Sports briefs 1/4/05

Tuesday, January 4, 2005


* The Cleveland Cavaliers were bought Monday for $375 million by the founder of the nation's largest online mortgage company, who acquires a team that has surged from the NBA's depths since the arrival of LeBron James.

Dan Gilbert of Detroit, founder of Quicken Loans, will assume ownership of the Cavaliers and operational control of the 20,000-seat Gund Arena once the league's Board of Governors approves the deal.

Former owner Gordon Gund will maintain a minority stake of no more than 10 percent, a source with knowledge of the terms of the sale told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity. The amount of cash changing hands will be further reduced by Gilbert's assumption of debt, the source said.

Gund and his brother George bought the team from Ted Stepien in 1983 for $20 million.

The Cavaliers are the fourth NBA team to be sold in the past year, most recently the Phoenix Suns for $401 million. The other teams were the Atlanta Hawks ($250 million) and New Jersey Nets ($300 million).

* Bob Karstens, a former player for the Harlem Globetrotters who created many of their signature routines, died at 89.

Karstens died Friday in Redlands, Calif., Globetrotters spokesman Brett Meister said.

Karstens was credited as one of the original creators of the Globetrotters' famous "Magic Circle" pre-game routine, in addition to developing the "Goofball" (a gag basketball filled with off-center weights), the "Yo-Yo" basketball and the behind-the-back trick shot.

The third white player to play for the Globetrotters, Karstens joined the team in 1942 when Reece "Goose" Tatum was drafted into the Army Air Corp. during World War II. He served as the team's "Showman" from 1942-43.


* LSU has picked Les Miles to replace Nick Saban as football coach.

Miles' hiring was announced Monday by school president William Jenkins.

The 51-year-old Miles, who led Oklahoma State to three straight bowl games, emerged as the top candidate Saturday, after Louisville coach Bobby Petrino withdrew from consideration.

The LSU job opened when Saban took the head coaching job with the Miami Dolphins on Dec. 25. Miles is 28-21 in four seasons with the Cowboys, who made just one bowl appearance in the 12 seasons before he arrived.

Saban had the nation's richest college football contract, a seven-year, $18.45 million deal he signed after winning a share of the national title in 2003.

N Oklahoma State junior running back Vernand Morency says he's turning pro because his coach has departed for LSU.

Morency said he submitted papers Monday to the NFL making him eligible for the draft in April. The former Miami high school star disclosed his decision in his hometown shortly after Oklahoma State's Les Miles was introduced as the new coach at Louisiana State.

"With coach Miles leaving, I just feel mentally and physically ready to go and make my presence felt in the NFL," Morency said. "There's no doubt I'm the top back in America. I said that before the season, and I'm sticking to my guns."

Despite missing one game with a knee injury, Morency carried 250 times for 1,454 yards and 12 touchdowns during the regular season. He ran for at least 100 yards in each of the first seven games.

* California quarterback Aaron Rodgers will skip his senior season to enter the NFL draft.

"I just feel like it's too big of an opportunity to pass up," Rodgers said Monday. "I'm looking forward to competing with the other quarterbacks for a chance to make an NFL team, and I'm fulfilling a childhood dream."

Under the tutelage of coach Jeff Tedford, Rodgers became a top pro prospect in just two years with the Golden Bears, whose season ended last week with a 45-31 loss to Texas Tech in the Holiday Bowl. Rodgers passed for 2,566 yards and 24 touchdowns this season, his first as Cal's full-time starter.

Rodgers signed with Cal after one year at a junior college in his native Chico, Calif., starting the final 10 games last season. He passed for 2,903 yards and 19 touchdowns while completing more than 60 percent of his passes, throwing just five interceptions and leading Cal to a victory in the Insight Bowl.

Rodgers' numbers declined in the second half of this season when his top four receivers all were sidelined or slowed by various injuries, but he still led Cal (10-2) to its best season in a half-century.


* Roger Federer began his Australian Open preparation by beating David Ferrer of Spain 6-1, 6-1 Monday in the first round of the Qatar Open.

The top-ranked Federer needed less than an hour to win his first match of 2005. Last year, he became the first man since Mats Wilander in 1988 to win three Grand Slam titles, going 74-6 with 11 titles overall.

In the second round, Federer will play 1997 U.S. Open runner-up Greg Rusedski, who eliminated Jan Hernych of the Czech Republic 6-3, 7-5.

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