Kelly's Oregon group brings familiarity to Eagles

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Kelly's Oregon group brings familiarity to Eagles

They know exactly what every glance means, every hand gesture, every silent stare.

They speak Chip Kelly’s language, and they know what he wants before he even says anything.

They’re Kelly’s Oregon guys, and they’re a big part of his first NFL coaching staff.

“It was one piece of the puzzle you didn’t have to try to figure out,” said Eagles defensive line coach Jerry Azzinaro, who spent the last four years in the same role under Kelly at the University of Oregon. “They had been on a four-year interview with us, so it was just one piece of the puzzle that you didn’t have to concern yourself with.”

Kelly brought five coaches with him from Eugene: Azzinaro, assistant defensive line coach Erik Chinander, assistant special teams coach Matt Harper, assistant defensive backs coach Todd Lyght and assistant offensive line coach Greg Austin.

Harper, Azzinaro and Lyght were with Kelly his entire four-year tenure as head coach at Oregon. Chinander and Austin came to Eugene a year later.

Kelly said he knew as soon as he decided to take the Eagles’ job that he wanted to bring a bunch of guys with him to Philly.

“That was really important to me to get a bunch of guys in here that understood me and really kind of built it from the bottom up,” he said. “And Eric and Todd [Lyght], Matt Harper and Greg Austin are guys that are young coaches at Oregon that have been with me a couple of years and understood how I wanted things done and what my vision was.

“I knew I was going to hire coordinators that were NFL guys that haven't had the opportunity to work with me before. I have a tendency to talk really fast and I want things to be efficient. But I also know that I may forget to say something, and Pat Shurmur can go to Greg Austin and say, ‘What did he mean by that?’ Or the same thing with Dave Fipp and Matt Harper for those young guys.

“Now I can put together guys with NFL experience coming here, and those guys can say, ‘This is what coach means, this is how we operate.’”

And the Eagles will operate differently than they ever have before.

Kelly likes to practice at warp speed -- the same way he wants to play -- and that will be an adjustment not just for the players but for the coaches who haven’t worked under Kelly before.

“We know exactly what type of tempo he wants to run at practice, and we’ll be able to get everything moving exactly the way he wants it,” said Lyght, the former All-Pro cornerback with the Rams.

“The key for us is going to be get a lot of reps at practice and go at a high tempo. We know exactly the type of tempo that he wants and that way we can help bring the other coaches along and get them up to speed.

“I think having us here gives Chip a good foundation for exactly what he wants. Chip has a great vision for this program and where he wants it to go, and we want to develop this program into a championship-caliber team that can compete and win every time that we step on the field.

“The guys he brought with him, they’re exceptional coaches who know exactly what coach Kelly wants.”

Other than Azzinaro, the four other Oregon coaches are all assistants under a veteran position coach -- Chinander under Azzinaro, Harper under special teams coordinator Dave Fipp, Austin under offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland and Lyght under secondary coach John Lovett.

So they get the opportunity to continue to learn their craft, while at the same time helping Kelly transition from college to the pros.

“Chip is a smart guy, a mentor to me and all the guys he brought with him and all the guys he didn’t,” Austin said. “We all understand the things that made us successful at Oregon, and we’re all here to help him replicate that success here.”

Very few people have won a Super Bowl as a head coach without ever having played or coached in the NFL. Jimmie Johnson did it in Dallas, and then Barry Switzer did it with Johnson’s guys, but that’s it.

It’s a short list.

Whether Kelly’s system will translate to the NFL remains to be seen, but guys like Azzinaro, Lyght, Harper, Chinander and Austin have been part of one of the most successful college programs in recent years, and Kelly believes they can duplicate that success 2,900 miles to the east.

“Those guys are outstanding coaches and they're going to be rising stars in this profession,” Kelly said. “They're smart, they're intelligent. I don't have to worry about what time you're supposed to be in the office, because we all challenge each other and compete with each other to who can get in first in the morning and who can leave last.

“When you have to worry about guys doing clock watching, you hired the wrong guys, and I didn't with those guys.”

Kelly went 46-7 in four years at Oregon, including 36-4 the last three years with Rose Bowl and Fiesta Bowl wins. All seven of those losses came to nationally-ranked teams.

These guys are used to winning and understand exactly what’s made Kelly’s program work. They’re here to help him do it again.

“Those guys have coached in a lot of big football games,” said Azzinaro, who also carries the assistant head coach title. “It’s nice to have some guarantees in life, and those guys are guarantees.”

Steve Mason rediscovers himself in New York just before Flyers return

Steve Mason rediscovers himself in New York just before Flyers return

It had been a while since Steve Mason saw himself.

Walking into the Barclays Center on Sunday, the Flyers’ goalie was 0-6-2 with a 4.03 goals-against average and .844 save percentage over his last 10 appearances (see more recent Flyers numbers and stats).

A far cry from how Mason truly sees himself in net.

But heading into Wednesday’s rivalry clash with the Rangers, Mason will have something to build on, something he couldn’t say since Dec. 21 - the last previous time he had earned a victory. He’s fresh off his first win in over a month, a massive one for Mason considering all the key moments on Sunday the Flyers hope invigorate his confidence.

Without numerous clutch stops from their goalie, the Flyers don’t come back from two goals down to beat the Islanders, 3-2, in overtime. Mason made four saves  — three on four-time All-Star John Tavares — in just over a minute of a third-period power play. The Flyers ended up having to kill two New York man advantages in the final 10 minutes of regulation in order to force overtime.

The extra session is when Mason was just as good, if not better, stoning Tavares on a breakaway attempt that had game-winner written all over it. Mason made four saves in overtime after 13 in the third period.

“I was happy with the way that, personally, this game went for myself,” Mason said Sunday. “It’s been a tough stretch and this is more the type of game that I expect of myself. In recent games, the team was lacking the big saves and tonight it shows what kind of difference it can make.”

It was a massive performance heading into a massive three-game stretch against the Rangers, Maple Leafs and Hurricanes.

“Mase made some huge saves for us,” Simmonds said. “It allowed us to get back in that game.

“It’s not just Mase [with the] ups and downs. Everyone in here has been kind of fighting it and squeezing sticks pretty tight. That one felt good and I think Mase led the charge for sure.”

Mason understands just one game doesn’t turn around a season.

“It’s nice to feel good after a game,” Mason said. “At the same time, whether you’re winning or losing, you have to have a short mindset and get ready for the next one.”

That brings the Flyers to Madison Square Garden Wednesday to face the Rangers, who they’ve lost five straight games to dating back to last season. Mason hasn’t had much luck against New York this season, allowing seven goals in two losses with an .860 save percentage. However, in 2015-16, Mason put up a 1.74 goals-against average and .941 save percentage in five games against the Rangers.

“That’s going to be a tough game going into MSG,” Mason said Tuesday (see story).

The good thing: Mason was in New York two days ago, remembering what he can be.

Manute Bol's 7-foot, 17-year-old son dominates in HS season debut

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Manute Bol's 7-foot, 17-year-old son dominates in HS season debut

Bol Bol, the 17-year-old son of the late Manute Bol, is a top high school basketball prospect with offers from schools like Arizona, Kansas and Creighton. This highlight tape should give you an idea why.
 
Bol, whose father played in the NBA for parts of 12 seasons, including 215 games for the Sixers, now attends the famed Mater Dei High School in California and played in his first game of the season this past weekend. Listed as the No. 16 overall prospect in the 2018 recruiting class by Scout, Bol started his season off with a big 21-point, 10-rebound effort.
 
Take a look at the highlight tape from the 6-foot-11 Bol and expect to see him carry on his father’s legacy on the court at a major NCAA college basketball program soon.