As an NFL coach, Mike Ditka was known more as a motivator than innovator.
His no-nonsense, straightforward style echoed his Hall-of-Fame career as a rugged tight end, which earned him the nickname “Iron Mike.”
Now, 14 years after he coached his final game, Ditka’s legendary passion could help explain why 16 percent of the NFL’s head coaches are his former Bears players: San Francisco’s Jim Harbaugh, Carolina’s Ron Rivera, Minnesota’s Leslie Frazier, St. Louis’ Jeff Fisher and New Orleans’ Sean Payton, who played for Chicago during the 1987 NFL strike.
In advance of the 49ers’ meeting against the Panthers on Sunday, a game that will pit two ex-Bears teammates, Harbaugh was asked to account for Ditka’s extensive coaching tree. He began by mentioning Ditka’s own fiery coach with the Bears, who doubles as one of the NFL’s founding fathers.
“If I had to pinpoint one thing, I would say the legendary George Halas,” Harbaugh said to the North Carolina media. “We all came to know the legendary George Halas through the qualities of Mike Ditka.”
In other words, those ex-Bears have coaching bloodlines that date to the creation of the NFL. Halas, a charter member of the NFL Hall of Fame in 1963, had a 40-year coaching career that began with the 1920 Decatur Staleys, who became the Bears, who are one of the two original NFL franchises still in existence.
–Eric Branch, San Francisco Chronicle
The best Bay Area women’s basketball teams face a 1-2 punch this week with early-season tests against the nation’s top-ranked schools.
It starts at 3 p.m. Sunday when No. 2 Duke plays at ninth-ranked Cal in a game on ESPNU. Then No. 3 Stanford continues its bicoastal rivalry against top-ranked Connecticut at 4 p.m. Monday in Storrs, Conn., on ESPN2.
The Cardinal and Golden Bears — picked to finish first and second, respectively, in the Pac-12 — are decided underdogs against their East Coast opponents.
Reigning national champion UConn (1-0) thumped Stanford 61-35 at Maples Pavilion last year to end the Cardinal’s program-record 82-game home win streak.
The Huskies are favored to win a record-ninth NCAA title with four returning starters.
“We will find off right off the bat what we need to work on, what we need to improve on,” Cardinal coach Tara VanDerveer said.
Stanford (1-0) also has four returning starters from last season’s team that finished 33-3 but lost in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament. Yet, it opens the season with a new look.
Senior All-American Chiney Ogwumike, Amber Orrange and Mikeala Ruef are the team’s backbone, but joining them in the rotation are junior guard Alex Green, who has hardly played because of injuries, and freshman Kailee Johnson.
Senior Sara James, Stanford’s other starter last season, is practicing after undergoing compartment syndrome surgery on her calf muscles. Stanford expects to lean on its five-member freshman class.
“I’m more excited to see how our freshmen respond,” Ogwumike said. “It will be a great barometer game for us.”
–Elliott Almond, San Jose Mercury News
Michael Malone has seen enough. And after a fifth consecutive loss, the Kings coach said he knows what he has to do to change that.
“Change the lineup,” Malone said.
The Kings were beaten by the Portland Trail Blazers 96-85 at Sleep Train Arena.
The pattern Saturday night was familiar. The Kings were outworked, fell behind big and then rallied late, only to lose again.
“That’s the one thing I don’t get with our team,” Malone said. “Every night besides the Golden State game (in which the Kings trailed by 27 points), we play 2 1/2 quarters. We get behind, we make a great comeback, but it’s way too late, and that’s just losing basketball; that’s a losing mentality.”
And that’s not the only thing that’s part of the losing.
The Kings have long been labeled a selfish team, and that hasn’t changed from what Malone has seen.
“We have a lot of guys that just care about themselves on this team,” Malone said. “And if their game is not going, they quit playing. And changes will be made before we play Wednesday.”
Malone began those changes during Saturday’s game, giving extended minutes to Jimmer Fredette and Luc Mbah a Moute for the first time this season.
–Jason Jones, Sacramento Bee