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Shaka Smart Leaving VCU to Coach Texas 

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Former VCU head coach Shaka Smart looks on during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Saint Louis, Saturday, March 1, 2014, in Richmond, Va. (AP Photo/Jason Hirschfeld)

Former VCU head coach Shaka Smart looks on during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Saint Louis, Saturday, March 1, 2014, in Richmond, Va. (AP Photo/Jason Hirschfeld)

HANK KURZ Jr., AP Sports Writers
JIM VERTUNO, AP Sports Writers

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Shaka Smart has been a hot coaching commodity since leading Virginia Commonwealth to the Final Four in 2011. He had reportedly shunned several big-time offers, but the lure of Texas was finally too much to turn down.

Texas officials formally announced the hiring of Smart as the Longhorns’ new basketball coach Friday and expect to introduce him at a news conference on campus. The announcement from Texas came a day after Smart met with athletic director Steve Patterson in Richmond, Virginia, to strike a deal.

Smart met with VCU players Thursday evening at the Siegel Center, the team’s home arena, and at least one player was seen crying when he left.

Smart, who has won at least 26 games in each of his six seasons at VCU, is bolting for a Texas program that hasn’t been able to unseat Kansas atop the Big 12. But the Longhorns also boast the wealthiest athletic department in the country and easy access to some of the nation’s most fertile recruiting grounds in Dallas and Houston.

Smart replaces Rick Barnes, who was fired last weekend after 17 seasons.

Terms of Smart’s contract were not immediately released and VCU said a statement would be released Friday. Barnes made $2.62 million last season, while Smart made $1.8 million with the Rams.

Patterson had zeroed in on bringing Smart to Texas immediately after firing Barnes.

Smart did not speak to the media gathered Thursday and VCU players were escorted from the building by university public relations without offering comments.

That Barnes was pushed out shows Patterson, a former NBA executive, expects big things from basketball. Barnes won three Big 12 titles and recruited elite talent to Austin. Former Longhorns T.J. Ford (2003) and Kevin Durant (2007) won national player of the year honors.

But the program had plateaued and the early-round exits in the NCAA Tournament started to mount, despite rosters full of future NBA talent.

At VCU, Smart took over a program that had had great success under Jeff Capel, and then Anthony Grant. He hopes to avoid the pitfalls at Texas that his predecessors encountered when they left to take over programs at universities considered “football schools.”

Capel lasted five years at Oklahoma before being fired, and Grant spent six at Alabama before he was dismissed.

By leaving before May 1, Smart owes VCU a $500,000 buyout. His contract also contains a provision that if he became a head coach at another institution, that school would have to play VCU in a home-and-home series, or pay VCU $250,000.

Barnes led Texas to 16 NCAA Tournaments in 17 seasons but his teams haven’t made it out of the first weekend since 2008.

His best years came from 2003-2008, when Texas made its first Final Four in more than 50 years and twice more reached the tournament’s final eight. Texas also earned the program’s first No. 1 ranking in the 2009-2010 season.

Smart had some success right away at VCU when the Rams won the CBI postseason tournament in his first year.

But it was VCU’s monumental run in the NCAA Tournament the following year that really got Smart noticed. The Rams went from being a questionable selection, barely getting a bid and playing in the First Four in Dayton, Ohio, to beating five major-conference schools to reach the Final Four.

The Rams have been back in the NCAA Tournament each of the past four seasons, but were eliminated in the round of 32 in 2012 and 2013 and lost their first game in overtime each of the past two seasons.

Beyond the Final Four run, this year might have been Smart’s best coaching job at VCU.

The Rams lost Briante Weber, the leader of their “havoc” defensive style, on Jan. 31 to a knee injury, and played the last month and a half with scoring leader Treveon Graham bothered by a high left ankle sprain, sometimes even sidelined.

VCU (26-10) lost six of 10 late in the season, enduring its first three-game slide in Smart’s six seasons, before winning five straight, including four in four days, to win the Atlantic 10 title.

Smart’s 26 wins in six consecutive seasons is a feat matched only by Duke. With the interest he has generated in basketball, a $25 million basketball practice facility is under construction and scheduled to be ready for use in the fall.

___

Kurz reported from Richmond, Virginia.

Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Bay Area

Willie O’Ree, 1st Black Player in NHL, is a Real Ice Man

In 2022, U.S. President Joe Biden signed the Willie O’Ree Congressional Gold Medal Act. The bill awarded O’Ree a Congressional Gold Medal, the U.S. Congress’ highest honor, for his contributions to “hockey, inclusion and recreational opportunity.”

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Willie O’Ree on the ice in mid-career.
Willie O’Ree on the ice in mid-career.

By Tamara Shiloh

Historically, professional hockey has held fast to its tradition of lacking diversity among its players. But no Black on the ice did not hold Willie O’Ree back. He started playing hockey at age 3 and instantly had a passion for the game.

Born on October 15, 1935, in Frederickton, New Brunswick, Canada, O’Ree at the age of 14 years old, played with his brother Richard in organized hockey. Within a year, he was playing with the Frederickton Falcons in New Brunswick Amateur Hockey team.

O’Ree played in Canada with the Quebec Frontenacts in the 1954-55 Junior League and the Kitchener Canucks of Ontario during the 1955-56 season. It was during this season that he lost 95% of his vision in his right eye after being hit by a puck. He also suffered a broken nose and cheekbone. Knowing that the NHL bylaws would prevent him from playing with the eye injury, he kept it a secret.

After one year in Ontario, O’Ree returned to play in Québec and was eighth in team scoring with the Quebec Aces in the 1956–57 season with 22 goals and 12 assists for 34 points. He would play two more seasons with the Aces in 1957–58 and 1958–59.

As a result of the relationship between the Boston Bruins and the Quebec Aces, O’Ree was called to play with the Bruins making him the first African American to play in the National Hockey League.

That same night the Bruins beat the Montreal Canadiens 3–0, so there was no fanfare in the fact that O’Ree was the first Black player to play in the NHL. Neither The Boston Globe nor The New York Times wrote anything about the historical event.

O’Ree would only play two games for the Bruins in the 1957–58 season. He returned to the team in the 1960–61 season and scored four goals and 10 assists for 14 points in 43 regular-season games. On Jan. 1, 1961, O’Ree also became the first Black player to score a goal in the NHL, in a 3–2 win over the Canadiens.

Racism continued to show its ugly head on and off the ice. On the ice there were always fans throwing things at him and players would make racial remarks and he would suffer body abuse.

However, during one game he returned the favor and broke his stick over a player’s head. During an interview, O’Ree shared that he was treated worse in the United States than in Canada.

He retired in 1979 at age 43. He has spent the past two decades as the NHL’s diversity ambassador, working to expand the sport.

O’Ree has received many accolades since his retirement. In 1998, he became the NHL’s director of Youth Development and an ambassador for the NHL Diversity program. He traveled throughout the United States promoting hockey programs, with a focus on serving economically disadvantaged children.

In 2003, he was named the Lester Patrick trophy winner for his outstanding service to hockey in the United States. O’Ree received the Order of Canada in 2010 for his outstanding service to youth development and promoting hockey within North America.

He also received the Order of New Brunswick (2005) and was named an honored member of the New Brunswick Sports Hall of Fame, where he was inducted in 1984. In 2018, he was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame.

In 2021, as a celebration of Black History Month, all NHL players wore a commemorative helmet decal honoring O’Ree from January 16 to February 28.

In 2022, U.S. President Joe Biden signed the Willie O’Ree Congressional Gold Medal Act. The bill awarded O’Ree a Congressional Gold Medal, the U.S. Congress’ highest honor, for his contributions to “hockey, inclusion and recreational opportunity.”

O’Ree is the first player in NHL history to receive the honor.

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Black History

OPINION: Warrior Parade Was America’s Juneteenth Celebration

The Warriors are full of talented millionaires, even among the bench warmers. Jonathan Kuminga, 19, is a future all-star on a four-year/$24.8 million deal for an average annual salary of $6.2 million. Former top draft pick James Wiseman has been hurt but is still on a salary that averages $9.9 million a year. Nothing like Curry’s deal, but just wait till their stars shine.

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Emil Guillermo is a journalist and commentator. He does a talk show on www.amok.com
Emil Guillermo is a journalist and commentator. See him at www.amok.com.

By Emil Guillermo

This past week we saw the celebration of Juneteenth come alive with coincidence.

On the second year since it became a federal holiday, people began to understand the day for what it was. A delay of the end of slavery, which officially was abolished with the announcement of the Emancipation Proclamation on Sept. 22, 1862, signed 100 days later, but not practically ended until the U.S. Army brought word to Texas which had continued slavery until 1865.

When it comes to social justice, even when you win, some will slow roll you to the very end. Blame it on the post office? It took an army to deliver the news.

So, Juneteenth is a worthy celebration both to note the real end of slavery and to celebrate the triumph of truth and history.

But, this is why there are still forces out there that don’t want Americans to know even rudimentary aspects in U.S. history that may be critical of whites, or harmful to white self-esteem. Everyone should know of the reluctance to end slavery among those who still valued free labor that masked real racism.

On Juneteenth everyone was back on the same page. It was like America was finally on the same team.

And that’s why the coincidence of the Golden State Warrior parade was somehow fitting. Sure, the parade was in San Francisco, but Oakland is where the soul of the team has been since their days at Oracle.

To see them celebrate a fourth NBA basketball championship in eight years was remarkable. Because who were the stars? There was Stephen Curry holding up his trophies, puffing a cigar like a mogul. The 34-year-old is on a four-year contract worth $215,353,664, that expires in 2026. That’s an average salary of $53.8 million, all according to the website Spotrac.

Curry’s the MVP. But the other stars are all well paid. Andrew Wiggins is at $35+ million a year. And as he and teammate Jordan Poole joked in the locker room after the Game Six win for the championship, both are expecting a “bag.”

Wiggins’ bag will be bigger, and Poole’s bag should shoot up from his current $2.5 million annual salary. The Warriors already have the NBA’s biggest payroll, and the post-season adjustments will push the team to a record luxury tax.

But the Warriors can afford it. They already make a ton of money from the games, from attendance, from merch, from international rights, so the players shouldn’t be shortchanged nor the true beneficiaries of the sport, the fans.

The Warriors’ two owners — Joe Lacob, a former Silicon Valley venture capitalist, and movie producer Peter Guber — were part of a group that paid $450 million for the team in 2010. Forbes Magazine estimates the team is now worth 10 times their investment. That’s $4.5 billion. And that’s probably a low figure.

I think the Warriors can afford the luxury tax.

And it’s significant to note because, in the NBA, we are talking about African American labor being compensated here, richly but fairly.

The Warriors are full of talented millionaires, even among the bench warmers. Jonathan Kuminga, 19, is a future all-star on a four-year/$24.8 million deal for an average annual salary of $6.2 million. Former top draft pick James Wiseman has been hurt but is still on a salary that averages $9.9 million a year. Nothing like Curry’s deal, but just wait till their stars shine.

On parade day, Guber said he wants a “sequel.” And that, like everything else in capitalist America will cost money. It’s good to see them seem willing to pay the price for extraordinary talent in a country where for so many years Black labor was free.

That’s what we celebrated as a country on Juneteenth. The Golden State Warrior Championship parade may as well have been the symbolic national celebration for the entire country. It left us with a feeling that we were all on the same team.

Emil Guillermo is a journalist and commentator. See him at www.amok.com.

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Bay Area

A Win for the Warriors, A Win for the Community

Fans screamed their admiration and from there, the hype was permanent. From the open-roofed buses, players waved to fans and threw merchandise like glasses and shirts. Once you heard crowds of people shouting “MVP! MVP”, you knew that the star player, Stephen Curry, came down the street.

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Warriors Greeted Like Heroes by Dub Nation Fans in S.F. About 1 million people crowded the Market Street Parade route in downtown San Francisco Monday as the Warriors celebrated the fourth championship in eight years. Alongside his wife, Ayesha, Steph Curry hoists his MVP trophy to the raucous glee of Dub Nation fans who traveled from as far away as Ohio, Texas, Seattle, Washington and Ontario, Canada. NBA photo.
Warriors Greeted Like Heroes by Dub Nation Fans in S.F. About 1 million people crowded the Market Street Parade route in downtown San Francisco Monday as the Warriors celebrated the fourth championship in eight years. Alongside his wife, Ayesha, Steph Curry hoists his MVP trophy to the raucous glee of Dub Nation fans who traveled from as far away as Ohio, Texas, Seattle, Washington and Ontario, Canada. NBA photo.

By Sarah Clemens, Makiah Hiley and Daisha Williams

The Golden State Warriors have proved yet again that they are winners and they showed their appreciation for the fans with the party of all parties.

More than 1 million fans reportedly came to the parade held by the Dubs on Monday in celebration of their win against the Boston Celtics on June 16 with a score of 103-90 in the sixth game of the series.

By 7 a.m., fans who had come from around the Bay Area on BART, Caltrans, bike, ferry as well as those who had traveled from as far away as the state of Washington, Ohio, Texas and Canada had lined both sides of the parade route, which ran along Market Street from Main to Eighth Street.

Before the parade began, the Warriors team members, coaches, owners and more were welcomed to a dais displaying all four of the team’s NBA Championship trophies from 2015, 2017, 2018 and 2022.

The parade started a little after 11:20 a.m. as the day reached its high of 81 degrees. Despite the heat and crowding, the atmosphere was one of overwhelming joy.

Upon arrival at the event, you’d see diverse warrior fans with ages as low as 2 and as old as 72 all decked out in merch, full of excitement. At different spots, hot dogs, cold drinks, jello shots and merch were all being sold in scattered areas of the street and the scent of marijuana lingered in the air.

While waiting for the parade to start, you’d see clumps of fans hustling to get a good view with a lot of fans even climbing to high ground like light poles and bus shelters.

Golden State Warrior Draymond Green shrugs wryly while holding the championship trophy while riding along in his party bus on San Francisco’s Market Street on Monday. Twitter photo.

Golden State Warrior Draymond Green shrugs wryly while holding the championship trophy while riding along in his party bus on San Francisco’s Market Street on Monday. Twitter photo.

Convertible cars holding politicians and other dignitaries including three Bay Area mayors: Libby Schaaf of Oakland, London Breed of San Francisco and Sam Liccardo of San Jose. U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi was also present as was Rep. Barbara Lee who came in after celebrating Juneteenth the day before in her home state of Texas.

But the crowd roared to life at the sighting Draymond Green, whose bus was the first on the parade route.

Fans screamed their admiration and from there, the hype was permanent. From the open-roofed buses, players waved to fans and threw merchandise like glasses and shirts. Once you heard crowds of people shouting “MVP! MVP”, you knew that the star player, Stephen Curry, came down the street.

People went crazy as Curry graced the streets alongside his wife, Ayesha.

Klay Thompson rocks his captain’s hat after losing his championship cap while traveling on his boat to the parade. Instagram photo.

Klay Thompson rocks his captain’s hat after losing his championship cap while traveling on his boat to the parade. Instagram photo.

Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and Gary Payton II frequently got off their buses to mingle with the crowd, taking selfies, glad-handing and in Payton’s case, dousing the crowd with a water cannon.

“You guys, Steph Curry is up there!” a girl excitedly told her friends, sometimes referred to as the greatest shooter in NBA history. Jerseys saying “Curry” were most common, but so were other blue and gold outfits, including a girl wearing a Warrior’s banner as a cape.

As the parade passed, fans breached the barriers, taking over Market Street despite the best efforts of police. But there were no security problems.

The Warriors have had a tough time recently and in their remarks several players have said that the lows have made this victory all the more sweet.

After losing the past two years, no one expected them to win this year’s championship especially since several well-known players suffered injuries.

In the end, the ups and downs left everyone, both the players and the fans, in high spirits.

When asked about how winning the championship felt, especially after enduring so many injuries, Klay Thompson said, “Just going to breakfast after and seeing everyone in the neighborhood so excited…That’s what it’s about.” He continued, “It’s the small things in life that inspire you to keep going like taking a picture with an old lady or a kid.”

This sentiment, the feelings of love and joy, is what makes the Warriors such a special team, and part of what makes the Bay such a special place.

Other sources for this story include CBSNews, Kron4 News, USA Today and The San Francisco Chronicle.

Sarah Clemens, Makiah Hiley and Daisha Williams are Oakland School of the Arts students working as interns for the Post Newspaper Group.

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