LOS ANGELES — Dwight Lewis, Mike Gerrity, Alex Stepheson and the rest of Southern California's basketball team couldn't figure out why they were being summoned to an early morning meeting with first-year coach Kevin O'Neill.
When their cell phones lit up with text messages telling them to report to Galen Center on Sunday — an off day — the players figured one of them had gotten in trouble or said the wrong thing to the media.
The news O'Neill delivered was much worse.
He told them the university had imposed sanctions on the team for recruiting violations involving former player O.J. Mayo, including a ban on postseason play — including the Pac-10 tournament — this season. Mayo allegedly received improper cash and gifts while at USC.
"It was the hardest thing I've had to do. Telling our team that yesterday was much harder than ever getting fired," O'Neill said after practice Monday.
"It's a kick in the butt for everybody, but I especially feel sorry for our seniors."
Chris Henry's fiancee says he jumped out of the back of her truck instead of falling and that she wasn't driving fast on the day the Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver was fatally injured.
Loleini Tonga tells ESPN that she thinks Henry thought he would land safely and may have been scared because he saw someone calling the police. She said he didn't jump with the intention of harming himself.
The two had argued on Dec. 16 at the home owned by Tonga's parents in Charlotte, N.C. She didn't say what the argument was about.
Henry died the next day from massive head injuries. Police called the argument a domestic dispute and are investigating the traffic accident, but no charges have been filed.
Previously, it was reported that Henry fell from Tonga's truck.
ASHBURN, Va. — The Washington Redskins moved quickly in their pursuit of Mike Shanahan on Monday, flying in the former Denver Broncos coach on the same day the team fired Jim Zorn.
Shanahan and wife Peggy landed at Dulles International Airport near Redskins Park in mid-afternoon and were driven away in a limousine to meet with owner Dan Snyder and general manager Bruce Allen. Snyder planned for Shanahan to stay overnight at the owner's house in Maryland, and a formal hiring announcement could come as early as Tuesday.
Shanahan's arrival was the highlight of a long, eventful day as the Redskins sought a new direction after a 4-12 season. The first move came in the pre-dawn hours, when Zorn was dismissed during a meeting in his office with Allen after the team's cross-country flight following a 23-20 loss to the San Diego Chargers on Sunday.
"It's real clear that we're going to be aggressive," Allen said. "What we're looking for in a head coach is somebody who can lead these men that we had in our locker room this year to levels they've haven't played through before."
Shanahan won two Super Bowls in 14 seasons with the Broncos. He was fired a year ago after Denver missed the playoffs for the third straight season.
Adrian Beltre and the Boston Red Sox are close to agreeing on a one-year contract that would guarantee the third baseman $10 million, a person familiar with the negotiations told The Associated Press on Monday night.
Beltre would get $9 million this year and would have a $5 million player option for 2011 with a $1 million buyout, the person said. The option could escalate to $10 million depending on reaching criteria in 2010 that the sides were still negotiating. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because an agreement, which would be subject to a physical, had not been reached.
Beltre would receive the buyout even if he declines the option.
A home run threat known for strong defense, Beltre spent the past five years with Seattle. Injuries limited him to 111 games last season, when he batted .265 with eight homers and 44 RBIs.
Beltre is a two-time Gold Glove winner who turns 31 in April. He would supplant Mike Lowell at third base in Boston — the Red Sox tried to trade the 2007 World Series MVP to Texas last month but weren't able to finalize the swap.
SEATTLE — Ken Griffey Jr. likes the offseason moves made by the Seattle Mariners so far — to the point he's optimistically clearing his calendar late into the year.
"We're going in the right direction," Griffey said Sunday. "A couple of more wins, postseason, I don't have anything planned until like early November. Hopefully we can have a lot of fun and continue on the path that we're going."
Griffey was back in town to raise the "12th Man Flag" before the Seattle Seahawks' season finale against Tennessee. He spent a time during pregame on the field taking picture and visited with Titans running back Chris Johnson.
Griffey then ceremoniously raised the flag just before kickoff to arguably the loudest cheers inside the stadium this season.
After raising the ceremony, the slugger who is fifth on baseball's all-time home run list with 611 said Mariners fans should be excited after the team traded for former Cy Young winner Cliff Lee and signed free agent Chone Figgins away from the rival Los Angeles Angels.
In November, Griffey agreed to a one-year deal to return to Seattle in 2010 for his 22nd major league season.
SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic — Toronto Blue Jays infielder Edwin Encarnacion was burned in the face by fireworks while celebrating the new year in his native Dominican Republic.
Fiancee Jennifer Pena told The Associated Press that Encarnacion was released from the hospital Saturday and is resting at home. She said his injuries do not require surgery.
Encarnacion received first- and second-degree burns when his brother released a firework that hit him in the right side of the face and exploded near his body, she said. He was celebrating with his family in the southeastern coastal city of La Romana.
NEW YORK — Jason Bay's contract with the New York Mets includes a $17 million option for 2014 with a $3 million buyout, people familiar with the deal told The Associated Press.
Bay took a physical Monday, a necessary step to finalize the deal, and the Mets scheduled a Tuesday news conference at Citi Field to introduce their first major free-agent signing of the offseason. The team's senior executives took Bay to dinner Monday night.
He is guaranteed $66 million under the four-year contract and could make $80 million over five seasons, the people said, speaking on condition of anonymity because the contract had not yet been announced.
— The Associated Press
Bay gets an $8.5 million signing bonus, payable upon approval by Major League Baseball, a $6.5 million salary this year and $16 million in each of the final three seasons. The outfielder's option would become guaranteed if Bay has 600 plate appearances in 2013 or 500 plate appearances in both the 2012 and 2013 seasons.
EL SEGUNDO, Calif. — Los Angeles Lakers forward Pau Gasol has a mild to moderate strained left hamstring and is doubtful for tonight's game against Houston.
The Lakers said Monday that Gasol was examined by the team doctor and an ultrasound test and MRI showed the strain he sustained in Sunday night's win over the Dallas Mavericks. He started and played seven minutes before leaving the game.
Gasol is listed as day-to-day.
He missed the season's first 11 games with a strained right hamstring.
MIAMI — Heat center Jermaine O'Neal on Monday was out of the lineup against the Atlanta Hawks with a strained groin and hip flexor.
It's the fourth time O'Neal has missed a game this season, although two of those were to attend a family funeral. Joel Anthony started in place of O'Neal, who has been bothered by soreness in the groin and hip for about two weeks.
O'Neal is Miami's third-leading scorer at 12.7 points per game and second-leading rebounder at 6.9 per game.
The Heat are hopeful O'Neal could return Wednesday when Miami hosts Boston.