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Gillom sisters: Black ex-assistants paved way for Staley

Gillom sisters: Black ex-assistants paved way for Staley

Jennifer Gillom says everything is a processBy TERESA M. WALKER AP Sports WriterJuly 26, 2021, 2:04 PM• 4 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleSAITAMA, Japan — The Gillom sisters are part of a small group that made big strides in the role of Black female coaches with USA Basketball.Peggie Gillom-Granderson and her sister Jennifer are two of only five Black females who have been U.S. women’s basketball assistants in the 12 Olympics for women’s basketball. She believes the work they put in led to the historical appointment of Dawn Staley — also a member of that elite sorority — as head coach of the 2020 team.“Just like pretty much everything else, it’s a process,” said Gillom, won Olympic gold as a player in 1988 in Seoul and was an assistant coach in 2012 in London. “And I think that it took us to pave the way for Dawn.”Her sister Gillom-Granderson was an assistant in 2000 at the Sydney Games. Being an Olympic head coach hasn’t been a goal for either, especially for Jennifer — not after years of playing basketball internationally. She’s happy coaching a high school team in Phoenix.The other two Black women who have been national team assistants are Naismith Hall of Fame coach C. Vivian Stringer in 2004 and Marian Washington, an assistant at the 1996 Atlanta Games who coached 31 seasons at Kansas and was the first Black to coach on a U.S. women’s basketball staff and first Black female coach in international competition in 1982.Neither were ever tabbed as Olympic head coaches.“I thought she definitely would have been considered as a head coach for the Olympic team,” said Gillom-Granderson, who once coached in the Big 12 against Stringer. “Yes, those ladies have paid their dues, and they’ve been there. They’ve done that. … So yes, I think those ladies deserved it.”Added Gillom: “Maybe Vivian, it was too early then.”The timing is right for Staley.A player on that 1996 team when Washington was an assistant, Staley said race wasn’t something that was openly discussed at that time. She sees USA Basketball as a place where “you just come together for a common goal.”“We’re in a day and age where diversity matters, inclusion matters,” Staley said.The U.S. coaching pipeline has featured 14 white women assistants — four who later were tabbed as Olympic head coaches. Geno Auriemma is one of five men to later become head coach.The candidate pool is growing.Adia Barnes, who coached Arizona to the national championship game in April and helped make history with Staley as the first two Black females ever to coach in a Final Four, was an assistant to Staley at the 2021 USA AmeriCup last month in Puerto Rico, a qualifier for the 2022 FIBA Women’s World Cup.The Southeastern Conference, where Staley coaches, features seven Black female head coaches.Gillom followed her playing career with stints as head coach of the Los Angeles Sparks and Minnesota Lynx in the WNBA. Now she is focused on Xavier College Preparatory High School and excited about a 6-foot-6 incoming freshman.Her sister retired as associate head coach at Mississippi in 2009 and has worked with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes at her alma mater ever since.With Staley coaching the U.S. women, Gillom expects to see “a ton of Black women” coaching not just in the Olympics, but at the college level and in the WNBA.“I’m almost positive you’re going to see a lot more Black women stepping up to the plate, feeling more motivated, feeling like they are finally being given the opportunity to display their ability,” Gillom said. “All you need is someone to be in that position to give you that confidence.”Her sister agrees.“The time is now is for Black women to have that opportunity,” Gillom-Granderson said.No one understands or appreciates that more than Staley.———More AP Olympics: https://apnews.com/hub/olympic-games and https://twitter.com/AP—Sports

Predators goaltender Pekka Rinne retiring after 15 seasons

Predators goaltender Pekka Rinne retiring after 15 seasons

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Pekka Rinne made sure to stick around Nashville longer than usual after the season ended with the Predators’ first-round playoff exit.The 2018 Vezina Trophy winner needed time to make a very tough decision to retire after 15 seasons.“There was two options,” Rinne said Tuesday at a news conference. “Either retire or either continue playing with the Predators. And I appreciate (GM) David (Poile) and everybody else for giving me enough time to make this decision on my own and make a decision that I feel is the right one. And deep down I do feel that.”Rinne, 38, announced his decision Tuesday morning through a release by the Predators and a post on The Players’ Tribune.“It’s been an unbelievable journey,” Rinne said. “I feel like you need so much luck on your side too along the way, and I feel like I’ve had that.”He made his last start on May 10 in Nashville’s regular-season finale, a 5-0 win over Carolina in which he tied Tom Barrasso for No. 19 in NHL history with his 369th victory. That also was his 60th career shutout, third among active goalies behind Marc-Andre Fleury (66) and Henrik Lundqvist (65).His career goals-against average of 2.43 is tied for fourth best among goalies with at least 350 wins in NHL history behind only Dominik Hasek, Martin Brodeur and Jacques Plante. He also is one of 12 goalies in NHL history with at least 350 wins and 60 shutouts.Rinne had three 40-win seasons, which is tied for second most in NHL history; he is one of seven goalies to reach that mark.A four-time Vezina finalist and twice runner-up, Rinne went 369-213-75 in his career after being the 258th pick overall in the eighth round of the 2004 draft. The native of Kempele, Finland, also has the most games played, victories and shutouts by a Finnish goalie in NHL history.Poile congratulated Rinne on an “exceptional career” after giving Nashville a chance to win every game he played during the team’s most competitive era. Poile noted the Predators could have asked no more than what the goalie gave them, and Rinne winning the King Clancy Award provided a perfect ending.“He’s certainly been the face of the franchise, arguably the most important player that has ever played for the Predators,” Poile said.The Predators plan to celebrate Rinne’s career throughout the next season when Nashville hosts its first outdoor game Feb. 26 against the Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning. Team president and CEO Sean Henry said he can’t imagine any other player having his jersey retired before Rinne.Henry credited Rinne’s decision to sign a seven-year extension in November 2011 with helping anchor and grow the franchise even further. Nashville now has six sheets of ice, not counting Bridgestone Arena, with four more under construction and the Predators planning future additions to meet the youth hockey demand.“That doesn’t happen without a bunch of 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 year olds wearing No. 35,” Henry said.Rinne finished fourth in Hart Trophy voting in 2011 when he helped Nashville win its first playoff series in franchise history, downing Anaheim in the Western Conference quarterfinals.His best postseason came in 2017 when Rinne led the Predators to their only Stanley Cup Final. Rinne went 14-8 with a 1.96 GAA and .930 save percentage. He helped Nashville sweep Chicago before beating St. Louis, then Anaheim before losing to Pittsburgh in six games in a run Rinne said he’ll never forget.“The whole run, the whole journey it was so stressful,” Rinne said. “It also showed how difficult it is to win and really makes you appreciate and respect the trophy.”Rinne finally won the Vezina in 2018. He went 42-13-4 with a 2.31 goals-against average and .927 save percentage with eight shutouts, helping Nashville win the Presidents’ Trophy for the first time in franchise history.On Jan. 9, 2020, Rinne became the 12th goalie in NHL history to score a goal off a puck he shot from behind his own goal line into an empty net against Chicago.The four-time NHL All-Star won the King Clancy Memorial Trophy last month for his leadership qualities on and off the ice. He was selected to the NHL First All-Star Team in 2018 and the NHL Second All-Star Team in 2011.Rinne became the backup to fellow Finn Juuse Saros this season, and he went 10-12-1. Saros went 21-11-1 helping Nashville claw its way into the playoffs. Rinne says Saros has shown he belongs and is ready to make the next step, which helped him make his decision.“It is a special relationship,” Rinne said of Saros. “I’ll be watching him for sure. I already talked to him earlier a few days ago. So he’s up to speed.”———Follow Teresa M. Walker at https://twitter.com/TeresaMWalker———More AP NHL: https://apnews.com/hub/NHL and https://twitter.com/AP—Sports

NASCAR co-owner Pitbull mixing racing with upcoming tour

NASCAR co-owner Pitbull mixing racing with upcoming tour

The man known as Mr. Worldwide is ready to get back to his main business even as he spends more and more time with his latest investment in NASCARBy TERESA M. WALKER AP Sports WriterJune 21, 2021, 6:44 AM• 4 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleLEBANON, Tenn. — The man known as Mr. Worldwide is ready to get back to his main business, even as he spends more and more time with his latest investment in NASCAR.Pitbull’s new tour titled “I Don’t Know About You But I Feel Good” starts July 25 as the Grammy-winning rapper moves from the racetrack back to the stage. He said he knows everyone wants to dance, escape and enjoy the world again.“Everything that happened in 2020 is something I think is a tremendous lesson and story for the whole world that they should appreciate life and now I can share that with the public,” Pitbull said.Pitbull has been very busy in racing since becoming a co-owner of the new NASCAR team Trackhouse Racing in January before the Daytona 500. He attended Sunday’s Cup race at the Nashville Superspeedway and praised the devotion of NASCAR fans.“To see the passion, to see the loyalty, to see the willingness to just run through a wall for the team that they love,” Pitbull said.He related an experience at the Daytona 500 in February when someone approached him at a chain restaurant across the street from the speedway and told Pitbull he didn’t dress like a NASCAR owner. The rapper bought the man a couple shots — “I said yeah, but I do drink like a NASCAR owner, don’t I?” — and after a few more rounds and selfies, the fans paid the bill.“And that just showed a lot to me,” Pitbull said. “Not too many people do those kinds of things, especially in today’s day and age where it’s all about instant gratification; grab your photo, grab your video, do this for me, do that for me. Just that sense of gratitude showed me a very pleasant experience and it’s been amazing.”Pitbull said he loves both NASCAR and music and the two are part of his vision to unite people and show the opportunities that exist for all cultures.“Everyone here is a human being,” Pitbull said. “And if I can use a car, NASCAR, the races and music to do that, to unite people, that is an honor, a tremendous opportunity and a tremendous platform to be able to do that.”Daniel Suarez, the driver for Trackhouse Racing, said he has known Pitbull for about three years after the two were introduced by Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim. Suarez said the rapper brings energy and a different perspective and he isn’t afraid to share when he has the opportunity.“I didn’t know he was going to be this involved,” Suarez said. “He’s a very busy person, and I mean he’s been to a handful of races already this year. He loves racing.”Suarez in front of his new boss finished seventh at Nashville for just his third top-10 of the season. He’s excelled this season at tracks that have had practice and qualifying because it gives the new team critical information ahead of the race.Pitbull’s entertainment expertise already is proving helpful for Trackhouse. Co-owner Justin Marks is a Nashville resident who wants the team operating in Music City in the heart of its downtown entertainment district by 2023 to connect with fans wanting to check out a NASCAR team at work.The team raced at the superspeedway with sponsorship by famed honky tonk Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge. The No. 99 Chevrolet featured a pair of large orchids matching Tootsie’s iconic building on Lower Broadway for the first Cup race in the Nashville-area in 37 years.The Nashville touches even included Suarez’s fire suit with the feet looking like black and white cowboy boots.“I never had a suit with boots,” Suarez said. “I’m going to be honest, I’m not a huge boot person, but these things look pretty good on me.”———More AP auto racing: https://apnews.com/hub/auto-racing and https://twitter.com/AP—Sports

Vanderbilt, Tennessee rivalry on hold with both Omaha bound

Vanderbilt, Tennessee rivalry on hold with both Omaha bound

A showdown between Tennessee and Vanderbilt at the College World Series with a national championship on the line would have all the emotions of their rivalry bubbling up like a family brawlBy TERESA M. WALKER AP Sports WriterJune 18, 2021, 6:32 AM• 4 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleNASHVILLE, Tenn. — A showdown between Tennessee and Vanderbilt at the College World Series with a national championship on the line would have all the emotions of their rivalry bubbling up like a family brawl.The schools separated by 194 miles are on opposite sides of the CWS brackets, so a championship matchup is possible. It also makes it easier for coaches to shower each other with compliments about what it means in the state for both to heading to Omaha, Nebraska.“It creates energy inside of this state for 8, 9, 10, 11 year old that looks up and see Tennessee on TV, Vanderbilt on TV, and it inspires kids to want to play, and that’s all that matters,” Vanderbilt coach Tim Corbin said.His Commodores are the reigning national champs, and Corbin said he’s happy the Tennessee Volunteers are among the three Southeastern Conference teams in Omaha. Corbin said he knew after his Commodores took the lone series between the teams 2-1 in April that the Vols would reach Omaha.Corbin said that’s why he looks past the rivalry between the programs.“Tony’s done such a good job with his team,” Corbin said. “When we played them, I think I made mention to, might’ve been the players but certainly the coaches how that’s going to end up being an Omaha team. You could just feel it. They were very aggressive, tenacious. They played hard.”Corbin said because a team is good enough to be in Omaha doesn’t mean they get there. Just look at No. 1 national seed Arkansas.“It’s a tough, tough deal, and we all recognize the difficulty of getting to Omaha,” Corbin said.It’s easy for Corbin to be gracious. This is his fifth trip taking Vanderbilt to the College World Series. His Commodores not only won the championship in 2019, they won their first national title in 2014.This is the first time for Vitello bringing a team to Omaha as the head coach, and he’s only in his fourth season at Tennessee, including a 15-2 start in 2020 wiped out by the pandemic.Vitello said Thursday he only wishes Corbin had told him April 18 to improve his mood after a 10-4 loss to Vanderbilt in Knoxville. Vitello said that series helped his Vols get better, and he sees only positives about both teams reaching the College World Series because of what it means for the entire state.The population boom in Nashville, where Vanderbilt is located, has been helping improve baseball with new facilities being built in Tennessee. Vitello sees Tennessee and Vanderbilt reaching the College World Series together as the next step creating more interest.“To me, this should be another spark for yet another flame that the communities that we’re all surrounded by and bleeding all the way down into west Tennessee and closer to Memphis. It should spark even another age group or maybe another wave of improvement in the baseball in our state,” Vitello said.Tennessee has been doing its part to fan the attention the Vols are receiving. Peyton Manning, the five-time NFL MVP who will be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in August, taught Vitello the proper way to say “Omaha” in a video shared Tuesday on social media.“He’s hosted ‘Saturday Night Live,’ for gosh sakes, and I got no idea what I’m doing,” Vitello said. “And I know anything that Peyton’s in is going to get attention.”Vanderbilt, the No. 4 national seed with a 45-15 record, begins play Saturday night against Arizona. No. 3 national seed Tennessee (50-16) plays Virginia on Sunday afternoon. The Commodores and Vols won’t see each other until next season unless each advances out of the double-elimination brackets to the final series.Vitello pointed out Tennessee is the only state with two teams in the College World Series this year.“It’s something I think should be celebrated,” Vitello said.There will be celebration — if one of them can bring the state another national title.———More NCAA baseball tournament coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/college-world-series and https://twitter.com/AP—Top25