Los Angeles Times

Basketball analyst Packer dies

- Staff and wire reports

Billy Packer, an Emmy award-winning college basketball broadcaste­r who covered 34 Final Fours for NBC and CBS, died Thursday night. He was 82.

Packer’s son, Mark, told the Associated Press that his father had been hospitaliz­ed in Charlotte for the past three weeks and had several medical issues, and ultimately succumbed to kidney failure.

Packer’s broadcasti­ng career coincided with the growth of college basketball. He worked as analyst or color commentato­r on every Final Four from 1975 to 2008.

“He really enjoyed doing the Final Fours,” Mark Packer said. “He timed it right. Everything in life is about timing. The ability to get involved in something that, frankly, he was going to watch anyway, was a joy to him.”

Reich hired as Panthers coach

Frank Reich is back with the Carolina Panthers as their coach, more than 27 years after starting the franchise’s first game at quarterbac­k in 1995.

The Panthers announced Thursday they’ve agreed to terms with Reich to become the sixth head coach in franchise history. A news conference was set for Tuesday.

The former Indianapol­is Colts coach was chosen among nine candidates who interviewe­d, including former New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton and this season’s interim head coach,

Steve Wilks. Reich received a four-year deal from the Panthers, according to a person familiar with the situation.

San Francisco 49ers star running back Christian McCaffrey missed his second straight practice with a calf injury but said he would be available for the NFC title game. McCaffrey’s backup, Elijah Mitchell, also missed a second straight practice with a groin injury . ... Former Denver Broncos coach Nathaniel Hackett was hired as the Jets’ offensive coordinato­r to replace Mike LaFleur. ... The Dallas Cowboys are not renewing the contracts of six members of coach Mike McCarthy’s staff, including senior assistants Rob Davis and George Edwards . ... Bill O’Brien is back with the New England Patriots. The team said that O’Brien was hired as its offensive coordinato­r and quarterbac­ks coach . ... The Buffalo Bills fired safeties coach Jim Salgado, a person with knowledge of the decision told the AP.

Flightline, whose brief two-year, six-race career drew comparison­s to Secretaria­t, was given horse racing’s highest annual honor when he was given the Eclipse Award for horse of the year. He also was named top older dirt male among the 17 horse and human awards announced at a ceremony in Palm Beach, Fla.

— John Cherwa

Bob Baffert can once again enter horses at New York’s major tracks. The Hall of Fame trainer’s one-year ban by the New York Racing Assn. ended Wednesday, allowing him to enter horses as soon as Thursday.

Teenager Isabeau Levito scored 73.78 to take the lead after the women’s short program, closing out the first day of the U.S. Figure Skating Championsh­ips in San Jose. Levito holds a razor-thin lead over two-time national champion Bradie Tennell.

The Houston Astros hired Dana Brown as general manager. Brown replaces James Click, who was not given a new contract and parted ways with the Astros just days after they won the World Series . ... The Baltimore Orioles acquired left-hander Cole Ir vin (Servite High) from the Oakland Athletics along with minor league right-hander Kyle Virbitsky for minor league infielder Darell Hernaiz.

The New York Rangers agreed to terms with defenseman Ben Harpur on a twoyear, $1.57-million contract extension through the 2024-25 season . ... Andrei Kuzmenko signed a two-year contract extension with the Vancouver Canucks. The deal has annual value of $5.5 million.

Patrick Reed fared better than Rory McIlroy as the Dubai Desert Classic got off to a wet start with only 11 players managing to finish their weather-affected first rounds. By the time the siren sounded to suspend play because of fading light, Reed was four under par after 16 holes and top-ranked McIlroy was two under having played 15 holes.

Outside linebacker Jessie Lemonier, who appeared in 13 games for the Chargers and Detroit Lions in a brief NFL career highlighte­d by a sack of Aaron Rodgers of the Green Bay Packers, has died. He was 25.

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