Celtics name Stevens coach
The Boston Celtics appointed 36-year-old Brad Stevens as coach on Wednesday, adopting a youthful presence on the sideline to match the younger profile on the court. With aging stars Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce traded away to the Brooklyn Nets, there is clearly a rebuilding phase in the playing group, and Stevens was hired from college team Butler to oversee it. The move turns the tradition-bound franchise over to a mentor who is younger than Garnett and was not yet born when Bill Russell won his 11th NBA championship in 1969 (or even when John Havlicek added two more in the 1970s). It is the first time the Celtics have hired a college coach since Rick Pitino in 1997, and their first coach with no NBA experience of any kind since Alvin “Doggie” Julian gave way to Red Auerbach in 1950.
Ginobili staying with Spurs
Manu Ginobili, who turns 36 this month, says he will stay on at the San Antonio Spurs for the next two seasons. The Argentine tweeted on Wednesday that he is staying with the team he has helped win three NBA titles and nearly a fourth last month. Ginobili battled injuries during the season and said he would think about retirement after the playoffs. However, he helped the Spurs come within 28 seconds of the championship before falling to the Miami Heat in seven games, and his return ensures the longtime Big Three that includes Tim Duncan and Tony Parker will be in place next season.
Ovechkin tops All-Stars
Alex Ovechkin is an NHL first-team All-Star for the sixth time, but his first as a right wing. The Washington Capitals star is the second player to make the team at multiple positions, joining Hockey Hall of Famer Mark Messier, a four-time selection — twice at left wing and twice at center. Ovechkin, a five-time choice at left wing, had 32 goals in 48 games — including 23 in the final 23 — and earned his third Hart Trophy as MVP. Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby, a second-time selection to the first team, is the only other player in this year’s class to have made it before. The first-timers include Pittsburgh left wing Chris Kunitz, defensemen P.K. Subban of Montreal and Ryan Suter of Minnesota, and Columbus goalie Sergei Bobrovsky, the Vezina Trophy winner.
Iraq banned from friendlies
FIFA on Wednesday barred Iraq from hosting international soccer friendlies due to a massive surge in nationwide violence, barely three months after world soccer’s governing body gave Baghdad the go-ahead. The Iraqi Football Association (IFA) was informed of the ban in a notification from FIFA, which cited a spike in unrest that has left more than 2,500 dead from April through last month and at least 123 killed in the first three days of this month alone. FIFA in March lifted a ban on Iraq hosting international soccer friendlies and the country promptly staged a match with neighboring Syria in Baghdad’s Shaab stadium just days later, with the national side subsequently facing off with Liberia. The initial friendly had marked a key step in Iraq’s re-emergence on the world stage after decades of conflict and sanctions. However, the country has been hit by a marked increase in violence since, with recent attacks also targeting soccer pitches and cafes where Iraqis were watching the sport on TV. Last month alone, more than 60 people were killed in at least 10 bombings targeting pitches and cafes, according to an Agence France-Presse tally.