Sports Briefs

Posted: Friday, October 05, 2001

Alexander killed in ARCA race

CONCORD, N.C. -- Blaise Alexander, the 25-year-old ARCA driver who also competed on NASCAR's Busch Series, was killed Thursday night in a wreck at Lowe's Motor Speedway.

Alexander had just passed Kerry Earnhardt for the lead with four laps to go in the EasyCare 100 when his car pulled in too close in front of Earnhardt's after the pass.

Earnhardt caught Alexander's rear bumper, sending both cars into a spin coming out of Turn 4. Alexander's car, already running close to the outside wall, cut right and the Pontiac slammed into the concrete at an almost head-first angle.

His car then hit Earnhardt's again, flipping it and sending Earnhardt's Chevrolet hurtling down the track on its roof with flames shooting out from under the hood.

Alexander's car came to a rest on the infield grass. The 1996 ARCA rookie of the year had to be cut out of the car, was placed on a stretcher and rushed to the infield car center. He was pronounced dead from severe head injuries at 10:20 p.m.

''It is with great sadness that we must report that Blaise Alexander died as a result of his injuries in tonight's accident,'' track spokesman Jerry Gappens said.

''It was a severe head injury. Our emergency technicians went to the car and found him unconscious, unresponsive and with no vital signs. They worked on him for 25 minutes and got no response.''

Alexander's father, Blaise Sr., and brother were in the pits at the time of the accident.

''Obviously what we had was a violent deceleration here on the frontstretch,'' ARCA president Ron Drager said. ''It was pretty plain to see.''

Alexander was not wearing any type of head and neck restraint system, but Drager said ARCA requires its driver to wear a neck collar generally referred to as a ''horse collar.''

Alexander was wearing one, which was made by Simpson Performance Products, and Drager said on initial inspection it did not appear damaged.

Berard signs four-year contract with Rangers

NEW YORK -- Bryan Berard, the NHL player who nearly lost his right eye in a game 1 1/2 years ago, signed an $11.75 million contract with the New York Rangers on Thursday.

Berard, a 24-year-old defenseman who played two preseason games with the Rangers last week, agreed to a one-year deal with three consecutive club option years, starting at $2 million this season.

Berard was accidentally struck in his right eye by Marian Hossa's stick on March 11, 2000, while playing for the Toronto Maple Leafs.

The NHL mandates that a player's vision must be at least 20/400. After he was injured, Berard's vision was no better than 20/600, but he was given a special contact lens that has improved his eyesight enough to receive league approval.

Berard passed a physical and eye exam last week.

Berard had 30 points in 64 games during his last season. He became an unrestricted free agent after the Leafs failed to give him a qualifying offer this summer, thinking he had retired.

Chaney, Coach K head into Hall of Fame

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. -- One is button-down calm. The other is all rolled-up shirt sleeves, tie-askew raw emotion.

Yet, coaches Mike Krzyzewski of Duke and John Chaney of Temple have at least one thing in common -- an uncommon record of success on the court and in preparing young men for life after college.

The two coaches who grew up poor -- Krzyzewski in Chicago and Chaney in Philadelphia -- will be inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame Friday night with Moses Malone, the rugged center who skipped college to star in the ABA and NBA for 21 years.

''Coach K deserves to get into the Hall of Fame just for all the times he has beaten me,'' Chaney said. ''But he is perhaps the most special person in coaching today. He is a throwback. Someone who takes a human interest in his players.

''He's a leader in what we should really be concerned about -- the students.''

It's a description that applies to Chaney as well.

''He loves the kids,'' said Hall of Famer Billy Cunningham, recalling his amazement when he found Chaney rousting his players for 5 a.m. practices to ensure the rest of the day belonged to their studies.

''That's because of my background,'' Chaney, 69, said. ''My whole background has been one in which you would have to believe I couldn't and wouldn't have a chance. We have to give children access and opportunities.''

Chaney never knew his real father, grew up in the projects and was shuttled into vocational courses in high school by a guidance counselor who told him that it was best for a black kid.

''But I didn't want that. I hit my thumb with the hammer and it hurt and I didn't want any part of it,'' he said. His high school coach, Sam Browne, had given him another idea: college.

And so the young Chaney determined to be hapless in metal shop and hopeless in wood shop. ''I got so good at being bad that finally they gave up and put me in college prep courses,'' he said. ''Sam Browne saved my life.''

The struggles continued. It took Chaney, who was also a player-coach in the Eastern Basketball League, 17 years after his graduation from Bethune-Cookman College to get his first college coaching job at Cheyney State in 1972. Six years later, he led Cheyney State to the NCAA Division II championship.

He was 50 when he was hired by Temple in 1982 and coached his first Division I game. Since then, his often-unheralded recruits and smothering matchup zone have compiled a 431-179 record. Five times the Owls have played in NCAA Regional finals. Twice, Duke and Krzyzewski dashed the Owls' Final Four hopes.

It was a struggle of a different sort for Krzyzewski, 53, who won his third national championship at Duke this spring.

He recalled when his immigrant mother had only two dresses, but they were always ironed and sparkling clean. His opportunity, he said, was an appointment to the U.S. Military Academy and her enduring faith. ''I never knew why I wasn't afraid to fail until she passed away,'' he said. ''With one person, I couldn't fail.''

In his first three seasons at Duke, the Blue Devils were 37-47. ''That's when you learn about support,'' he said. It's the only time his teams have struggled. He has a 606-223 career record in 21 seasons at Duke and five at Army.

Caring is something that transcends generations and changing fashions, the coaches said.

Earrings and tattoos might not be his style, said Krzyzewski, who lists coach and author Clair Bee among his mentors, but ''the culture I came from was not better or worse, it was just different.''

''The worst thing you can ever say is 'In my time ...,'' Chaney said. ''You can't use metaphors with a youngster. You have to find out where he is in his thinking. And teach him. Then the ceiling becomes the floor.''



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