Flores’ long HOF wait could be nearing end
After nine years of disappointment, former Raiders coach Tom Flores moved one giant step closer Thursday night to possible induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
The two- time Super Bowl-winning coach and 49ers general manager John Lynch, a former safety, were among the 15 modern era finalists for induction in Canton, Ohio, the Hall of Fame announced.
“It’s exciting. But I don’t even know how to act,” Flores said by phone. “I’ve never been this far before. People say, ‘ How do you feel?’ Well, I don’t know yet.”
Ex- Cal star tight end Tony Gonzalez, on the ballot for the first time, joined Flores and Lynch as finalists, as did former Raiders defensive lineman Richard Seymour.
Lynch, a hard-hitter from Stanford who was a ninetime Pro Bowl player and a Super Bowl champ with the Buccaneers, is making his first appearance as a finalist.
Gonzalez, cornerback Champ Bailey and safety Ed Reed are the only first-year eligible players to make the Hall’s final list. Flores’ road to inclusion among the final 15 has been quite a bit longer.
Flores was the first minority NFL coach to win a title and the first to win a Super Bowl title as a player, assistant and a head coach. He won nearly 70 percent of his games as the Raiders coach during the 1980- 85 seasons, including a pair of Super Bowl wins. But those credentials didn’t get him very close to Canton. Before this year, Flores had never even made the ballot cut from 125 down to 25 semifinalists.
“I’m kind of a low-key guy anyways, but to go on from 25 to 15, I’m pretty excited about that,” Flores said. “We’ll see what happens. I can’t get too overwhelmed yet because we’re not there yet.”
The next hurdle for the 15 finalists will be on Feb. 2 in Atlanta, the day before Super Bowl LIII when the Hall of Fame’s Board of Selectors whittles the list down to a maximum of five enshrinees for 2019’s class. There are nine other finalists who are also facing the long wait along with Flores, Lynch, Gonzalez, Bailey and Reed: Former 49ers receiver Isaac Bruce, safety Steve Atwater, tackle Tony Boselli, center Kevin Mawae, cornerback Ty Law, running back Edgerrin James, guard Steve Hutchinson, guard Alan Faneca, along with the late coach Don Coryell. The finalists also include three men previously named finalists from other committees — seniors committee candidate and former Chiefs safety Johnny Robinson, and Broncos owner Pat Bowlen and Cowboys exec Gil Brandt from the contributors committee.
USF HOLDS OFF GAELS » Frankie Ferrari had 19 points, Jamaree Bouyea had a key free throw and blocked shot in the final eight seconds and red-hot USF held off Saint Mary’s 76-72 in the West Coast Conference opener for both teams on Thursday night.
USF (13-2) blocked two shots in the final half-minute. Jordan Ford led Saint Mary’s (9-7) with 24 points.
BOL’S COLLEGE CAREER OVER » Bol Bol’s lone season at Oregon is over after nine games due to a left foot injury.
The son of late former Warriors player Manute Bol, Bol was considered one of college basketball’s top incoming freshman prior to the 2018-19 season and is projected as an NBA lottery pick. Bol announced on Twitter on Thursday that his college career was over. PENN STATE COACH APOLOGIZES FOR SHOVING PLAYER » Penn State coach Patrick Chambers apologized following Thursday night’s loss at No. 2 Michigan after he appeared to shove one of his players during a timeout.
With 10:52 left in the first half, the ESPN broadcast showed footage of a fired- up Chambers in a huddle, reaching out with one arm and appearing to push freshman guard Myles Dread in the chest. Chambers addressed the incident in his postgame news conference, without being asked about it.
“I absolutely love, love Myles Dread. ... I’ve known him forever, him and his parents,” Chambers said. “I apologize to him. I was just trying to challenge him, just trying to get the best out of him, and hopefully I’ll do it differently next time. No, not hopefully. I will do it a different way next time.”
ROUGH HOMECOMING FOR LEONARD » San Antonio Spurs fans welcomed back Kawhi Leonard with thunderous jeers in a 125-107 victory over the Toronto Raptors on Thursday night in a game that saw DeMar DeRozan, one of the players traded for Leonard, become the first Spurs player to record a triple-double at home since Tim Duncan in 2003. DeRozan had 21 points, 14 rebounds and 11 assists.
Leonard scored 21 points on 8-for-13 shooting, but the anger the Spurs’ fans showered on him seemed to impact the MVP candidate. Leonard had to take a step back at the free throw line and compose himself amid chants of “Traitor! Traitor!” and “Quitter! Quitter!” from the capacity crowd that adored him during his seven seasons in San Antonio.
Leonard forced his way out of San Antonio in a trade that yielded DeRozan and Jakob Poeltl from Toronto for Leonard and Danny Green.
Leonard was booed heavily from the moment he walked onto the court for warmup. The boos continued during a pregame video tribute and player introductions, whenever he touched the ball and as he walked off the court following the lopsided loss.
As the game ended, Gregg Popovich and Leonard embraced in a long hug and the Spurs coach led his former star to San Antonio’s bench to greet assistant coach Ettore Messina. TRAIL BLAZERS ORIGINAL OWNER DIES » Larry Weinberg, one of the founders and original owners of the Portland Trail Blazers, has died. He was 92.
Weinberg was one of three partners who got the franchise started as an NBA expansion team in 1970 to the tune of $3.7 million. Weinberg, a veteran of World War II and real estate developer, sold the team to the late Paul Allen in 1988 for $70 million. GRIZZLIES GET HOLIDAY » The struggling Memphis Grizzlies acquired guard Justin Holiday from the Chicago Bulls for guards Mar Shon Brooks and Wayne Selden Jr.
ROBERTSON JOINS PHILLIES’ ‘PEN » Reliever David Robertson and the Philadelphia Phillies have agreed to a $23 million, two-year contact. The 33-year- old right-hander went 8-3 with a 3.23 ERA and five saves in 69 games last season for the New York Yankees.
COYOTES’ SCHMALTZ GOES ON IR » Arizona Coyotes center Nick Schmaltz is out indefinitely after being placed on injured reserve with a lower-body injury.
Schmaltz has given Arizona an offensive spark since being acquired in a trade with Chicago on Nov. 25, scoring five goals with adding nine assists in 17 games.
The Raptors’ Kawhi Leonard, center, is blocked as he drives against the Spurs’ DeMar DeRozan, left, and Derrick White. Leonard scored 21 points in a 125-107 homecoming loss.