WISCONSIN SPORTS ROUND-UP: MU coaching search still ongoing
MILWAUKEE - There were false alarms at Marquette University late yesterday, amid rumors that Virginia Commonwealth University coach Shaka Smart had agreed to replace the suddenly-departed Buzz Williams. But it never came to pass -- not yet, anyway.
VCU athletic director Ed McLaughlin said Smart promised to let him know if any schools contact him about their coaching vacancies. Smart didn't say anything as of last night. The 36-year-old Madison area native was reported to have talked with Marquette officials about the Golden Eagles' job. Former UCLA coach Ben Howland has also spoken with school officials, and is said to be very interested. Other names continue to be bandied about -- including former Marquette player Brian Wardle, who's now the UW-Green Bay coach. That group also includes Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall, Manhattan coach Steve Masiello, and Syracuse assistant Mike Hopkins. Williams left for Virginia Tech last Friday after six seasons as Marquette's head coach. He was introduced yesterday, and he called the program a "sleeping giant." Williams said he had no hidden reason for leaving Marquette -- and he wouldn't say anything negative about the Milwaukee program. Williams said he wanted the challenge of rebuilding the Hokies.
The Milwaukee Bucks handed the Clippers their 50th win of the season last night, 106-98 in Los Angeles. The lottery-bound Bucks lost for the eighth straight time overall, and the fifth straight to the Clippers. Milwaukee coach Larry Drew tried a different lineup, which included recent acquisitions Ramon Sessions and Jeff Adrien -- and Drew said he was pleased with the effort. Sessions had a season-high 28 points with seven assists and six rebounds. Adrien had 14 points and seven boards with a three-inch height disadvantage against Clippers' center Blake Griffin -- who had another monster game with 27 points and 14 rebounds. Milwaukee managed to out-score the Clips in the paint, 54-to-40. LA led by 15 midway through the first quarter. They never looked back, although the Bucks stayed close for most of the game. The Clippers have now won 50 games for the second straight season, and only the second time in their history. Milwaukee completed its Western road trip at 0-4. They'll host the Los Angeles Lakers tomorrow night.
Milwaukee Brewers' GM Doug Melvin said he would have kept Juan Francisco if the National League had the designated hitter -- but it doesn't. The Brewers confirmed yesterday that they put the 26-year-old infielder on waivers, after they tried to make a trade for him and couldn't. Melvin says Francisco has the potential to hit for power. He had a solid spring training at the plate with a .346 batting average, but he was a defensive liability at both first and third. As Melvin put it, "American League teams can make room for a bat like that ... We can't." Francisco auditioned for the first base job this season, but the team decided to keep veterans Lyle Overbay and Mark Reynolds at that spot for the regular season which begins in six days. Meanwhile, the exhibition season is wrapping up this week. The Crew will play San Francisco this afternoon in Arizona.
Former Brewers' infielder Alex Gonzalez will play in Detroit this season. The 37-year-old veteran signed a minor league contract with Baltimore this past winter. Yesterday, the Orioles traded Gonzalez to the Tigers for infielder Steve Lombardozzi. Detroit needed a shortstop after Jose Iglesias went out for the season with stress fractures in his legs. Gonzalez is a 15-year Major League veteran. He has not played shortstop on a regular basis since 2011. The Brewers signed him in 2012, but he only played 24 games before going out for the season with a tore knee ligament. Last year, Gonzalez was among a group of first basemen who tried replacing the injured Corey Hart. Gonzalez only hit .177 before Milwaukee released him in June. The Tigers are acquiring him for his defense at short. Gonzalez has a career fielding percentage of .972 in 15-hundred-39 games at shortstop with Florida, Boston, Cincinnati, Toronto, and Atlanta as well as with the Brewers.
The Green Bay Packers will get a pair of extra draft picks to make up for the losses of two free agents a year ago. The NFL announced its compensatory picks yesterday at its owners' meetings in Orlando. The Packers were awarded the 98th overall selection this spring in the third round, to compensate for the loss of receiver Greg Jennings to Minnesota. The Pack will also get a fifth-round pick, the 176th overall, after losing linebacker Erik Walden to Indianapolis. That gives general manager Ted Thompson nine total draft choices. Green Bay was given the second-highest compensatory pick of the 32 that were awarded throughout the league. Pittsburgh received the highest comp, at No. 97.
The UW Board of Regents has given Badgers' football coach Gary Andersen a pay raise. He was recently granted a one-year contract extension, which keeps a five-year package ahead of him. Andersen's salary will be $2.2 two-million dollars in his second year in Madison, and it will rise by $100,000 in each year of his deal. The base salary is 300-thousand more than Andersen was due to make in 2014 -- and the university pointed out that tuition-and-tax dollars will not fund the pay hike. Athletic director Barry Alvarez said he thought about increasing the coach's compensation late last season. He said Andersen never implied that he should get a raise, not even after the NFL's Cleveland Browns contacted him about their coaching vacancy. Alvarez said Andersen puts the student-athlete first, and has quickly become somebody that Badger fans have rallied around.