Kansas fires athletic director Bohl
LAWRENCE, Kan. -- The University of Kansas fired athletic director Al Bohl on Wednesday, and he said basketball coach Roy Williams was behind it.
''I believe the Kansas basketball coach had the power to hold his athletics director in his hand like a dove,'' Bohl said. ''And he had a choice to either crush me with his power of influence or let me fly with my vision for a better, total program. He chose to crush me.''
Bohl has had numerous clashes with the popular Williams, whose Jayhawks lost to Syracuse in the national championship game Monday night. Bohl was hired in 2001 to replace longtime athletic director Bob Frederick, a close friend of Williams.
Williams is expected to be a leading contender for the vacant coaching job at North Carolina, his alma mater. Williams turned down the position three years ago, but he has faced frequent questions about the opening since Matt Doherty resigned April 1.
Kansas Chancellor Robert Hemenway denied that he fired Bohl to convince Williams to stay.
''We have to trust him to make the right decision now,'' Hemenway said of Williams.
Bohl, however, is convinced that the decision to remove him was made by Williams, not Hemenway.
''It is bad when a basketball coach can have the ability to hire and fire someone,'' Bohl said. ''There's no question I have been beaten up maliciously.''
Williams said Bohl tried ''extremely hard,'' but he acknowledged that the two men had their differences.
''It is always sad for the individual involved when a situation such as this occurs and a change is made,'' Williams said in the statement. ''We had difficulties, and we were not as cohesive as the athletic department needs to be. This made the atmosphere somewhat difficult.''
Hemenway said North Carolina athletic director Dick Baddour contacted him Wednesday about speaking with Williams.
''It's a little hard to say if it was asking permission or if it was notification, but they said that they wanted to talk to Roy, and I was not surprised that they called,'' Hemenway said.
Hall cancels 'Bull Durham' festivities
NEW YORK -- Stung by anti-war criticism from Tim Robbins and Susan Sarandon, the baseball Hall of Fame has canceled a 15th anniversary celebration of the film ''Bull Durham'' that was to feature the co-stars.
Hall president Dale Petroskey sent a letter to Robbins and Sarandon this week, saying the festivities April 26-27 at Cooperstown, N.Y., had been called off because of their remarks.
Petroskey, a former White House assistant press secretary under Ronald Reagan, said recent comments by the actors ''ultimately could put our troops in even more danger.''
Reached Wednesday night, Robbins said he was ''dismayed'' by the decision. He responded with a letter he planned to send to Petroskey, telling him: ''You belong with the cowards and ideologues in a hall of infamy and shame.''
The weekend affair, planned months ago, was also to feature ''Bull Durham'' actor Robert Wuhl and Ron Shelton, who wrote and directed the 1988 film.
Instead of commemorating the movie, the Hall canceled the celebration in a letter Tuesday sent to the scheduled participants.
''In a free country such as ours, every American has the right to his or her own opinions, and to express them. Public figures, such as you, have platforms much larger than the average American's, which provides you an extraordinary opportunity to have your views heard -- and an equally large obligation to act and speak responsibly,'' Petroskey wrote.
''We believe your very public criticism of President Bush at this important -- and sensitive -- time in our nation's history helps undermine the U.S. position, which ultimately could put our troops in even more danger. As an institution, we stand behind our President and our troops in this conflict,'' he wrote.
Robbins and Sarandon, his longtime partner, have been active in peace rallies to protest the war in Iraq. In his letter, Robbins said he remained ''skeptical'' of the war plans and told Petroskey he did not realize baseball was ''a Republican sport.''
O'Neal skips practice, upsetting his coach
EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- Shaquille O'Neal skipped practice Wednesday, and coach Phil Jackson was not satisfied with his excuse.
''He called, although he didn't call a number that reached any of us,'' Jackson said after the rest of the Los Angeles Lakers held a light workout and watched film in preparation for Thursday night's game against the rival Sacramento Kings.
''He didn't call, he had someone call for him,'' Jackson said. ''Flat tire is what he said. That's all I know.''
A flat tire in the O'Neal household would not seem to be an insurmountable obstacle. The 7-foot center is known to have a vast supply of automotive options in his oversized garage -- far more than a dozen vehicles, according to one team employee's estimate.
''It bothers me, yeah,'' Jackson said.
At the same time, Jackson inferred that he would not make a big issue of O'Neal playing hooky, saying the team would move on and concentrate on the task of trying to become the first team in nearly four decades to win four consecutive NBA titles.
With four games remaining, the Lakers are in sixth place in the Western Conference and have a chance to improve their playoff seeding if they finish 4-0.
Portland, currently fourth in the conference, had its lead over the Lakers slip to one game after the Blazers lost to San Antonio 84-79 Wednesday night.
The Lakers will play at Portland on Sunday before finishing the season against the Nuggets and Warriors.
First, though, come the Kings, who have defeated the Lakers twice this season.
It will be the last regularly scheduled installment of the league's best rivalry, one that has included a preseason fight between Rick Fox and Doug Christie, a Christmas night victory by the Kings at the Staples Center, and a game last month in Sacramento in which O'Neal scored his 20,000th career point, only to find an obscene message written on the game ball when the Kings presented it to him.
''They don't need to win this ballgame, they've sewn up the Pacific Division,'' Jackson said. ''If we want to move up in the standings, it's a must-game for us to win. Any loss now pretty much eliminates our chances of moving up to a different bracket.''
At practice, Jackson had planned to emphasize a few offensive themes that he felt the Lakers were lacking the last time they played the Kings. But O'Neal's absence deprived Jackson of a big part of his intended audience.
O'Neal has been playing his best ball of the season lately, notwithstanding his 14-point output Tuesday night against the Dallas Mavericks and their zone defense.
He always plays well against the Kings, relishing the opportunity to dominate Vlade Divac -- a center O'Neal often proclaims is the league's biggest flopper.
Jackson knows O'Neal well enough to be confident his center will be ready at tipoff, yet that didn't mitigate the bothersome nature of his blowing off practice.
Jackson has seen his team meander through this season with less focus than they've had the two previous times they defended the title. Only 3 1/2 months ago they were 11-19, but the Lakers have turned things around to such an extent that they've won nine of their last 10.
But just when things were seemingly going so smoothly, Shaq's flat tire put an unneeded bump in the road.
''Something we wanted to do as a team was to kind of push ourselves here and create a playoff atmosphere for ourselves,'' Jackson said, ''so it's a little bit of a setback for us.''
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