense at times, though his numbers weren’t good (3 pts, 1 for 5, 2 assists, 3 turnovers). Luol Deng, returning from a scratched eye, had an electrifying first-quarter dunk and closed with 9 points, 4 boards and a block.

### Spoelstra, afterward: “Our leaders have to lead: Myself, Dwyane, C.B., U.D. That started yesterday in practice with their approach and at shootaround today.

“Quality win. It doesn’t happen if you don’t buckle down and have a [good] defensive game. The last thing I told the guys is I don’t want anybody to exhale. We’re in no position to do that” with a game at Brooklyn on Tuesday.

### The Heat, at 24-21, moved into seven in the East, a half game behind 25-21 Boston, tied with 24-21 Detroit (which owns the tiebreaker and is thus No. 6) and a half game ahead of 23-21 Indiana.

### So much to be impressed by in this UM 80-69 win over Duke tonight --- the perimeter defense, the superb passing (24 assists compared with seven turnovers), the floor game of Angel Rodriguez, another second-half eruption from Sheldon McClellan and more drive-to-the-basket artistry from Ja'Quan Newton.

The win pushes Miami to 16-3 overall and 5-2 in the ACC, and gives Jim Larranaga a 4-2 record against Duke since he arrived in Coral Gables.

“They’re terrific," Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. "Jim [Larranaga] is one of the best coaches in the country. It’s not like this is the first year. They’re really good. They’re usually old, with the transfers, that they’ve been able to get. Smart. They’ve done it smart. They’re as respected as anybody in the league, and throughout the country, I think, because they’re that good. People respect talent and certainly they respect Jim. He knows what to do with the talent. They’re better than we are. They’re one of the best teams.”

### Of UM’s 24 assists, more than a handful were SportsCenter-worthy, particularly by Rodriguez, Newton and even center Tonye Jekiri, whose three assists were half of what Hassan Whiteside had all last season. (Whiteside has 14 this season).

### With his ability to get into the paint, Newton (15 points, 5 assists) not only can create for himself but for others. “Newton is the premier sixth man I’ve seen in college basketball,” ESPN’s Dick Vitale said. “He’s instant offense. That guy knows how to play.”

### McClellan remains one of the best second-half players in the country. He scored 16 of his 21 after intermission.

### Good to see Rodriguez shake out of his midseason slump over the past week. He had 10 assists and just one turnover. His 13-point night included making 3 for 7 on threes, good work for a player who entered shooting 28 percent on threes.

“Here’s what happened in my mind,” Larranaga said. “When we opened up conference play, we played against teams that are a little more conservative. Virginia, Clemson, with those teams, the game is a little slower. Today and Saturday, when you play Wake Forest or Duke, it gets up and down. Angel and our entire team are much better when we’re able to get into the open court and make plays. It’s not ‘run an offense,’ it’s play together, find the open man and score. What we did so well midway through the first half was get it into the middle of the zone, then kick it out or shoot it. I’m very, very proud of the guys and I thought Angel was sensational.”

### Jekiri (10 rebounds) and Kamari Murphy each had two blocks, providing deterrence when Duke tried to penetrate. Jekiri has had double figures in rebounds in five of his last six games.

“That’s the most physical game we’ve been involved in, by far,” Coach K said.

### Fifteen of UM’s 16 wins have been by double figure margins.

### Don’t underestimate what Davon Reed gives this team with his athleticism, length, versatility, and well-rounded game. He had 14 points, four rebounds, a block and a steal.

### Duke is 4-4 in the ACC for the first time since 1996. “I’m glad the students were yelling overrated,” Coach K said. “I didn’t know we were rated. So thank you.” When told fans might have been directing that chant toward Duke's Grayson Allen, Krzyzewski said: "He's not [overrated]."

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

January 24, 2016

Dolphins coaching formula has failed league-wide more than it has succeeded in recent years; Dolphins, Heat, Canes, Marlins, Panthers notes


Dolphins fans who have criticized the hiring of Adam Gase generally make the same point: This is the fourth consecutive time the Dolphins have taken an offensive assistant coach and made him a head coach --- an approach that clearly hasn’t worked here, at least pre-Gase. Whereas Tony Sparano had been an offensive line coach, Cam Cameron and Joe Philbin (like Gase) were NFL coordinators before Miami hired them.

So we started wondering: Generally how successful is this strategy of hiring offensive coordinators as first-time NFL head coaches? Here’s what we discovered:

### Since 2000, there have been 21 occasions in which a team hired a head coach who had been serving as an offensive coordinator in his previous job and had no NFL head-coaching experience, like Gase.

Of those 21, only five have produced winning records in their first head coaching jobs: Green Bay’s Mike McCarthy (104-55) and his predecessor Mike Sherman (57-39), ex-Rams coach Mike Martz (53-32), former Vikings coach Brad Childress (39-35) and Cowboys coach Jason Garrett (45-43).

### This is discouraging: Since 2000, AFC teams have hired 12 head coaches who were an offensive coordinator in their previous job and hadn’t coached an NFL team before. Of those 12, not a single one produced a winning record in that first head coaching job; Gary Kubiak (61-64 in Houston, two playoff appearances in eight seasons there) was the only one who was even somewhat successful in that first job. (He's now with Denver.)

The others: Cameron (1-15), Philbin (24-28), the Browns’ Pat Shurmur (9-23) and Rob Chudzinski (4-12), Buffalo’s Mike Mularkey (14-18), Denver’s Josh McDaniels (11-17; Gase was his receivers coach), San Diego's Mike McCoy (23-27), Kansas City’s Todd Haley (19-26) and Oakland’s Bill Callahan (15-17; made Super Bowl, then lost, with a very good team his first season; then went 4-12 and was fired), Lane Kiffin (5-15) and Hue Jackson (8-8).

Those 12 AFC coaches produced only seven winning records and five playoff berths in 32 combined seasons and won 41 percent of their games. Gase, incidentally, said he wanted to return to the AFC.

The caveat, of course, is that five on that list coached struggling franchises in Cleveland and Oakland. But the Dolphins are in the same boat.

### Hiring offensive coordinators as head coaches has been more successful in the NFC this century, though Marty Mornhinweg (5-27 with Lions) and Scott Linehan (11-25 with Rams) were disasters. Those nine NFC coaches have won 53.3 percent of their games.

### Here’s the bottom line: Of the 21 previous first-time NFL head coaches who moved directly from offensive coordinator jobs this century, there was one excellent hire in terms of results (McCarthy), one very good one (Martz) and four pretty good ones (Garrett, Sherman, Kubiak and Jay Gruden), though Sherman and Kubiak were fired, and Garrett has only one playoff berth in six years. If you characterize mediocre Childress as pretty good, that’s generously seven out of 21. Not a good percentage.

### And of those 21 --- all of whom came with reputations as strong offensive coaches --- only five (perhaps six if you include Philbin) coached quarterbacks who became appreciably better under their stewardship as head coaches: Aaron Rodgers (McCarthy), Tony Romo (Garrett), Kurt Warner (Martz), Matt Schaub (Kubiak) and Kirk Cousins (Gruden). Tannehill improved under Philbin, but then regressed, and it was Sherman and Bill Lazor working primarily with Tannehill.

Bottom line: More recent first-time head coaches who moved directly from offensive coordinator jobs have flopped than succeeded. Does that mean Gase definitely will flop? Of course not.

In fact, Gase’s work with quarterbacks has been as or more impressive than any of the aforementioned 20 achieved as coordinators. Jay Cutler had his highest passer rating under Gase in Chicago.

Whether you believe Gase should get a lot of credit for Peyton Manning and a talent-laden Denver offense breaking the NFL points record in 2013 is entirely subjective, but Gase did wonders with Tim Tebow as his quarterbacks coach.

So perhaps Gase will join McCarthy as coordinator-to-head-coach success stories this century. But that would be the exception to 21st century results.

### Asked by WQAM’s Joe Rose about how he’s going to split his time between offense (he’ll call the plays) and the two other units, Gase said: “I will be leaning towards offense early. But the great thing about bringing [offensive coordinator Clyde Christensen in], it's someone who has been in this offense before. The way we've mapped this out, I feel comfortable being able to have my hand a little bit on defense and special teams, let those guys do their job but know what's going on,... and being impactful on offense as well.”

NFL Network analyst Brian Billick, whose nine-year tenure as Ravens head coach (1999-2007) followed a stint as Vikings offensive coordinator, told me some coordinators who become coaches “have no clue what it all entails.”

Billick called plays his first, eighth and ninth years as a head coach; while he says it’s doable, “it’s hard to manage both,” he said. "Most eventually give it up. Mike McCarthy turned the duties over last year; his obligations as head coach got away from him in the Seattle [playoff] game.” (McCarthy seized play-calling duties back this past December.)

### FYI: For those wondering, successful coaches Bruce Arians and Sean Payton and less successful Marc Trestman didn’t fit the criteria for this study, because Arians went from offensive coordinator/interim head coach with Indy to head coach at Arizona; Payton went from Cowboys assistant head coach/QB coach with Dallas to Saints head coach; and former offensive coordinator Trestman was a CFL head coach before coaching the Bears.


### The Dolphins plan to stick with a 4-3 defense, according to a source close to the situation. One of the things Gase and management like about new coordinator Vance Joseph is his ability to communicate with players.

### The Heat’s lack of offense at small forward has become increasingly problematic.

A career 15.6 per game scorer, Luol Deng is averaging by far the fewest points of his career (9.9, 27th among small forwards) and shooting 42.1 percent (second lowest of his career), while attempting 4.6 shots per game fewer than normal.

“It’s very hard to get the looks you're normally used to getting or the way you’re used to playing,” he said. “We're all sacrificing somehow. Some have got to sacrifice more than others. It's very difficult to play your old style. That's how it is. We've got guys on the team who shoot a lot; we have guys on the team that shoot less. Goran [Dragic] has the ball in his hands less than he's used to. I'm not cutting or doing stuff that I'm used to. It's a lot more spotting and spacing the floor. It's challenging, but you want to win and see where it goes and you just keep working on it.”

Everyone is hoping for the best for Deng as he recovers from a frightening eye injury.

### An AmericanAirlines Arena official asked Tyler Johnson for a ticket to get in a recent Heat game, the third time AA officials questioned him entering the building, unaware he's a player. Across the street, at Bayside, some people “think I’m Goran. I go along with it.”

### UM is pursuing several defensive backs in the final days of recruiting partly because of serious concerns internally about cornerback, where Corn Elder is the only returnee with substantial experience. (UM also likes sophomore-to-be Sheldrick Redwine.)

UM’s top corner (and top overall) commit, Tyler Byrd, now plans to visit Tennessee and said he will announce on Signing Day.

Though he told Rivals.com that UM has a strong lead, he said he wants to see the Volunteers' campus before deciding. Byrd visited UM this weekend and he tweeted a picture of himself in a UM jersey, holding up the U sign, with the words: "Found my jersey. Had to put it on."

UM hosted one other cornerback this weekend: Kissimmee-based Henry Miller, a Pitt commitment who also will visit Ohio State.

Two safeties who can play cornerback also reportedly visited: UM oral commitment Malek Young and three-star Miami Southwest safety Christopher William, a soft Florida commit.

UM already is aware it will need to give the corners help with safeties, where UM is deep. 

### We hear Jose Fernandez’s camp believes he could make $30 million annually as a free agent after 2018. The Marlins indicate they are no longer getting trade calls for him (that's fine with them). But they are resigned to losing him eventually.

If the Marlins are winning a lot and in serious contention the next two seasons, they could hold onto him through at least the midpoint of 2018. Otherwise, they figure to trade him within a year of free agency, perhaps after 2016 if this upcoming season is an unmitigated disaster. At $2.8 million, he remains a bargain for 2016.

### For as well as Panthers GM Dale Tallon has drafted, his recent trades are also paying dividends. The team leaders in goals, Jaromir Jagr and Reilly Smith (15 apiece for each), were both acquired in deals in 2015, Jagr from New Jersey for second- and third-rounders and Smith from Boston for Jimmy Hayes.  

With 15 goals, Smith already has surpassed last year's 13 for Boston. He has 15 goals and 11 assists and a plus 9 in plus/minus. Hayes, for Boston, has 11 goals and 11 assists and is a minus 5.

The Panthers, who beat last season's Stanley Cup finalists (Chicago, Tampa) on consecutive nights by a 9-2 margin, have now won 14 in a row when defenseman Aaron Ekblad is in the lineup.

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

January 22, 2016

Saturday update: Gase adds former head coach to his staff; Heat-Raptors postscripts, reaction; UM recruiting and Dolphins notes

Saturday 12:30 p.m. update: As WQAM's Orlando Alzugaray first reported and we confirmed, the Dolphins have hired former CFL head coach Danny Barrett as their new running backs coach. He replaces Jeff Nixon, who was not retained after six seasons.

Barrett gives Adam Gase a former head coach on his staff. Barrett coached the CFL's Saskatchewan Roughriders from 2000 to 2006 and went 57-68. Last season, he was UCF's interim coach after George O'Leary's retirement and went 0-4.

Barrett was UCF's running backs coach from 2011 through 2014 and quarterbacks coach last season. Before UCF, he had two other college coaching jobs; he coached quarterbacks at the University of Buffalo from 2007 through 2009, then was offensive coordinator at Bethune Cookman in 2010.

A former University of Cincinnati standout (he was an honorable mention AP All American), Barrett was a long-time quarterback, and then assistant coach, in the CFL. He threw for 23,419 yards and 133 touchdowns in 163 games in the CFL and at one point held the CFL record for most passing yards in a game (601).

Barrett, 54, was born in Boynton Beach.




A six-pack of notes on a Friday, a night the first-place Panthers snapped a four-game skid in a 4-0 win over Chicago, Florida's 13th win in 17 games:

### With Miami barely holding onto a playoff seed at the moment, this disappointing, unraveling, suddenly injury-ravaged Heat season is beginning to feel a bit like last year.  

The depleted Heat ---- which dropped a 101-81 decision to Toronto tonight – isn’t simply losing. It’s losing by sizable margins: 20, 19, 12, 25, 14, 8, 15 in its last seven defeats (with only one win in that span).

What's more, Miami is 11-15 in the East, fourth worst in the conference, which leaves the Heat vulnerable with tiebreakers if they lose head-to-head season series matchups.

The Heat obviously had an excuse Friday, playing without Goran Dragic, Hassan Whiteside, Luol Deng, plus three backups (Josh McRoberts, Chris Andersen, Beno Udrih). That left Miami with nine players, and the ninth, Jarnell Stokes, didn't play until the final two minutes.

Problem is, Miami lost any cushion when it squandered home games it had no business losing --- Minnesota and Brooklyn at the top of the list.

With its seventh loss in eight games, the Heat (23-21) dropped to 8th in the East, 1.5 games ahead of the Knicks and Wizards for the final playoff berth.

No. 7 Boston (23-21) owns the tiebreaker over Miami by virtue of a superior conference record at the moment. The Heat and Celtics have split their season series, with Boston hosting the third and final meeting between the teams, which will determine that tiebreaker.

Though the outlook presumably will brighten somewhat when Dragic and  Whiteside return from injuries, the likelihood of landing the No. 2 seed has diminished greatly. Miami (23-21) trails Toronto (28-15) by 5 ½ games.

One thing that’s hurting: Gerald Green was 0 for 7 tonight and 6 for his last 39. Chris Bosh scored 26 and Dwyane Wade 22, but nobody else was in double figures. Justise Winslow (nine points) hit three three-pointers in five attempts, which was encouraging.

But Toronto hit 13 of 25 threes, including four from DeMar DeRozan.

Erik Spoelstra pointed to two issues afterward: "Not getting to the [Toronto] shooters and making the one or two or three steps to make them... uncomfortable." And "every time we had an opportunity" to close to within seven or eight, "we had an awkward offensive possession."

And then there's the health problems. Wade, who was ruled out hours before the game because of shoulder injuries, decided to play.

"We just want to make sure Dwyane isn't taking any steps back," Spoelstra said. "Right now, it doesn't bother him. We'll see how it feels tomorrow.... We have enough. It's not like I play 15 guys. We just [need] a better performance."

Wade's take: "I don't have the time to wait around and feel great. I want to give... what I can. [Toronto's] confidence is high. We're the total opposite of them right now. [But] I like how we kept fighting.

"We miss our guys. That guarantees us nothing, of course. But it gives us a better shot. I told Goran, 'Don't rush it.' I told Goran I miss him more than his wife misses him. Young guys, we need to see growth every game. Hopefully, they turn the corner."

Bosh afterwards: "It's really disappointing, because we've got to this point where you think we would be able to execute simple things and we're not doing that at all.... We're asking guys who have never been in that role to do it."

### Expect the Heat, like many teams, to explore ways to try to sign Toronto’s 6-7 DeRozan in free agency this summer; he was great tonight (33 points) and could make a starting salary beginning at $25 million, cap expert Bobby Marks tweeted tonight. Landing DeRozan AND keeping Hassan Whiteside isn't realistic.

### It’s a big recruiting weekend for UM, with at least 10 visitors expected on campus. With UM oral commitments Sam Bruce and Latrell Williams declining to give a definitive read on their intentions --- and UM target Ahmmon Richards considering three other schools besides Miami (including Alabama, where he's visiting this weekend) --- the Hurricanes wouldn’t mind adding one or two more receivers to accompany oral commitment Dionte Mullins (and potentially Bruce and Williams).

The receivers expected on UM's campus this weekend: Randrecous Davis, a soft Georgia commit who is strongly considering UM; Kelvin Harmon (also considering NC State and South Carolina) and TE/WR Jovani Hoskins (considering UM, Virginia Tech, West Virginia).

Davis, out of Atlanta, is a four-star prospect, rated 44th among all receivers, according to rivals. Harmon, out of New Jersey, is another four-star kid, rated 54th among all receivers. Hoskins, a three-star prospect also from New Jersey, is 29th among tight ends.

### There was some disappointing news with word that four-star defensive tackle Glen Logan decided not to visit UM, according to the New Orleans Times Picayune. UM had been hopeful he would flip from LSU.

But there was one surprise visitor, according to ESPN: four-star Houston-based Isaiah Chambers, a TCU commit. Rivals rates him the No. 14 defensive end. Some suspect he just wanted a trip to Miami, but who knows what can happen if he likes it?

UM is hosting one defensive tackle: Marcel Southall, a Texas kid. UM has been considered something of a longshot for Southall.

### Dolphins coach Adam Gase has now publicly named all of his assistant coaches except those who will coach running backs (Jeff Nixon --- who held the position the past six years --- is looking for work and is a candidate for Chip Kelly's 49ers staff), defensive backs, defensive linemen and special teams. [SEE ABOVE FOR A SATURDAY UPDATE ON THE FILLING OF THE RUNNING BACKS JOB.]

Miami reportedly was denied permission to hire Bears and ex-UM defensive line coach Clint Hurtt for the same position, and we’re told incumbent d-line coach Terrell Williams has a good chance to retain that position with the Dolphins, though it’s not 100 percent definite.

Also, Darren Rizzi is expected to remain special teams coordinator.

### By the way, the reason safety Cedric Thompson (one of the Dolphins’ four fifth-round picks last May) decided to leave the Dolphins’ practice squad for the Patriots’ p-squad is because he thought he would have a better chance to play (and earn a spot on the 53) next season, as well as a better chance to win.

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

January 21, 2016

Jagr a freak of nature; Dolphins/Gase/Tannehill notes; Heat checks in on wing players; Whiteside's new technique; Marlins closer


Jaromir Jagr, the face of this delightfully surprising Panthers season, isn’t merely the fourth-leading point producer in NHL history, his 737 goals four behind Brett Hull, 64 behind Gordie Howe and 157 behind Wayne Gretzky. He’s also a freak of nature.

Told that Panthers coach Gerard Gallant said he could take a day off at any time to keep fresh for a playoff run, Jagr revealed an oddity: “I don’t need a day off. It works the other way for me. The more I practice, the fresher I feel. I need to play every day. My body is totally different that anybody else. The more I rest, the worse I feel.”

When did he figure this out? “Probably like 42 years ago,” cracked Jagr, who turns 44 on Feb. 15.

Jagr --- whose team sits atop the Atlantic Division in spite of an ongoing four-game losing skid in the wake of 12-game winning streak --- is churning points at a rate (he’s on pace for 30 goals, 34 assists) that’s remarkable for a 43-year-old.

Beyond his mesmerizing skill set, credit, in part, his extraordinary conditioning, the byproduct of the most unique and grueling program that Panthers strength and conditioning coach Tommy Powers has ever witnessed.

This goes beyond Jagr simply working out 4 ½ hours a day, when most players put in 1 ½, according to Powers.

It even goes beyond Jagr calling Powers at 9:30 last Saturday night to oversee a workout.

“I know when the phone rings, it’s him, wanting to go the gym,” Powers said. “It was every night in preseason.”

Jagr does much of his work shackled by cumbersome weights, something Powers had never seen an NHL player do.

He runs sprints and does some on- and off-ice work wearing a 45-pound weight vest. “He wears the vest even if he’s just walking around in sandals,” Powers said, the thinking being that skating at high speeds, while sustaining a physical pounding, should be a breeze during games when he isn’t burdened with weights equivalent to three house pets.

He fastens more weights, anywhere from 2 ½ to 5 pounds, on his ankles. He practices on his own at times with a 10-pound plate on his stick.

He has Powers push him as hard as he can 21 times while Jagr is crouching-- seven from each side and another seven from behind -- an exercise designed to maintain Jagr’s balance.

He asks Powers to fire 60 pucks at him at high speed, to practice his shot. And he regularly smacks an 8 ½ pound medicine ball with his stick, to build strength.

Jagr doesn’t like talking about any of this, but it clearly has rubbed off on teammates.

Aleksander Barkov ordered a similar weight vest. Aaron Ekblad implemented his medicine ball routine. And Nick Bjugstad has emulated Jagr’s mannerisms, including flexing his stick. “It’s pretty neat to see,” Powers said.

Jagr dropped 16 pounds to 226; “he’s lighter and he needs to be,” Powers said. “He is just as [well] conditioned as a guy in his prime at 20…. [And] he’s a lot of fun to be around. He’s into a lot of spiritual stuff, really in touch with who he is and what he wants out of life.”

How unique are Jagr’s exploits at 43? Consider that of the 10 leading scorers in NHL history, only two even played to that age: Howe, who retired at 43, returned to the WHL at 45 and played to 51; and No. 8 Mark Messier who scored 18 goals in his final season, at 43.

The others: Gretzky, No. 6 Phil Esposito and No. 7 Mike Gartner retired at 38, No. 5 Marcel Dionne at 37, Hull at 41, and Nos. 9 and 10 Steve Yzerman and Mario Lemieux at 40.


### New Dolphins coach Adam Gase told WQAM’s Joe Rose on Thursday that last year “was a hiccup” for Ryan Tannehill. “I feel like we can help with the sacks; we can eliminate some of those hits he’s taken.”

Gase’s offense --- which he said is based in part on what Indianapolis has done --- includes some deep shots. But keep in mind that Tannehill threw more deep passes last season (81, completing 27) than Jay Cutler did under Gase in 2015 (24 for 73) or Peyton Manning under Gase in 2014 (31 for 70). In this case, deep passes are balls thrown 20 yards or more in the air. 

Tannehill threw five touchdowns and one pick on deep balls last season, compared with three and two the previous year. Pro Football Focus said Tannehill and Cutler were equivalent in performance on deep balls this past season.

### Gase spent 2 ½ hours at Don Shula’s home on Wednesday and called it an “unbelievable experience, a day I’ll never forget.”

### The Heat made a due-diligence check-in recently on free agent 6-6 combo guard Tony Wroten, who was cut by Philadelphia Dec. 24, but hadn’t made an offer as of Thursday morning. He has averaged 11.1 points in four  seasons, including 16.9 last season. He's probably the best unsigned perimeter player available at the moment.

Miami could use another veteran perimeter player, considering injuries to Dwyane Wade, Goran Dragic, Luol Deng and Beno Udrih --- all of whom are day to day at this point.

### Miami also made a similar call on ex-Heat forward Dorell Wright, who is playing in China but will become available to NBA teams in mid-February. But several other teams have shown more interest. Wright, a skilled three-point shooter, was interested in the Heat last summer but Miami never made an offer.

### So what’s the deal with now-injured Hassan Whiteside now shooting free throws like jump shots?

“It’s more comfortable for me,” he said. “I feel like I’m a better jump shooter [than free throw shooter]. Nobody suggested it to me. A lot of coaches were iffy about it. But I looked at myself and said, ‘I’m shooting 54 percent from the line.’ It’s not like what I was doing was working. I am going to do this for the rest of the season.” Against Milwaukee on Tuesday, he was 7 for 11 with the new technique.

### Marlins executive Michael Hill said he expects an open competition for the closer job. Carter Capps will have a chance to compete with incumbent A.J. Ramos. The Marlins had interest in former Detroit and Seattle closer Fernando Rodney, who signed with San Diego this week.

### UM lost out to Connecticut on Miami High five-star junior Zach Brown, the best center to come out of South Florida in a while. “Miami was strongly considered, but we felt it was best for him to leave the comforts of Miami and understand what it’s like to be on his own,” said Michael Lipman, his legal guardian.

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz