NBA coach gets a four-year contract extension

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NBA coach gets a four-year contract extension

From Comcast SportsNet
NEW ORLEANS (AP) -- Monty Williams took his first NBA head coaching job with the Hornets at a time when the franchise was defined by uncertainty. Star players were looking to leave and no one knew who the next owner would be, or even if the team would remain in New Orleans long term. Williams kept his focus on coaching, and has been rewarded with a four-year extension running through the 2015-16 season. "The problems we have in the NBA are really good problems to have," Williams said in a phone interview with The Associated Press on Sunday, the day the club announced his extension. "I would have loved to have all the ducks in a row and all the other good things everybody else had in their organizations, but that just wasn't my reality and at the same time my job hadn't changed and my players needed me to be focused on my job." The new deal comes as the 40-year-old Williams heads into the final year of the first head coaching contract he signed in 2010. The Hornets didn't release contract terms. Williams confirmed the length of the extension, but declined to discuss his pay other than to say, "It's more than I deserve." Williams took the Hornets to the playoffs his first season with a 46-36 record. Last season, the club went 21-45 after trading star Chris Paul to the Los Angeles Clippers in a deal that helped New Orleans build for the future with the acquisition of 23-year-old shooting guard Eric Gordon and an additional first-round draft choice. The Hornets then won the NBA's draft lottery, selected Kentucky star Anthony Davis first overall and added Duke's Austin Rivers with the 10th pick. This offseason, the Hornets have traded to acquire forward Ryan Anderson from Orlando and center Robin Lopez from Phoenix. "The Hornets have a promising future and an exciting young nucleus," said Hornets executive vice president Mickey Loomis. "It is our opinion that Monty is the perfect coach to develop and lead this group of talent going forward." Loomis, also the general manager of the New Orleans Saints, was placed in his oversight position with the Hornets after Saints owner Tom Benson bought the basketball team from the NBA, ending a period of ownership uncertainty that had made it difficult for Hornets general manager Dell Demps to acquire or keep established players in free agency. Forward David West cited the lack of a long-term owner as a factor in his decision to leave New Orleans for Indiana in free agency last year. Williams said Loomis initiated the extension talks. "When he did that I kind of felt like when the older guys used to pick me to play on their team," Williams said. "It just made me feel like they're putting a lot of trust in me. Mr. Benson has told everybody that he's confident in our ability as a coaching staff. I just felt really good about that." Williams came to the Hornets after five seasons as the assistant coach in Portland under then-head coach Nate McMillan. Williams played in the NBA for 10 years after the New York Knicks made the former Notre Dame standout a first-round pick in 1994. His playing career also included stints with the San Antonio Spurs, Denver Nuggets, Orlando Magic and Philadelphia 76ers. The Hornets hired Williams when the club was up for sale by founder George Shinn. During his first season, the NBA stepped in to buy the club in hopes of stabilizing club finances and orchestrating a deal with a new, permanent owner committed to keeping the team in Louisiana long-term. At the time, Williams' peers would often say they felt sorry for him having to start his head coaching career amid such instability, but Williams never complained, saying he felt lucky to be getting paid well to do something he loved. His players routinely professed their admiration for Williams' approach and always seemed to play hard for him. Even as the end of last season approached, with the Hornets well out of the playoff hunt, they finished with eight victories in their final 13 games. It was around that time that Benson agreed to buy the Hornets for 338 million and also agreed to a lease extension through 2024 at the New Orleans Arena. Soon after, Benson and Loomis said they planned to retain Williams. "We could not be any happier to have someone of Monty's quality ---- both professionally and personally ---- involved in the resurgence of this franchise," Benson said. The Hornets have begun moving corporate offices into a newly renovated building that also houses the Saints headquarters and Benson is looking into building a new practice facility on that campus. After two challenging seasons, Williams is now looking at a future that includes stable, deep-pocketed ownership, an infusion of new talent, facility upgrades and enhanced job security. "For me to say that's not good for the organization or the team would be a lot of fake humility on my part. I think it's great for all involved and shows Mr. Benson and Mickey have a vision for the organization that's bigger than all of us," Williams said. "We've had some really good things happen ... yet we haven't won anything, so that is where my reality remains. I want to win. All the stuff that we're getting is a bonus."

Robinson Cano, Guillermo Heredia homer in Mariners' 5-0 win over Red Sox

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Robinson Cano, Guillermo Heredia homer in Mariners' 5-0 win over Red Sox

BOSTON (AP)  Christian Bergman rebounded from a miserable start with seven shutout innings and the Seattle Mariners halted Boston's season-high six-game winning streak with a 5-0 victory over the Red Sox on Sunday.

Robinson Cano hit a two-run homer and Guillermo Heredia a solo shot for the Mariners, who averted a three-game sweep with just their second win in nine games. Seattle was shut out the first two games.

Bergman (2-2) allowed four hits, walked two and struck out two. He got a lot of help from his infielders when they turned a double play in each of the first four innings.

Three relievers completed the combined five-hitter, with closer Edwin Diaz getting the final three outs despite two errors by infielders.

Bergman was tagged for 14 hits and 10 runs over four innings in a loss his previous start.

Rick Porcello (3-6) gave up 11 hits, but only two runs in 6 1/3 innings.

Seattle finished one off its club record for most double plays turned in a game.

After being shut out for the first 21 innings of the series, the Mariners moved ahead 1-0 in the fourth when Kyle Seager raced home from third after Porcello bounced a pitch that went over catcher Sandy Leon's right shoulder and onto the screen. Seager had doubled leading off and advanced on Danny Valencia's single.

Heredia homered over the Green Monster in the eighth and Cano sent his into the center-field bleachers an inning later.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Mariners: RHP Hisashi Iwakuma, on the disabled list with right shoulder inflammation, had another bullpen session Sunday because he wasn't happy with one a day earlier.

Red Sox: Manager John Farrell said 3B Pablo Sandoval, out since late April with a sprained right knee, will stay on his rehab assignment at Triple-A Pawtucket to get his "timing going" with more at-bats.

ROSTER MOVES

Seattle sent Saturday's losing pitcher, RHP Rob Whalen, to Triple-A Tacoma and brought up RHP Ryne Harper from the same club.

The Red Sox also made moves with pitchers, sending Saturday's winner, lefty Brian Johnson, to Triple-A Pawtucket and promoting RHP Blaine Boyer for a day. Boyer will go back down Monday when ace David Price is activated.

Boyer made his Red Sox debut, retiring the only two batters he faced.

UP NEXT

Mariners: RHP Sam Gaviglio (0-1, 1.38 ERA) is set to make his third major-league start when they open a two-game series Monday at Colorado. RHP Tyler Chatwood (4-6, 4.50) is scheduled for the Rockies.

Red Sox: LHP Price makes his season debut Monday in Chicago against the White Sox after being sidelined since early spring training with a strained left elbow.

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Brian Johnson admits he almost retired one year ago due to anxiety

Brian Johnson admits he almost retired one year ago due to anxiety

Brian Johnson almost called it a career at age 25 -- just one year before he went on to throw a complete game shutout at Fenway Park.

He finished Saturday's 6-0 win over the Mariners with eight strikeouts and five hits allowed. To get on the mound at Fenway, he had to overcome a serious bout with anxiety and depression. Things came to a head roughly a year ago.

"At that point in time, I was ready to hang 'em up," Johnson told Mike Giardi and Rob Bradford on WEEI radio Sunday. "I wasn't happy, wasn't sleeping through the night, woke up in cold sweats. I just wasn't happy."

But when things got most challenging, Johnson asked for help, which made all the difference, he explained. He broke down on the phone with his father, and discussed all of the issues he'd been struggling with. Then he spoke on the phone with Red Sox mental skills coach Laz Gutierrez, who helped him game plan to fight against his anxiety and depression. Baseball was one of Johnson's problems, and he was considering cutting it out of his life.

"Yes, there were thoughts in my head where I was like, 'What else would I do with my life?'" Johnson said. "I don't think it was baseball. I mean, yes, I would be lying if I didn't say it was that. I think it was a lot of things. Where I was at in my life, I was only a baseball player, and people only saw me as a baseball player. I was just letting everything build up. I think it stemmed all from when I hurt my elbow. I didn't have any feeling in my hand."

He began to worry about whether the feeling in his hand would disappear during his starts. He'd knock his funny bone and the feeling would be gone. That was only one manifestation of his anxieties.

"I just felt like there microscope on me 24/7," he said, "and that's kind of what let's your mind play tricks on you.'

He added: "If I didn't say anything, I don't think there's any chance I'd be here playing baseball. And it is taboo. I always thought -- the reason it took me so long was because, if I say something, they're never going to trust me again. 'How is he able to perform if he's having anxiety and depression problems.' . . . And lo and behold, I think I have more trust now that I said something."

Johnson just kept getting back on the field by throwing one inning at a time until he started having fun again. Fast forward to Sunday, Johnson has two starts for the Sox for a 2.57 ERA with a 1.07 WHIP and 14 strikeouts in 14 innings. He has also posted a 2.82 ERA in seven starts and 44.2 innings pitched in the minors.

But some unfortunate news followed his moment of triumph against the Mariners on Saturday. Johnson is heading back down to Pawtucket. The Sox optioned him with David Price rejoining the rotation.

"I would have loved to stay," Johnson said. "But I'm happy to do what they want me to . . . It stinks I'm getting sent down and optioned. But like I told John (Farrell) and like I told Dave (Dombrowski), 'I'm just going to keep working hard. Whenever you guys need me, I'm ready.'

Johnson said he wasn't riding a high of confidence after his excellent outing. He's keeping a level-head, and approaching the game the same way he did before his complete game. But he did admit he had a particularly special moment Saturday. After the game, his dad congratulated Johnson with a hug on the field at Fenway.

Johnson said: "That was the moment I was probably most grateful for everything."