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NEWSWIRE

Rockets decide it's time to fire Van Gundy

May 19, 2007|Gary Klein | From Times Staff and Wire Reports

If Jeff Van Gundy had decided sooner that he wanted to return to the Houston Rockets, he would still have a job. At least that's what the team was saying Friday after firing him.

The Rockets' Game 7 loss to Utah meant a first-round exit for the third time in Van Gundy's four seasons, raising the possibility that he would step down or be dismissed by owner Les Alexander.

Van Gundy, 45, had one season left on a nonguaranteed contract. When the season ended, he said he needed time to ponder his future and while he did, the Rockets contacted at least one possible replacement.

Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey said Van Gundy gave the team his blessing to seek other candidates, in case he decided not to coach anymore. But Van Gundy said he told the Rockets all along that he wanted to come back as coach.

"You're always disappointed when you're fired. It's difficult," Van Gundy said. "But I was a little bit more upset when it was being spun that I hadn't come to a decision about wanting to coach. I had told them long ago that I wanted to coach if they wanted me."

The Rockets reportedly have contacted Rick Adelman, the former coach of Portland, Golden State and Sacramento.

Houston went 182-146 under Van Gundy, including 52-30 this season.

But the Rockets went 7-12 in three postseason appearances and more was expected from teams anchored by All-Stars Tracy McGrady and Yao Ming.

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TENNIS

Nadal extends clay winning streak to 80

Second-seeded Rafael Nadal extended his record winning streak on clay to 80 matches by defeating fifth-seeded Fernando Gonzalez, 6-4, 6-4, to reach the semifinals of the Hamburg Masters in Germany. He will play Lleyton Hewitt, who beat Nicolas Almagro, 6-3, 6-4.

Top-seeded Roger Federer also advanced, beating David Ferrer, 6-3, 4-6, 6-3. He will play Carlos Moya, who upset fourth-seeded Novak Djokovic, 7-6 (4), 4-6, 7-5.

In her final match before the French Open, eighth-seeded Serena Williams lost to 14th-seeded Patty Schnyder, 6-3, 2-6, 7-6 (5), in the quarterfinals of the Italian Open at Rome.

In today's semifinals, Schnyder will play third-seeded Jelena Jankovic, who beat 10th-seeded Elena Dementieva, 6-2, 6-1.

UCLA defeated fifth-seeded Northwestern, 4-0, to advance to the quarterfinals of the NCAA women's championship at Athens, Ga.

Freshman Yasmin Schnack clinched the victory by beating Alexis Prousis, 6-4, 6-2. The 12th-seeded Bruins (19-7) will play fourth-seeded Florida, which defeated 13th-seeded Baylor, 4-2.

Ninth-seeded Miami rallied from a 3-1 deficit against eighth-seeded USC to beat the Trojans, 4-3. Audra Cohen, the nation's top-ranked singles player, clinched the victory by beating fifth-ranked Lindsey Nelson, 5-7, 7-5, 6-3.

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MOTOR RACING

Hornaday holds off Allmendinger to win

Ron Hornaday Jr. passed A.J. Allmendinger with 36 laps to go, then held on after two restarts to win the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Quaker Steak & Lube 200 at Lowe's Motor Speedway in Concord, N.C.

Hornaday, driving for Kevin Harvick Inc., posted the first win of the season for Chevrolet after Toyotas won four of the first five events.

Hornaday was headed for a victory when Johnny Benson lost a tire and hit the wall to bring out a caution with 11 laps to go. It set up a restart with five to go, and Hornaday got a good jump on Allmendinger.

It was Hornaday's 30th career trucks victory, but the first at the Concord track.

There could be two more bump-filled qualifying days this weekend at the Indianapolis 500 now that there are 34 car-driver combinations.

The newest entries, IndyCar veterans Roberto Moreno and Alex Barron, were added to the list. Moreno replaces Stephan Gregoire, who fractured a vertebra in his back Thursday when he crashed the No. 77 car of Chastain Motorsports.

Barron will drive the No. 98 CURB Records car.

Eleven spots remain open in the 33-car starting grid and, under the new qualifying format, all are expected to be filled today, the third of four days of qualifying at Indianapolis.

There could be additional bumping Sunday. The first weekend included 11 bumps under the new format in which 11 spots were filled each of the first two days.

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COLLEGE SOFTBALL

UCLA beats Loyola in tournament opener

Lisa Dodd and Jodie Legaspi hit home runs and Megan Langenfeld pitched a five-hitter to lead UCLA to a 6-3 victory over Loyola Marymount in a first-round regional game of the NCAA Division I tournament at UCLA's Easton Stadium.

The Bruins (37-16) will play Hawaii (47-11) today at 2:30 in the second round.

Tanisha Milca hit a two-run homer in the bottom of the 10th inning to give the Warriors a 2-0 victory over UC Santa Barbara in the opening game.

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JURISPRUDENCE

Bengals' Nicholson is arrested again

Linebacker A.J. Nicholson was arrested on a domestic violence charge, the first arrest of a Cincinnati Bengals player since Commissioner Roger Goodell cracked down on misconduct last month.

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