Peter Laviolette will not be fired this year so get used to it

Peter Laviolette will not be fired this year so get used to it

There are a lot of things that hockey analysts and announcers say that I think is just pure poppycock. They’re often too quick to run and hide behind their trusted clichés to try and explain things that deserve more in-depth attention. But one thing I do agree with is that a group of guys can take some time to become a team. Analysts will refer to this as gelling.

Did you honestly think a “successful” trip to Lake Placid was all that a group of 20+ guys needed to magically become a cohesive unit? Come on, brah.

Last night the Flyers were inconsistent to be sure, but it was a new kind of inconsistency. There were parts of the 1st and 2nd periods that the Flyers absolutely dominated the Leafs in a way that I can’t remember seeing for years. They just looked like a superior team. They were all over the Leafs. They were everywhere. It was just a matter of time before that second goal went in because the Leafs couldn’t even get the puck. It was like watching a real power house playing a team looking to get more balls in the draft lottery. And then, of course, there was the usual shit we’re used to – bad passes, no forecheck, not even putting two guys on the puck with the goalie pulled. But those highs were so high.

A big part of that top tier performance was the play of Vinny LeCavalier and Mark Streit. These guys are going to be difference makers. They play a brand of game we haven’t seen in Philly for some time outside of Claude Giroux and at times Danny Briere. They’re creative, hard-working, willing to take risks and very, very skilled. They’re also two new pieces of a team that had its head screwed on backwards last season. It’s going to take these two guys, former captains as you know, some time to adjust to this new environment. Actually, that’s wrong. It’s going to take this environment some time to adjust to these new pieces. Once that happens this team will without a doubt become more consistent. And when they’re consistent within the system the wins will start coming like unemployment checks, baby.

And that’s why I don’t think there is even a seed of doubt in Paul Holmgren’s or Senor Snider’s heads in regards to the coaching situation. Even if this team was 21-21 halfway through the season (which it won’t be) the hierarchy has been established, the king has spoken. Sure some players might move, some lines and pairings might change, but the repeated declarations by Homer and Snider that Laviolette is not on the hot seat weren’t meant merely to answer the media’s questions, they were also almost surely to let the players know that they’re not in an unstable environment where they can choose to opt out – they are playing for this coach, this GM and this owner all year so they better work through the rough spots because there is no one to blame and fire a quarter of the way through the season.

This helps Laviolette to keep the room. As will the presence of Lecavalier and Streit in addition to a pretty well-rounded leadership group that was already established.

Now the best Flyers Mailbag in the world not run by Dave Isaac!

@sbaicker…if you could grab any Flyer from history at their career best and plop them on this team, who'd it be?
I wanted to be clever and say Pronger during his Blues/Oilers/Ducks years (which might be true) or someone like Bill Barber that could score 60 playing with Claude Giroux, but I think I’m going to have to go with the layup and say Bernie Parent. Now, I’m young and sexy and as a matter of fact just swagged my YOLO this morning so I never saw Parent play, but from what I read he was a legend – like in the conversation for best goalie ever. That, and the fact that goalie is such an important position in hockey makes this a no brainer. It’s like, would you want Mike Schmidt in his prime or to compile the best starting rotation plucked from their prime. A goalie can win games all by his lonesome, even if Andrej Meszaros is “playing defense” in front of him.

Note: There was a 3 game stretch, right after he adopted the Breath-Rite, that Trent Klatt was possibly the best hockey player on the planet.

@Treblaw What Should The Goal Song Be?
Oh God, are you trying to get me e-murdered? One time in 2008 I named some songs I thought the Flyers should listen to in warm ups, keep in mind this is just warm ups, and some metal dudes came to my apartment and locked me in my refrigerator. If the Flyers wanted a throwback I think they could have done better with Black Betty. It’s gotta be something that’s a) intense for a short period of time and b) repeatable. I’m not sure TNT or Black Betty fits that criteria as they’re like classic rock intense, which is like beer when you need a shot of whiskey. Banana Phone and Mambo #5 fit the bill, but if I had my druthers they would play the National Anthem after every goal in honor of the troops. And if you disagree with that you should move to Mexico.

Greg H: You think Bryz can really play in the ECHL?
This is ludicrous. I really don’t understand why he would do this to himself. Surely there has to be some European team that he could play for and stay out of the North American limelight. I only say this because I actually like Bryz. I think it’s a shame that he’s been dragged through the streets for (oh my God!) having a personality! I think it sucks that it’s going serve as a lesson to all current and future NHLers to not tell the media that you like to read (gasp!) or that you have any interests outside of hockey besides eating chicken and pasta or sometimes fish and pasta. I’m assuming this is part of some attempt to make it back to the NHL so he can stick it up everyone’s ass and I’m rooting for him. He’s surely learned his lesson about how to act in the locker room and I’m sure he’ll keep his mouth shut or give hockey answers when he has to participate at all going forward. The guy has certainly been broken if this is where he’s at. Bryz for Masterson 2014.

Jack P: How effective is a 4th line that has jay rosehill on it?
That was a stupid decision. I’m all for fighting even though I know it’s dangerous but I am not all for wasting freaking roster spots. When you start making hockey decisions based on whether or not Colton Orr is in the lineup you’re screwed.

Billy L: Who is your favorite former Flyer still in the NHL?

I think I have an underdog fetish. I’ve always enjoyed seeing Steve Downie do well since he left Philly. The Downie/Carle trade worked out well for everyone involved but at the time I felt like they were giving up on a player they drafted too early for questionable reasons. A couple years removed from a 46 point year and some injury plagued seasons and now playing on the Avalanches 1st line with Matt Duchene and Ryan O’Rielly…good for him.

Not worthy of No. 1: LSU reporter details concerns with Ben Simmons

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Not worthy of No. 1: LSU reporter details concerns with Ben Simmons

So you think Ben Simmons should be picked first or second in the next month's NBA draft.

We found someone who thinks Simmons doesn't deserve to go in either spot. Someone who has seen Simmons play plenty.

It's USA Today LSU beat writer Glenn Guilbeau, who didn't mince words as a guest Thursday on TCN's Breakfast on Broad. Guilbeau didn't question Simmons' desire and motivation — "I don't think that was an issue," he said — but did express concerns with other areas. 

Several other areas.

"To me, he's more of a specialist player and a complementary player than someone who can really take over a team," Guilbeau said. "He's not a strong, inside player like a brute. A physical player. And he also does not shoot from the outside, which is amazing, but he's a great passer and a great scorer."

Complementary player? Can't take over a team? Say what? 

"I don't think he should be the first pick," Guilbeau said. "I can see him being a high first-round pick. It depends on the team he's going to. Do they have enough of the other parts of the team where he can be a facilitator and a complementary player?

"He would have to go to a team where he can flourish as a complementary player, a team that has a very good center."

The Sixers are loaded in the front court with Jahlil Okafor, Nerlens Noel and potentially Joel Embiid. But a first overall pick is not supposed to be a complementary player.

"I think you could develop him to be as good as he could be, but not be that type of star," Guilbeau said. "It's kind of strange to me. Before he ever played he was supposed to be the greatest player, and I just never saw it. I covered great players here like Shaquille O'Neal and Chris Jackson, and he just didn't change a team like those guys did."

You'd think a team with the best player in the nation would have fared better than LSU, which finished last season a disappointing 19-14. The Tigers were crushed by Texas A&M in the SEC Tournament, 71-38, failed to make the NCAA Tournament and declined an NIT bid. In the loss to the Aggies, Simmons had 10 points, 12 rebounds and four fouls in 31 minutes.

The 6-foot-10, 225-pound Simmons averaged 19.2 points, 11.8 rebounds and 4.8 assists for LSU and hit 56.0 percent from the field. Gaudy numbers and all team highs. But he was just 1 for 3 from three, and that's a major concern given that he's being projected at almost every position but center.

"I just was surprised -- he didn't even try to shoot from the outside," Guilbeau said. "That would be the normal attribute that a player like him would have because he's a guard. He's basically a guard who can't shoot. Most of them can shoot. That's what I thought was really missing, and it hurt the team at times.

"In my mind, either you can dominate inside like a Shaquille O'Neal, or you can do all the other things, but all the other things has to include shooting from the outside, and he doesn't do that. I'd rather have Buddy [Hield]."

If there's one thing Hield can do — and let's just assume Guilbeau misspoke when he said "Guiled" — it's shoot. And the Sixers certainly need a shooter. But obviously it would be a major shock if they took Hield. 

It will be important for Simmons to develop an outside shot, and it might be more important for him to play under a quality head coach. Guilbeau wasn't praiseworthy of LSU's Johnny Jones, whose Tigers improved in each of his first three seasons as head coach before Simmons' arrival.

LSU won 19 games in 2013, 20 in 2014 and 22 in 2015 — and reached the NCAA Tournament.

"It's going to depend on the coach he gets too," Guilbeau said. "I would say he's never really had a great X and O coach yet in his career. He was on a team that had quite a few players last year, and they didn't do too well. So maybe it will be different depending on what team he goes to. He didn't play under Coach K or anything like that."

For more discussion on the topic, watch Thursday's edition of Lunch Break.

Baylor to fire football coach Briles, re-assign president

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USA Today Images

Baylor to fire football coach Briles, re-assign president

WACO, Texas -- Baylor University's board of regents said Thursday that it will fire football coach Art Briles and re-assign university President Kenneth Starr amid questions over the school's handling of sexual assault complaints against players.

The nation's largest Baptist university said in a statement Thursday that it had suspended Briles "with intent to terminate." Starr will leave the position of president on May 31, but the school says he will serve as chancellor.

The university also placed athletic director Ian McCaw on probation.

Baylor asked a law firm last year to conduct a review of its handling of sexual assault cases following allegations that the football program mishandled several cases of players attacking women.

The university's statement said the review revealed "a fundamental failure."

Baylor has faced increasing criticism in recent months for its handling of reports of rape and other violent incidents involving football players and students. One victim has sued the university, saying it was deliberately indifferent to her allegations against a former player who was eventually convicted of sexually assaulting her.

Starr ordered an investigation last year but has been mostly silent amid mounting criticism over the school's handling of the complaints, which erupted under his leadership. He took over as the university's president in 2010, about a decade after the former prosecutor investigated former President Clinton's sexual relationship with White House intern Monica Lewisnky.

The football team, whose players were at the center of the upheaval, enjoyed unprecedented success under Briles' tenure, including two Big 12 championships in the last three years. That success brought a financial windfall, and in 2014, Baylor opened a new, $250-million on-campus football stadium. But Briles' program has also been criticized for recruiting or accepting transfer players without regard to the harm they might cause fellow students.

Starr rode the waves of the program's success, and often ran on the football field with Baylor students in pregame ceremonies. But as investigations began into the school's handling of sexual assault allegations against players, Starr provided only brief comments, even as criticism of the school mounted.

In a February statement issued by university, Starr said "our hearts break for those whose lives are impacted by execrable acts of sexual violence." And at a prayer breakfast last month, Starr told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram: "I am in favor of transparency. Stand up, take your medicine if you made a mistake."

Baylor's Board of Regents was recently briefed by a law firm hired to investigate how the school responded to assault incidents, and the school on Thursday released a summary of its findings. Starr initiated the review in 2015, after former football player Sam Ukwuachu was convicted of sexually assaulting a female soccer player.

Ukwuachu, who was convicted in 2015, transferred to Baylor after he was dismissed from Boise State. Ukwuachu's former girlfriend testified during his rape trial in Texas that he had struck and choked her when he attended Boise State.

Ukwuachu's former coach, Chris Peterson, now the coach at Washington, said he "thoroughly apprised" Briles about the circumstances of Ukuwachu's dismissal. Briles disputed that account, saying he talked with Peterson and there was no mention of the incident.

The school is also facing a federal lawsuit from a former student claiming the school was "deliberately indifferent" to rape allegations levied at a former football player Tevin Elliott, who was convicted in 2014 of sexually assaulting the woman.

The uproar following Ukwuachu's conviction caused Baylor to initiate the review by the Philadelphia law firm Pepper Hamilton, and to announce a $5 million effort to improve efforts on how it responds to sexual assault, including adding another investigator and more staff.

But the Ukwuachu case was just the start of months of revelations of football players being involved in violent incidents with little or no repercussions. At least seven other woman have publicly come forward to say the school ignored their sexual assault allegations.

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Chad Ford: 'High likelihood' Sixers trade Jahlil Okafor or Nerlens Noel

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Chad Ford: 'High likelihood' Sixers trade Jahlil Okafor or Nerlens Noel

Technically, the Sixers don't have to trade any of their myriad of big men just yet. Nerlens Noel, Jahlil Okafor and Joel Embiid are all under contract. The organization can take its time evaluating which pieces should lay the foundation for the post-process era.

That being said, we already know Noel and Okafor don't work well together at all, at least they did not complement one another their first year together. And with Embiid perhaps finally ready to hit the floor in 2016, the Sixers are about to have an even bigger cluster on their hands in trying to rotate three centers.

With that in mind, NBA insider Chad Ford doesn't think the Sixers will wait. In fact, in an interview for 97.3 ESPN, the veteran reporter went on to describe the possibility of either Okafor or Noel being traded before the 2016-17 season as likely.

I think that there's a very high likelihood, that whether it's to move up in the draft or use them to grab a free agent in a sign and trade or just to a trade, that you will not see the Nerlens Noel-Jahlil Okafor pairing at the start of next season. I think that they'll gauge the interest of both players. I think that there might be a slight preference for Noel, to keep him around with the Sixers, and I think you might be right, there might be a slight, better value for Okafor out on the market, but I think everyone agrees that that combination of those two players doesn't necessarily work.

The Sixers needs to pick up assets, especially if they're gonna go ahead and do a Ben Simmons or Brandon Ingram with the first pick in the draft. Then they're gonna need those assets to start to fill out their backcourt, because the 24th pick and [the 26th pick], you're not finding starters. I'm not even sure that you're necessarily finding rotation players at that back end of the draft that are gonna make big impact, so they're gonna have to do that via free agency or via trade, and I think either Okafor or Noel — I don't think they'll trade both — but one of those two is probably their best trade chip.

The idea the Sixers would make a move to break up Okafor and Noel isn't exactly fresh. There was doubt they could coexist from the beginning, and already by the trade deadline, rumors the club was at least fielding calls.

What might be a little surprising, however, is Ford's sense the Sixers might prefer Noel of the two. We can come up with a whole host of reasons why that could be — in fact, we did, from Okafor's attitude and off-court behavior, to his skill set being too similar to that of Joel Embiid, to name a few. But at the end of the day, most feel Okafor has the much higher upside.

As for whether Ford would do the deal for the Boston Celtics' third-overall pick in this year's draft, as has been hinted at by numerous reporters, he says, "Absolutely."

If I was Philadelphia, it would be done tomorrow. I don't know if Boston would do it, but for Philadelphia, 100 percent. That would allow them to actually I think bring in another guard, an elite guard, whether that's Kris Dunn or Jamal Murray, and suddenly now you've got a very, very bright future. I think that's an easy call for the Sixers if Boston would do it.

But the biggest takeaway here is Ford anticipates one or the other is gone this offseason. Again, he's far from alone in thinking that, but it's one thing to suggest a trade makes sense, and quite another to say there's "a very high likelihood" it goes down.

Ford also takes on a number of other topics in the interview, from his preference for Simmons over Ingram to the Sixers' plans for this offseason and beyond.