• Report: Texas close to finalizing deal with Shaka Smart

    Virginia Commonwealth head coach Shaka Smart is close to making his move to Austin to be Texas’ next men's head basketball coach, according to multiple reports.

    Kirk Bohls of the Austin American-Statesman reported Wednesday night that Smart’s deal with the Longhorns is still ongoing but close to being finished. 247Sports also reported that sources said a deal could be finalized Thursday.  

    Smart, who has been with the Rams for the past six seasons, has been a familiar name thrown around Texas’ search to replace former head coach Rick Barnes. Texas let go of Barnes on Sunday after 17 seasons with the Longhorns, which made him the winningest head coach in program history.

    Smart, 37, has led VCU to an NCAA Tournament appearance in each of the last five seasons. In addition, the Rams claimed a CBI Championship in 2010 and had a Final Four run in 2011.

  • PGA Tour makes stops in Texas

    As is usual, the PGA Tour will make a couple of stops in Texas before the highly coveted Masters Championship gets underway later this month.

    The first tournament of the Texas swing was the Valero Texas Open in San Antonio, which was played late last month. It was played at the five-year-old TPC San Antonio.

    The two courses of TPC San Antonio, the AT&T Oaks and AT&T Canyons Course, are consistently rated as two of the hardest courses on the PGA Tour by scoring average. Their long distance and brutal winds make birdies a lot harder to come by than most PGA Tour venues.

    Texas native Jimmy Walker won the event with a 11-under-par 277. Other notables in the field included 2014 FedEx Cup Champion Billy Horschel, Jason Dufner, Jim Furyk, Harris English and Jimmy Walker. Former Longhorns Jordan Spieth, Justin Leonard, Jhonattan Vegas and Lance Lopez also competed.

    Notably, this was be Lopez’ first PGA Tour start. After a successful college career, he has struggled to translate his game to the professional level. That changed when he shot a 6-under 66 at the Monday qualifier to make the field for the tournament. Lopez looked to take advantage of the opportunity to help him gain access to even more PGA tournaments.

    Spieth came into the event fresh off of his win at the Valspar Championship in Palm Harbor, Florida two weeks ago. Before the event, he was ranked ninth in the FedEx Cup rankings and was a favorite to win. However, he finished four strokes behind Walker for second place. 

    Leonard is the veteran of the Longhorn trio as his 21-year career and 12 PGA Tour wins show. His season has gotten off to a slow start with only one top-10 finish and he has been cut from five of the ten tournaments he has played in.

    Next, PGA Tour will head to the Golf Club of Houston for the Shell Houston Open.

    The course has traditionally served as a warm-up for the Masters with the golf course set up to emulate many of the same features as Augusta National.

    Last year, Matt Jones won the event, which was his first win on the PGA Tour. His 15-under-par total forced him into a playoff with Matt Kuchar whom he would eventually defeat.

    Notables in the field include Henrik Stenson, Justin Rose, Sergio Garcia and Jordan Spieth, all of who are ranked in the top-10 in the World Golf Rankings.

    Play will get underway on Thursday, April 2. It will be televised on the Golf Channel.

  • The art of trash talk in the MLB

    When many people think of trash talking in sports, the first sports that come to mind are football, hockey and basketball.

    Although baseball isn’t as rough or as physical as other sports, trash talk is still very present, with phrases such as “infield in” to “easy out.” Running your mouth, egging on opponents and being an annoyance are just some of the aspects of baseball many fans tend to forget.

    Many players use trash talk to motivate themselves to play better by ridiculing the skill and toughness of their opponents. The goal of the art form is to get inside your opponent's head to try to take them out of the game mentally. If an opponent's mind is thinking about the trash talk, then he is not thinking about following his team’s game plan.

    Many players are specifically known for their trash-talking abilities.

    Atlanta Braves catcher A.J. Pierzynski has a mouth that has gotten him ejected from many games, and baseball great Satchel Paige, who was completely confident in his own abilities, would make his defense sit in the dugout while he retired the side.

    Former MLB pitcher Carlos Zambrano, who played for the Chicago Cubs and the Miami Marlins, had quite a mouth as well, getting into plenty of arguments with umpires and players. Zambrano was also known to “hold the mound” for an extended period to get underneath the batter’s skin.

    The tension of rivalry games, such as the ones between the Red Sox and Yankees or Cubs and White Sox, always brings some of the most exciting in-game action. It also brings out the best trash talk.

    Former Red Sox pitcher Pedro Martínez, who was elected to the Hall of Fame this year, was a master of trash talk, and his biggest rival was former Yankees catcher Jorge Posada. Martínez admitted to making fun of Posada’s ears, calling him “Dumbo” after the famous cartoon elephant whose ears were so large that it enabled him to fly.

    But Posada wasn’t shy either when it came to trash talk.

    Martínez said there was bad blood between them after the catcher mentioned Martínez’s mother in a negative light. The bad blood eventually led to an all-out brawl in the 2003 playoffs, when Martínez threw then-72-year-old Yankees bench coach Don Zimmer to the ground. 

    “Then he let it go a little bit too far with the Zimmer incident,” Martínez said on the 'Daily News Live' show earlier this year. “I did not appreciate that.”

    Trash talk, at least for Martínez, sometimes resulted in intentional beanings as well.

    After former Yankees pitcher Roger Clemens pegged a Red Sox player, Martínez didn’t hesitate with his retaliation and hit the next two batters he faced.

    Throughout most of his career, Miami Marlins right fielder Ichiro Suzuki struggled to talk trash to opponents because he only knew his Japanese. Many players thought Suzuki could only speak English through his interpreter to reporters.

    Suzuki, however, learned to speak Spanish through conversations with his teammates, so he could talk smack with some players in the MLB. 

    Although he still can’t fluently speak Spanish, he was able to pick up some of the common trash-talking phrases.

    “We don't really have curse words in Japanese,” Suzuki told the Wall Street Journal. “So I like the fact that the Western languages allow me to say things that I otherwise can't."

    Baseball players get an adrenaline rush from the competition of the game, and competition fuels the fire of trash talk. Ultimately, the common bond between trash talkers in baseball is simple: It’s for the love of the game and winning.

  • Update: Tennessee officially hires Rick Barnes

    Update: The University of Tennessee has officially hired Rick Barnes as its new head coach, the school announced Tuesday morning. A press conference is set for later this afternoon in Knoxville, Tennessee. 

    "Rick Barnes is an elite basketball coach in every respect," Tennessee athletics director Dave Hart said in a statement. "Rick brings an extremely impressive track record of excellence, as well as much-needed stability, to our men's basketball program. This is an exciting day for our Tennessee family."

    Barnes' new contract with Tennessee is for six years, at $2.25 million per year with incentives, according to multiple reports. In addition, Barnes will get his $1.75 million buyout from Texas. 

    His new contract is similar to his $2.55 million per year base salary he received at Texas this past year. The hiring comes just two days after Texas let go of Barnes.

    Original story: ESPN reported Monday afternoon that Barnes and Tennessee were close to a deal that would send the former Texas head coach to the Volunteers. In his farewell press conference Sunday, Barnes hinted to the fact he would land another coaching job soon when asked about his future.

    “Will I coach again? Yeah, quicker than you’d probably think,” Barnes said.

    Barnes and Texas “mutually agreed” to part ways Sunday morning, according to the official announcement. But it wasn’t as mutual as the report suggests. After failing to live up to expectations in the last couple of years, which includes losing to Butler in the first round this year and missing the tournament entirely in 2012-2013, reports leaked Thursday that Texas men's athletic director Steve Patterson told Barnes to make changes to his staff or risk being fired.

    His staff offered to leave, but Barnes wouldn’t let them.

    "I couldn't do that," Barnes said. "That would be me saying this is about me. I've been carried by a lot of people here. We're in this together."

    Barnes would be the third coach in three years for the Volunteers, who saw Sweet 16 success just two years ago under the guidance of Cuonzo Martin before he bolted for Cal this summer. Donnie Tyndall of Southern Mississippi replaced him.

    However, Tyndall's time at Tennessee was short-lived as he was fired Friday after just one season. His time was doomed before he started when Southern Mississippi released a statement in November that it was under investigation by the NCAA. Later in January, it said it had inflicted a self-imposed postseason ban. All this comes after Tyndall headed Morehead State when they went on probation five years ago for booster related activity.

    "Knowing what I know now, is that a mistake?" Tennessee athletics director Dave Hart told the AP on Friday. "Probably. ... But, you know, there are a lot of coaches out there that have a transgression in their history somewhere that had an opportunity to do better. Obviously, if we'd known [then] what we know now, we would have moved in another direction."

    Tyndall finished 16-16 in his lone year with a chance of future punishment “highly likely,” according to Hart.

    Tennessee loses its top scorer from last season but will return juniors Kevin Punter and Armani Moore, who finished averaging double-digit points.

    Barnes’ wife is also an alumnus of Tennessee.

  • Gregory Gym to become home venue for Austin Aces during 2015 season

    Gregory Gymnasium has primarily played host to basketball and volleyball, but this summer it will add indoor tennis to the list.

    The Austin Aces, out of Mylan World TeamTennis, announced Monday that it would play its seven home matches in Gregory Gym after playing at the Cedar Park Center last year.

    “We are thrilled to have been able to find a downtown home in Gregory Gym on the UT campus as the Aces work to become Austin’s premier professional sports brand and the must-attend sporting event each summer,” Aces owner Lorne Abony said in a press release.

    Abony said that getting a downtown venue was something they found while evaluating the team over the offseason both on and off the court.

    “From feedback we received and the analysis that was done by our front office, we felt that a relocation to a venue located closer to the city center would be in our team’s best interest,” Albony said.

    While Gregory seats 4,000 people for volleyball, the Aces said that capacity for tennis matches will be over 3,500 along with VIP tables and courtside seating.

    The Aces went 6-8 in its inaugural season last year, finishing third in the Western Conference. Austin is led by former world No. 1 Andy Roddick, who also resides in the area. The roster also includes two former NCAA champions as well as the second-ranked Russian on the ATP Tour, Teymur Gabashvili.  The team is coached by nine-time Grand Slam doubles champion Rick Leach.

    The Aces open up their 2015 season July 13 on the road at the Boston Lobsters and will play their first home match on July 16 against the California Dream.

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