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Rattlers' fate rests in shift of owner

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  • Rattlers' fate rests in shift of owner

    Richard Obert
    The Arizona Republic
    Jun. 29, 2004 12:00 AM

    After coming up 4 yards short of a championship Sunday, there are four important questions the Rattlers need to address this summer.

    • Will coach Danny White be back?

    • Will somebody be able to buy the Rattlers to partner with new Suns ownership?

    • Will there be a team beyond the 2005 season?

    • Will the team's nucleus return for one more shot at the title?

    First, the Suns ownership transaction between Jerry Colangelo and Robert Sarver needs to be completed Wednesday.

    Then, issues can be evaluated.

    Rattlers President Jim Pitman, who worked closely on the financial transaction in the past three months, said that the Rattlers will be a high priority, along with Suns free agency this summer.

    Pitman gave White credit for one of his best coaching jobs, turning a 3-5 team to 13-5, before losing to San Jose 69-62 in ArenaBowl XVIII.

    "I think our season was very successful," Pitman said. "I think the coaching staff and coach White in particular did a great job."

    Pitman, who has worked under Colangelo's ownership, said he doesn't know what his position with the Rattlers will be next season.

    He said he hopes the team doesn't fold after next season. The team is committed to the league for the 2005 season. Sarver said last week he wasn't thinking beyond 2005 because he was working on closing the ownership deal.

    Sunday's ArenaBowl crowd of 17,391, the largest ever to see a Rattlers game at America West Arena, was proof that the Rattlers have a strong fan base.

    "The city still loves the Rattlers," Pitman said. "We still want to bring them a championship."

    Attorney Kim Coben is trying to buy the team, which is worth about $17 million after Colangelo bought it in 1991 for $250,000. That's not a done deal, though, White said. Pitman said he could not comment on Coben's attempt to purchase the team.

    Most important to White, 52, who has led the Rattlers to five ArenaBowls and 12 consecutive playoff appearances, is being able to get along with the owner.

    "It's more I just need to know who I'm working for before I say, 'Yeah, I'm going to coach the team for five more years,' " said White, whose contract has expired. " . . . It would be hard for me to work for someone I don't respect. Until I know who that person is, it's so important to me. I've always worked for people I've had great respect for."

    With his children all grown, White said he would leave Arizona for an NFL opportunity. Right now, he says he's in a "holding pattern."

    "I'm going to be pursuing other opportunities," he said. "For the Rattlers, there is nothing anyone can do right now."

    White believes the Rattlers, who have won 141 games in 13 years, can contend for another title if he returns. Quarterback Sherdrick Bonner and receiver/linebacker Hunkie Cooper, both 12-year veterans with the Rattlers, each have one year left on their contracts. Cooper said he will honor his; Bonner also is likely to return for one more shot at a ring.

    "We're going to contend if I'm the coach," White said. "I can't speak for all of the players. If some of those guys leave, we'll just have to find some young players. We're going to contend if I have anything to do with it, whomever the players are."

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  • DJRamFan
    Rattlers fire coach
    by DJRamFan
    Richard Obert
    The Arizona Republic
    Jul. 21, 2004 12:00 AM

    Rattlers coach Danny White, the state's longest-tenured and most successful pro coach, was fired Wednesday.

    Neither team officials nor White would comment.

    Defensive coordinator Doug Plank and team captain Hunkie Cooper confirmed that the former Mesa Westwood High, Arizona State and Dallas Cowboys quarterback was let go.

    New York head coach Todd Shell is considered the front-runner to replace White, the Rattlers' only head coach since they started playing in 1992.

    Shell, who could not be reached, was White's defensive coordinator in 1994, when the Rattlers won the ArenaBowl in only their third season.

    White may have done his best coaching, leading the team to 10 straight wins, a Western Division title and a third straight ArenaBowl appearance after a franchise-worst 3-5 start. The Rattlers lost 69-62 to San Jose, where Shell was head coach after leaving the Rattlers.

    White's contract would have expired in October. He was 123-56 in 13 seasons (the second-most victories in the Arena Football League's 18-year history).

    "The coach had a lot of success over the years," said Plank, who has been offered a similar position with the Los Angeles Avengers and will interview for the head coaching position with the Georgia Force. "I don't know what the criteria was for making the decision."

    White, 52, may have priced out the Rattlers, who have lost money every year. They are under new owner Robert Sarver, who is seeking a partner. Without one there is no certainty the team will be around beyond 2005.

    Sarver and Rattlers President Jim Pitman are in Salt Lake City, with the Suns and could not be reached. Vice President Gene Nudo did not return a call.

    "A couple of players won't be far behind," said Cooper, a receiver/linebacker who has played under White, along with quarterback Sherdrick Bonner, since 1993.

    "Sometimes, you questioned what his motive was," Cooper said, "but he was a great leader for our franchise, and a role model for the league. I wish him the best."
    -07-22-2004, 09:04 AM
  • DJRamFan
    White out: Gladiators look elsewhere for coach
    by DJRamFan

    Danny White
    Gladiators could not meet coaching candidate's salary demands

    Las Vegas was No. 1 on Danny White's list of potential coaching destinations, but the Gladiators did not make hiring him a priority and a deal almost certainly will not be reached.

    "Right now they have no shot," White said Monday. "I haven't heard from them. It does (surprise me) a little bit because they were the front-runner going in because of their closeness to Phoenix."

    White built a successful resumé with the Arizona Rattlers, winning two Arena Football League championships and making five ArenaBowls in 13 years.

    Gladiators general manager Dan Dolby said two factors have worked against a more aggressive pursuit of White -- team owner Jim Ferraro's unavailability because of business overseas and White's asking price.

    Dolby would not comment on White's salary parameters, but a source said he was seeking more than $200,000. Frank Haege, fired as Gladiators head coach last month, made a base salary of $110,000.

    "From a compensation standpoint, we were too far apart," Dolby said. "It was a lot of money for the coaching ranks of the AFL."

    The sides were so far apart, Dolby said, that a deal would have been extremely difficult even if Ferraro had been in the country. Ferraro returns to the United States on Thursday.

    White has been more hotly pursued by other AFL teams, such as Grand Rapids and New York. He said he met with officials from both clubs recently, but that he was considering other teams, which he declined to name.

    Grand Rapids had wanted an answer from White by today, but he said he would make a decision on his job search by next week's AFL board of directors meeting in Las Vegas.

    "I've been actively involved with several teams ... but Las Vegas isn't one of them," White said.

    With White no longer a serious candidate, assuming he ever was, that leaves seven others on the list the Gladiators are considering.

    Those candidates are: current Gladiators assistants Stan Davis and Ron James; Oklahoma City (af2) offensive coordinator Sparky McEwen; New Orleans VooDoo defensive coordinator Kevin Porter; Oklahoma City head coach Gary Reasons; Carolina Cobras interim coach Ron Selesky; and Indiana coach Mike Wilpolt.

    The list will be trimmed by next week, and in-person interviews will begin.
    -08-10-2004, 08:29 AM
  • DJRamFan
    White pulls out of running for Rampage job
    by DJRamFan
    Wednesday, August 11, 2004
    By Gary Bond
    The Grand Rapids Press
    Danny White, whose interest in the Grand Rapids Rampage head coaching vacancy made him the No. 1 candidate, said no Tuesday.

    White threw his name into the hat after he was fired three weeks ago by the Arizona Rattlers. He had a deadline of Tuesday to inform the Rampage of his intentions.

    White told Rampage general manager Scott Gorsline thanks, but no thanks. The reason was mostly geographical.

    "It was a tough decision turning down the coaching opportunity in Grand Rapids because I was impressed with everything about the city and organization," White said.

    "I was presented with an unique coaching opportunity, one I can't elaborate on right now and I expect this opportunity will be announced no later than the Arena Football League's board of directors meeting next week in Las Vegas.

    "When everything happened with Arizona, Grand Rapids was the first team to call and make me an offer. They have been first class with everything they did and someone is going to get a great organization to work and coach for."

    White, who was born and raised in Phoenix, said he also has declined coaching positions in Las Vegas and New York.

    "White was very impressed with everything about the Grand Rapids organization and was happy with a lot of the parameters, including his contract we had talked about," Gorsline said. "In the end, though, he said he was pursuing another opportunity that was a great opportunity for him to be closer to home.

    "We knew geography would be a big issue with White especially with his family based in the southwest part of the country.

    "After speaking with Rampage owner Dan DeVos and minority owner David Green, I anticipate moving quickly in filling the job here. I don't know if we will name a coach this week, but I expect it will happen soon."

    Sources told The Press the AFL plans to announce next week that St. Lake City, Utah, will have an arena football franchise for the 2005 season and White will be the team's head coach.

    Without White, and Steve Thonn, who accepted the offensive coordinator's position with the Georgia Force, the Rampage are left with four candidates: Sparky McEwen, offensive coordinator for the arenafootball2 Oklahoma City Yard Dawgz; Kevin Porter, defensive coordinator with the New Orleans VooDoo; Rick Frazier, who finished the season as the Rampage interim head coach after Bob Cortese was fired after a team started 1-10, and Tom Luginbill, the head coach of the Detroit Fury.

    McEwen, who also was the Rampage's offensive coordinator from 2001-2003, and Porter, are candidates for the Las Vegas position. They plan to begin it face-to-face interviews no later than next week.

    © 2004 Grand...
    -08-11-2004, 11:03 AM
  • DJRamFan
    Owner says 'sloppy' play led to Haege's dismissal
    by DJRamFan
    Fear of losing players contributed to decision
    By Adam Candee
    <[email protected]>

    An emotionally detached assessment showed Jim Ferraro that he wanted to fire Frank Haege as the Gladiators' head coach. The perceived danger of losing current and prospective players because of Haege, combined with the owner's distaste for the team's "sloppy" play during the past two seasons, made it easy for Ferraro.

    But the owner's personal respect for Haege made it hard to pull the trigger.

    "You look at it all and the decision was not really hard at the end of the day," Ferraro said Friday, speaking publicly for the first time since Haege was fired on July 28. "It was just hard for me to do it."

    Along with a long evaluation process that Ferraro said could not have happened while the team focused on winning games during the season, that respect led to the two-month wait after the season's end to fire Haege.

    Ferraro is in town to conduct interviews with the three finalists to replace Haege: Gladiators assistant head coach Ron James; New Orleans defensive coordinator Kevin Porter; and Indiana interim head coach Mike Wilpolt. Interviews begin tonight and continue Tuesday, with Ferraro and general manager Dan Dolby hoping to select someone by Friday. Ferraro recently returned from a long trip out of the country, which slowed the process of hiring a new coach.

    After three middling seasons that produced a 25-21 record and a division title, but no playoff wins, Ferraro entered the offseason intent on evaluating Haege's situation after signing the coach to a three-year contract extension during the 2003 season.

    The most distressing conversations Ferraro had, he said, were with people both inside the organization and around the league indicated that some free agents might avoid Las Vegas and that some current Gladiators might try to get away from the team if Haege remained the head coach.

    He became more disturbed by the lack of support he found for Haege from both players and management.

    "I didn't have anyone who objected to it," Ferraro said of firing Haege.

    No players have spoken out against Haege. Talking the day after Haege's firing, Gladiators quarterback Clint Dolezel -- the team's centerpiece acquisition last offseason -- expressed no reservations about the coach.

    Dolezel did not mourn for long, though, phoning Dolby to vouch for Sparky McEwen as Haege's replacement. McEwen, who worked with Dolezel in Grand Rapids as the offensive coordinator, came off the Gladiators' finalist list Friday when he accepted the head job with the Rampage.

    Ferraro was disappointed in both the Gladiators' preparation and performance leading to an 8-8 record in 2004 after he spent up to the $1.7 million salary cap to upgrade...
    -08-17-2004, 10:12 AM
  • DJRamFan
    White-Hackney combo keeping UAB in bowl contention
    by DJRamFan
    Nov. 2, 2004 wire reports

    MONTGOMERY, Ala. -- On just one play in UAB's first game of the season, receiver Roddy White and quarterback Darrell Hackney showed why they are among the nation's most prolific passing duos.


    White was running his route when he noticed Hackney scrambling away from pressure. The roommates knew what to do.

    "I just took off to the end zone," White said. "He tucked it in and threw it, and I knew we were on the same page then. I didn't know what he was going to do and he didn't know what I was going to do, and we still hooked up together."

    They haven't stopped since, putting Alabama-Birmingham (5-2, 3-1 Conference USA) into contention for their first bowl bid entering Wednesday night's game with South Florida (2-4, 1-3).

    Hackney, the nation's fifth-rated passer, is finally healthy and is leading the league in yards passing after missing the final five games last year with a dislocated thumb.

    Hackney and White began rooming together over the summer, and they frequently stayed after workouts for extra passing work along with other receivers.

    Hackney has completed 56.7 percent of his passes with 18 touchdowns, both career highs, and has thrown just four interceptions.

    "He's feeling his dream right now," said White, the nation's leading receiver with 886 yards and nine touchdowns. "Nobody knew how good he could be because he was hurt. Now, everybody's seeing what he could do. He just wanted to prove that he's one of the best quarterbacks in the nation."

    Hackney passed for a career-high 448 yards in a 59-55 loss to Tulane two weeks ago, finding White for 253 of them. Both were league highs for the season, providing some substance to White's opinion about where they rank as a passing duo.

    "I think we're (No.) 1 on the nation. Nobody's doing what we're doing," said White, who is averaging 21.6 yards on 41 catches. "If we're not 1, we're one of the best at hooking up together. We're on the same page all the time. We're inside each other's head."

    Hackney is proving as polished off the field as well. He credits his coaches and teammates for his success and even shoulders much of the blame for the 23 sacks UAB has allowed.

    "The two biggest assets to my play this year are my preparation with coach (Pat) Sullivan and the people around me," said Hackney, a 6-foot-2, 235-pound junior. "They're making me look good and I have to give credit to them."

    And the sacks?


    "Half the sacks you can blame on me because I always run right to them and always hold the ball too long," Hackney said.

    He had shown signs that...
    -11-02-2004, 03:34 PM