What a week for Naomi Osaka, who won her first WTA title and beat her childhood idol Serena Williams
Forget winning, Osaka was all about that post-match handshake
12:16 PMEver since Naomi Osaka celebrated her 20th birthday in October, the Afro-Japanese youngblood has done no worse than quarterfinals and fourth-round exits.
On March 18, Osaka defeated Daria Kasatkina in straight sets, 6-3, 6-2, at the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, California, to win her first WTA title. Osaka played nearly perfect tennis, dropping only one set in eight matches and beating three players who have been WTA No. 1s (Maria Sharapova, Karolina Pliskova, Simona Halep) and a No. 2 (Agnieszka Radwanska) en route to the title.
— WTA (@WTA) March 18, 2018
Hours after her first WTA win, Osaka’s coach informed her that she got paired up with Serena Williams, her childhood idol, in the first round of the Miami Open. Osaka would end up winning the match fairly easily, 6-3, 6-2. While winning was certainly a high point, it was the post-match handshake that really resonated with Osaka.
— NaomiOsaka大坂なおみ (@Naomi_Osaka_) March 21, 2018
“This is going to be really bad,” Osaka cautioned. “Sometimes when I’m in a really important position, when I’m serving, I’m like, ‘What would Serena [Williams] do?’ ”
Osaka, ranked 44th in the world heading into Indian Wells, has risen to No. 22.
Buffalo’s Mark Alnutt becomes 15th black athletic director at an FBS school
He replaces Allen Greene, who left for Auburn
8:12 PMThe University at Buffalo announced on Wednesday that Mark Alnutt, the deputy athletic director at the University of Memphis, will be the school’s next director of athletics, replacing the recently departed Allen Greene.
Alnutt, 45, spent almost three years at Memphis, where he helped raise more than $40 million for the athletic department and was instrumental in the hiring of men’s basketball coach Tubby Smith in 2016. Smith was fired and replaced by former Tigers guard Anfernee “Penny” Hardaway this month. Before that, Alnutt served as athletic director at Southeast Missouri State University from 2012 to 2015 and held multiple leadership positions at the University of Missouri from 2000 to 2012, including associate athletic director. A Kansas City, Missouri, native, Alnutt also played linebacker and tight end for Missouri in the early 1990s.
In January, Greene left his post as UB’s athletic director after just two years to take the same position at the University of Auburn, paving the way for Alnutt to take over a program that had its first NCAA men’s basketball tournament victory last week and its first Sweet 16 appearance in school history when the women’s basketball team upset Florida State on Monday.
With the hiring of Alnutt, the number of black athletic directors in the 130 Division I Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) schools increases to 15 (11.5 percent). He joins Northern Illinois’ Sean Frazier as the only black athletic directors in the Mid-American Conference.
“We are so excited to have Mark join our UB family,” University at Buffalo president Satish K. Tripathi, who himself is one of just five school presidents of Asian descent among FBS schools, said in a statement. “His time in NCAA athletics has been defined by his leadership and vision. We believe that he possesses exactly the qualities needed to elevate UB Athletics to our next tier of excellence.”
Alnutt’s first day will be April 11.
Black athletic directors in FBS
- Allen Greene, Auburn
- Bernard Muir, Stanford
- Carla Williams, Virginia
- David Williams II, Vanderbilt
- Derrick Gragg, Tulsa
- Eugene Smith, Ohio State University
- Damon Evans, Maryland (interim)
- Lynn Swann, USC
- Martin Jarmond, Boston College
- Michael Williams, California
- Ray Anderson, Arizona State
- Sean Frazier, Northern Illinois
- Stan Wilcox, Florida State
- Warde J. Manuel, Michigan
- Mark Alnutt, Buffalo
Ava DuVernay to be honored by Gordon Parks Foundation
The group also will fete Ronald O. Perelman, Ta-Nehisi Coates and Sherrilyn Ifill
1:28 PMAva DuVernay will soon be toasted by the Gordon Parks Foundation in late May, the group announced Tuesday. The group’s annual dinner happens May 22 and honors individuals who make strides in performing and visual arts as well as humanitarianism.
The A Wrinkle In Time filmmaker will be joined by businessman and philanthropist Ronald O. Perelman, author Ta-Nehisi Coates, civil rights attorney Sherrilyn Ifill, photographer Sally Mann and documentary photographer Jamel Shabazz, all of whom also will be honored at New York staple Cipriani 42nd Street. The night will be co-chaired by Karl Lagerfeld, Kendrick Lamar, Valerie Jarrett, Alicia Keys, Kasseem Dean (megaproducer Swizz Beatz), Usher Raymond, Janelle Monáe, Common, Henry Louis Gates Jr., Kenneth and Kathryn Chenault, Judy and Leonard Lauder, and Alexander Soros.
Previous honorees include Monáe, U.S. Rep. John Lewis of Georgia and photographer Annie Leibovitz.
DuVernay’s honor comes on the heels of good recent news: Last week it was announced that DC Comics tapped her to direct the superhero film The New Gods for Warner Bros., which makes her the first woman of color to tackle a DC Comics film.
Larry Drew to replace Tyronn Lue on Cavs’ bench
Interim coach has been a head coach with Hawks and Bucks
4:44 PMThe Cleveland Cavaliers announced on Monday that head coach Tyronn Lue will “step back from coaching for the time being” to focus on his personal health, leaving the team in the hands of assistant coach Larry Drew.
Drew, 59, was hired by the Cavaliers in 2014 to serve under then-head coach David Blatt just weeks after LeBron James returned to the franchise after four seasons with the Miami Heat. Previously, Drew had served as head coach of the Atlanta Hawks (2010-13) and Milwaukee Bucks (2013-14) and was an assistant for nearly 20 years with the then-New Jersey Nets, Washington Wizards, Detroit Pistons and Los Angeles Lakers.
In three years in Atlanta, Drew averaged 42 wins a season and made the playoffs each year, advancing to the conference semifinals in 2011. After a second consecutive first-round playoff exit in 2013, the Hawks elected to not renew Drew’s contract and he was replaced by one of his assistants, Mike Budenholzer. Drew signed a three-year contract with the Bucks the following season, but after a league-worst 15-67 record (which netted the No. 2 overall draft pick that eventually became Jabari Parker) during Giannis Antetokounmpo’s rookie campaign and a failed coup by Jason Kidd with the Brooklyn Nets, Drew was fired after just one season and replaced with Kidd.
Before getting into coaching, Drew was selected 17th overall out of Missouri by the Detroit Pistons in the 1980 NBA draft. He spent 10 seasons in the league with the Pistons, Lakers and Kansas City/Sacramento Kings, where during the 1982-83 season he averaged a team-high 20.1 points and 8.1 assists per game.
Drew has three sons who also play basketball. Larry Drew II is a guard with the New Orleans Pelicans, Landon Drew spent four seasons at Cal State Northridge and Lindsey Drew is a junior forward for Nevada, which is set to play Loyola Chicago in the Sweet 16 of the men’s basketball tournament on Thursday.
‘The Plug’ podcast: ‘The Madness Begins’ feat. Jenisha Watts (episode 14)
All things March Madness, Odell Beckham Jr., LeBron Sr. playing with LeBron Jr., and more
Subscribe: Apple Podcasts | RSS | Embed
Thanks to Mother Nature making sure we felt the effects of winter one last time before spring, we had a delayed recording this week.
It’s no worries, though. The show was still lit. Jenisha Watts, an editor with espnW, joins Terrika, Kayla and me (and later Tes) to talk about Ryan Coogler’s letter to Ava DuVernay, Cam Newton and much more. From there, the crew chops it up on Odell Beckham Jr.’s recent video controversy, whether or not LeBron James Sr. will actually stay in the NBA long enough to play with LeBron Jr., the validity of Tiger Woods’ latest impressive showing and, of course, all things March Madness.
We’re back on our regular schedule next week — provided it doesn’t snow another 10 inches again next week, of course. Rain, sleet, ice, snow or heat wave, you can always subscribe to The Plug via the ESPN App. But you knew that already, didn’t you?
Justin Jenifer went from can’t-miss 10-year-old to starting guard at Cincinnati
Baltimore product has remained levelheaded through it all
11:16 AMNASHVILLE, Tennessee — When most Baltimore kids would have been happy making weekend trips to the Inner Harbor or playing games with their friends at Chuck E. Cheese’s, here’s what was going on in Justin Jenifer’s 10-year-old life:
- AAU coaches across the nation were offering to fly him in for games.
- A shoe company was sponsoring his team, seeking brand loyalty.
- High school powerhouses were beginning to recruit him.
“It was a fun time in my life,” said Jenifer, a junior guard with No. 2 seed Cincinnati. “But growing up and having a target on your back for years, it’s hard going out there and playing when you have that pressure on you.”
Has Jenifer, who was profiled by The Washington Post when he was 10, emerged as the superstar player everyone expected him to be 12 years ago? Not quite, considering he’s not a household name.
But Jenifer is starting for the Bearcats, one of the nation’s top teams, who will take on No. 7 seed Nevada on Sunday. Jenifer averages 4.9 points and 2.5 assists in just under 20 minutes.
“I watched the NCAA tournament when I was young, so this is exciting to be here and be a part of this in college,” Jenifer said. “To be here and to be representing a city that doesn’t get a lot of opportunities, this is special.”
Jenifer’s not the first in his family to play in the NCAA tournament. His cousin, Keith Jenifer, played his first two years of college at Virginia before transferring to Murray State. In 2006 he was the starting point guard for the No. 14-seeded Murray State team that lost to No. 3 seed North Carolina, 69-65, in the first round of the NCAA tournament. Keith Jenifer had led the Cavaliers to three straight wins over the Tar Heels before transferring to Murray State, where he was coached by Mick Cronin, now the head coach at Cincinnati.
“He was one of the Baltimore guys I looked up to growing up, along with guys like Will Barton [of the Denver Nuggets], [former NBA point guard] Muggsy Bogues and [former Maryland guard] Sean Mosley,” Jenifer said. “There’s a lot of talent in Baltimore, including people in my family.”
Jenifer enjoyed seeing No. 16 seed University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC) upset top-seeded Virginia on Friday.
“Anytime a team from the Baltimore area does something, it’s great,” Jenifer said. “I was really happy for them.”
Five things to know about UMBC, the first 16 seed on the men’s side to take down No. 1
Jairus Lyles knows a little something about top competition
10:03 AMWhere were you the night No. 16 University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC) took down No. 1 Virginia, the overall top seed?
At almost exactly the stroke of midnight, the Retrievers’ Cinderella story was in full swing as they blew out the Cavaliers, 74-54. UMBC came into the game with a 1.5 percent chance to upset the top team in the nation and dropped 53 points (which was the average points per game UVA allowed its opponents to score) in the second half to advance to the round of 32 against Kansas State.
It took 136 attempts, but a 16th seed finally prevailed, and here’s exactly what should you know about UMBC and its leading scorer, Jairus Lyles, after the team’s remarkable display Friday night.
Also, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan called game.
— Governor Larry Hogan (@GovLarryHogan) March 15, 2018
This 16 seed was a remarkable kind of bad over the years
In the previous seven seasons, UMBC won a GRAND TOTAL of 41 games. In fact, just last year, the Retrievers finished 7-25 and dead last in the America East Conference. UMBC lost by 44 points to Albany this season.
In November, Arizona beat UMBC, 103-78. Maryland beat UMBC by 21 in December. Vermont beat UMBC by 28 points in February. And that team that lost so many lopsided games this season just broke the No. 1 overall seed and made history. And that's why I love sports.
— Myron Medcalf (@MedcalfByESPN) March 17, 2018
16 seeds were 0-135 all-time against 1 seeds…until tonight!
UMBC becomes the first 16 seed to ever beat a 1 seed.
It's the Retrievers' first-ever NCAA Tournament win. pic.twitter.com/3af1eyCqTc
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) March 17, 2018
20 years later the men caught up to the women
Let’s be very clear: UMBC is the first 16 seed to drop a No. 1 in the men’s tournament, but not overall. The first happened 20 years ago when the Harvard women’s team defeated Stanford, 71-67. Stanford sent its condolences to UVA, while UMBC was clear to make sure everyone writing about its amazing achievement put it in proper perspective and paid respect to what Harvard’s team did.
We feel your pain Virginia.
— Stanford Women’s Basketball (@StanfordWBB) March 17, 2018
— UMBC Athletics (@UMBCAthletics) March 17, 2018
Congrats to the @UMBCAthletics team joining the Harvard women’s team as the only two 16 seeds to ever to beat a 1 seed! Don’t come at us with that “first team ever stuff people!!!!” First team on the MENS side. NOT IN THE GAME OF BASKETBALL!
— Layshia Clarendon (@Layshiac) March 17, 2018
The only 16-seeds to ever upset a 1-seed in Division I history. pic.twitter.com/FfVz0bN50a
— espnW (@espnW) March 17, 2018
My annual PSA that the only time a 16-seed beat a 1-seed was in 1998, when the Harvard women took down Stanford. And of course we @espnW have a nifty oral history to commemorate it, which I shall continue to share every.single.year. #GoCrimson https://t.co/BRyUyhOznc
— Alison Overholt (@alisonoverholt) March 16, 2018
Lyles played with some ballers in high school
Not to brag, but as someone from Prince George’s County and the state of Maryland, we produce the best basketball players in the country. One of the top programs in the country is DeMatha Catholic, where Lyles played his high school hoops.
How was he able to step up and drop 28 points, 4 rebounds and 3 assists on the Cavaliers? He wasn’t new to this. As a freshman he was going against the likes of Quinn Cook, Jerami Grant, Jerian Grant, Mikael Hopkins and Victor Oladipo. So at 14, Lyles had to practice against juggernauts in a program that demands you step up no matter who your opponent is. It’s no wonder that he would lead UMBC to this upset.
UMBC star Jairus Lyles's DeMatha teammates his freshman year? Let's see….Quinn Cook, Jerami Grant, Jerian Grant, and a kid named Victor Oladipo. Decent pic.twitter.com/lIA2RfX6hl
— Dan Steinberg (@dcsportsbog) March 17, 2018
Lyles just upset his PARENTS’ alma mater
Jairus’ father, Lester, was so good at football that The Washington Post‘s Michael Wilbon penned a few words about his decision to spurn his home state (Maryland) and commit to a struggling Virginia football program. Lyles had his pick of football programs — the Terps, North Carolina, Wisconsin, etc. — but the strong safety opted for UVA.
Lyles spent his first two years on the bench watching the team win three of 22 games before UVA surprised the ACC and football world in 1984 with its 7-1-2 record. Lyles was given credit for the school’s turnaround. Thirty-four years later, his son did the same thing, picking a program not known for success and leading it to the biggest upset in men’s tournament history.
Jairus’ mother, Carol Motley, also attended UVA, where she met Lester.
Jairus Lyles's dad, an all-Met at St Albans, had no interest in Maryland. So instead he went… to Virginia. And peep the byline pic.twitter.com/hUthKaJ1MV
— Dan Steinberg (@dcsportsbog) March 17, 2018
Shoutout to the chess team, though
After the game, UMBC’s basketball team was asked where it got its drive to win, and the team shouted out the school’s most prestigious competitive unit, the chess team. How good is the chess team, you ask? It went to 16 consecutive Final Fours. And if anyone was really paying attention to the game, UVA was playing checkers while UMBC was out there playing chess.
If UMBC wins the NCAA basketball tournament, they will be the first school with championships in both men's basketball and chess
— Ben Jacobs (@Bencjacobs) March 17, 2018
#UMBC is a school where there is no football team & chess is the best sport. It’s a school better known for educator Freeman Hrabowski & Meyerhoff Scholars than athletics. But tonight UMBC is known as the school that pulled off the biggest upset in NCAA basketball history.
— Luke Broadwater (@lukebroadwater) March 17, 2018