SACRAMENTO, Calif. Ray Lewis Jersey
. - If the Sacramento Kings stood any chance at success this season, Paul Westphal had to find a way to control talented but volatile centre DeMarcus Cousins.He couldnt -- and lost his job because of it.The Kings fired Westphal Thursday after two-plus seasons as coach, cutting ties amid a slow start and an escalating dispute with Cousins that threatened to consume the locker room. Assistant Keith Smart, let go by the Golden State Warriors in April after one season at the helm, signed a deal to become the teams new head coach.With the Cousins-Westphal spat showing no resolution, Kings owners Joe and Gavin Maloof finally decided to take action. Instead of trading away a promising young big man, they made Westphal the first firing of the lockout-shortened season.Were in a situation here where you cant take a philosophical vacation because things are happening in real time, Kings president of basketball operations Geoff Petrie said. You start to keep seeing the same things over and over again, you cant sit around and meditate forever about how youre going to approach them or try and change them.Looking to build momentum for a new arena project, Sacramento stumbled at the start again this year.A talented and athletic -- albeit raw -- roster under Westphal was 2-5 and in last place in the Pacific Division before a 103-100 victory over Milwaukee on Thursday night with Smart on the sideline. Westphal finished with a 51-120 record in Sacramento.The 61-year-old previously coached the Phoenix Suns and Seattle SuperSonics. In a statement released by the team, Westphal thanked the Maloofs, his coaching staff and players for the opportunity.While the job is far from finished, I am proud of the strides we were able to make, he said.In the last week, all of Westphals efforts in Californias capital shattered.He abruptly released a statement Sunday criticizing Cousins commitment to the franchise and excused him from the teams game against New Orleans. He also said Cousins asked for a trade, which the centres agent refuted.Petrie said he knew of Westphals plans to release the statement but indicated that the Maloofs didnt. Petrie dodged questions about whether he supported Westphals statement about Cousins, who expressed remorse for Westphal and said he would soon reach out to his former coach.Its been an emotional week and a lot of misunderstandings, Cousins said. But it comes with the territory. Coach Westphal was a great teacher to a lot of us and a good coach. But this was a management decision.Sacramento drafted Cousins with the fifth overall pick in 2010 after he spent one season at Kentucky. The 21-year-old was averaging 13.7 points and 9.3 rebounds in 26 minutes per game this season.Cousins behaviour has been well documented going back to high school and his one season at Kentucky, mixing in dramatic and astonishing plays with outbursts against players, coaches, trainers and referees. His conditioning has been questioned and so has his work ethic. However, he showed up for training camp in prime condition and appeared ready for a breakout season.Of course people are going to tie (Westphals firing) to me, Cousins said. It will just show their ignorance. But like I said, its not my decision.The Kings had high hopes for a major turnaround this year.Teamed with 2009-10 rookie of the year Tyreke Evans, Cousins was expected to anchor the front line for a young and emerging roster in the deep Western Conference. Sacramento finished 24-58 last season and missed the playoffs for the fifth straight year, although a late-season surge behind a healthy Evans provided hope that maybe the Kings werent that far off from making the post-season again.Turns out, the Maloofs couldnt wait any longer.We have a lot of respect for Paul and hes a classy individual. But its time for a change, Gavin Maloof said at halftime of the Kings-Bucks game. We just got to put everything behind us, all of the negatives and try and push forward and think positive.The NBA and the Maloofs have given Sacramento a March 1 deadline to approve a plan to help finance a new arena, or the franchise could again explore relocation. The Kings nearly moved south to Anaheim, Calif., in April before the leagues Board of Governors decided to give Sacramento another chance.Now the Cousins conflict is Smarts responsibility to fix.Smart, the former Indiana guard best known for hitting The Shot against Syracuse that won the Hoosiers the 1987 NCAA title, spent seven years as an assistant with Golden State before he replaced the ousted Don Nelson just before training camp last year. The Warriors went 36-46 under Smart, a 10-game improvement from the previous season but not enough to appease new owners Joe Lacob and Peter Guber.Smart said he never imagined his next chance coming so soon. While taking over for a fired coach is not the type of opportunity he envisioned, he feels comfortable with the decision after Westphal passed along his blessings.He said, Dont do anything stupid and reject this. I want you to coach this team, Smart said of Westphal. He felt it, and I felt that he meant it from the bottom of his heart.Asked how he would approach Cousins differently after watching Westphals relationship with the centre go sour, Smart smiled and said, Probably have a good relationship with him.His job may depend on it. Joe Flacco Jersey
. Nobody. Today, nobody, not even Czech Republic coach Michal Bilek, can imagine the national team without him. Haloti Ngata Jersey
. After losing two straight to Florida, the sixth-seeded Devils tied this series at two games apiece on Thursday thanks to an excellent performance by goaltender Martin Brodeur. Watch the game at 6:30pm et/3:30pm pt on TSN2 and TSN Mobile TV. Fred Jackson Jersey
. Czech team spokesman Jaroslav Kolar says the problem with the right thigh muscle doesnt seem to be serious and Baros should be fine and resume training possibly on Wednesday. Matt Schaub Jersey
. The win on grass a week ahead of Wimbledon was just Clijsters second since returning from a three-month hip injury. She lost the opening set to Romina Oprandi on Sunday and struggled in the second before taking control of that match. Torrey Smith Jersey
. The third-seeded Briton had to rally from two sets down before getting the better of the Serb in last years French Open fourth round, but this victory was much more comfortable.ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. -- Clay Guida told everyone his game plan for Gray Maynard two days before the fight, and he stuck to it. But it didnt get him a victory Friday. Maynard won a five-round split decision in the main event of UFC on FX: Maynard vs. Guida at Revel Atlantic City in New Jersey. Guida (29-13 MMA, 9-7 UFC) said Wednesday his game plan was to make sure he wasnt there when Maynard (11-1-1 MMA, 9-1-1 UFC) threw his power punches. And, for the most part, he wasnt there. But his method to make sure Maynards biggest punches didnt find a home kept the two-time lightweight title challenger frustrated for 25 minutes. "I thought Guida was coming to fight," said Maynard. "I wanted to get bloody -- it was a five-round fight. I wanted to prove to people I could go all five rounds. "Hes a tough kid -- he came with a little game plan, whatever it was." Guida was a clear crowd favourite as the fight started, something not new to him. But there may have been added support thanks to a mild controversy that surfaced a week before the fight when it was reported Maynards camp filed a complaint with the New Jersey State Athletic Control Board about Guidas trademark long hair. For the first time in his career, Guida braided his hair back for a fight -- so tensions may already have been high even before the fight. But his strategy to backpedal and quickly move away from Maynards offence had the crowd turning on him by the end of the fight. After two rounds, a clearly frustrated Maynard began gesturing to Guida -- and even twice managed a two-handed obscene gesture in response to his opponents plan of attack, which was more of a plan to not get attacked. "I thought we stuck to our game plan," Guida said. "The guy hits like a Mack truck and I didnt want to be there for it. I felt good about it. Well get him next time." Maynard won with scores of 48-47 on two judges scorecards; a third gave Guida the fight by the same margin. "It took me two rounds just to know, I think this guys going to do this the whole fight," Maynard said. Maynard, who couldnt win the UFC lightweightt title in two cracks at then-champion Frankie Edgar in 2011, said he wants Edgar to beat new champ Benson Henderson in their August rematch -- and then get another shot at him. Jimmy Smith Jersey
. . If that were to happen, it would be the fourth fight between the two. "Lets go for a top contender (next)," Maynard said. "I want that belt. I want to fight Edgar. I think there should be a fourth fight. He can take care of business with Benson, and then I want that belt." In the co-main event, Sam Stout, from London, Ont., completed his trilogy with Spencer Fisher, picking up a unanimous decision sweep of the judges scorecards. To open the main card, featherweight underdog Cub Swanson upset Ross Pearson, the Season 9 winner of "The Ultimate Fighter," with a second-round TKO. In action on the preliminary card, Ricardo Lamas upset featherweight title hopeful Hatsu Hioki by unanimous decision. Hioki, from Japan, was nearly a 2-to-1 favourite in the fight and earlier this year had eschewed a shot at champion Jose Aldo in favour of taking one more fight. Lamas may have made him regret the decision. New Jersey resident Dan Miller had a successful welterweight debut, snapping a two-fight skid at middleweight with a third-round submission win over Ricardo Funch. Miller always fights with emotion behind him thanks to daily struggles of his three-year-old son, who has autosomal recessive polycystic kidney disease. His young daughter died more than three years ago. "This was a very important fight for me," Miller said. "I knew I had to win this to stay in the UFC, and everyone knows the situation with my kid being so sick. "I tried not to think about the pressure I was under and just see this as a fight, but it was really, really hard to do that." Matt Brown, not two years after being mired in a three-fight skid, won his third straight with a second-round TKO victory over Luis Ramos. All three of his wins have come in 2012, making him one of the UFCs busiest fighters. Brown took the fight with Ramos on less than a months notice, replacing an injured Matthew Riddle. ' ' '