Magic Coach Stan Van Gundy disagrees with a call during the game against… (Stephen M. Dowell / Orlando…)
Orlando Magic Coach Stan Van Gundy said Thursday he has been told by high-ranking team officials that star center Dwight Howard has previously asked that he be fired.
"I know he has," Van Gundy told reporters after the team's morning shootaround ahead of Thursday night's matchup with the New York Knicks, won by the Knicks, 96-80. "That's just the way it is. Again, I've been dealing with that all year. It's not anything real bothersome. You go out and do your job."
Howard has denied reports that he has asked for Van Gundy's dismissal. He again denied it Thursday.
"Whatever happens at the end of the season is not under my control," Howard told reporters. "I am a player for the Magic. I am not the GM. I am not [owner] Rich DeVos. I am not [Magic Chief Executive] Alex Martins. So that's not my job. So you guys should stop … every other week … trying to find something, because there's nothing.
Asked how he was sure of a report that has been circulated and repeatedly denied by Howard and other team officials throughout the season, the 52-year-old Van Gundy said he had been told by "people right in our management, right from the top."
Arkansas' Petrino put on leave after crash
Arkansas football Coach Bobby Petrino has been put on paid leave.
Athletic Director Jeff Long announced the decision late Thursday, capping a stunning day in which it was revealed that Petrino had a 25-year-old female employee with him during a weekend motorcycle ride that ended in a crash.
A police report released Thursday showed that he had been riding with former Arkansas volleyball player and current Razorback Foundation fundraiser Jessica Dorrell.
She was not injured in Sunday's accident. Petrino broke four ribs and cracked a neck vertebra but didn't reveal he was riding with the woman during a news conference Tuesday. Long says he wasn't told until Thursday that Dorrell was on the ride with Petrino.
Venus and Serena Williams both reached the quarterfinals of the Family Circle Cup at Charleston, S.C., with straight-set victories. Venus defeated Anastasia Rodionova, 7-5, 6-2, on center court shortly after Serena ousted Marina Erakovic, 6-2, 6-2. Should the sisters win on Friday, it would set up a Saturday showdown in the semifinals.
The NCAA has turned down Connecticut's final appeal on behalf of its men's basketball team for a waiver of recently instituted academic requirements — a decision that probably will keep the Huskies out of next year's postseason.
Connecticut doesn't qualify for the NCAA tournament because of several years of below-standard Academic Progress Rate scores. It had requested the waiver, arguing that recently instituted reforms have led to improved scores over the last two seasons.
Paul Carey had two goals and Boston College beat Minnesota, 6-1, in the Frozen Four semifinals at Tampa, Fla.
The Eagles will bring an 18-game winning streak into Saturday night's NCAA championship game against Ferris State, which beat Union College, 3-1, in the first semifinal.
Syracuse center Fab Melo, a 7-footer from Brazil, is making himself available for the NBA draft after a breakout season in which he twice was held out because of eligibility issues.
Jockey Joe Talamo rode his 1,000th winner at Santa Anita on Thursday, then three races later he won the $61,138 Cloud Nine Purse aboard Let's Go Cheyenne.
American cyclist Levi Leipheimer will be sidelined indefinitely after breaking his left leg when he was hit by a car while training in Spain.
His Omega Pharma-Quickstep team said X-rays diagnosed a broken leg after he was hit on Sunday while riding solo.
Free-agent NFL receiver Jerome Simpson was sentenced to 15 days in jail and three years' probation on a drug-related charge.
A judge in Covington, Ky., reduced the jail time from the 60 days recommended by prosecutors in their plea agreement with Simpson, now an unrestricted free agent after four seasons with Cincinnati.
Former Dallas Cowboys special-teams coach Joe Avezzano, whose wild sideline antics made him a fan favorite when the Cowboys won three Super Bowls in the 1990s, died Thursday. He was 68.
Cowboys spokesman Rich Dalrymple confirmed that Avezzano died in Italy. He had moved to Milan this year to coach an Italian Football League team. That team said on its website that Avezzano died of a heart attack.