Sports The Sports Report: Chris Waller steps down as UCLA...

The Sports Report: Chris Waller steps down as UCLA gymnastics coach

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Howdy, I’m your host, Houston Mitchell. Let’s get right to the news.

From Thuc Nhi Nguyen: UCLA gymnastics coach Chris Waller is resigning effective immediately, the school announced Tuesday, bringing his three-year tenure to an abrupt end.

Waller’s contract was set to end June 30. UCLA said it will conduct a national search to find a replacement to steer the popular gymnastics program after the Bruins failed to qualify for the NCAA championships as a team for two consecutive years for the first time in program history.

Waller was an assistant under former head coach Valorie Kondos Field for 17 years before ascending to the top spot in 2019. He was an NCAA champion as a gymnast and competed in the 1992 Olympics, advancing to the all-around final and finishing fifth in the pommel horse.

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Although he took over the UCLA program at the height of its popularity after a 2018 national championship and a viral floor routine in 2019 from Katelyn Ohashi, Waller’s head coaching tenure has been tumultuous. His first season ended suddenly because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The following year, more than half of his top-ranked freshman class was vying for Olympic spots during the coronavirus-delayed Tokyo Games. Despite more viral floor routines from Nia Dennis and Margzetta Frazier that elevated UCLA’s brand of joyful and inclusive gymnastics amid the national conversation about social justice, the Bruins were short-handed and missed the NCAA championships for the first time since 2006.

UCLA appeared to be poised for a bounce-back year with elite stars like Olympic silver medalist Jordan Chiles, all-around finalist Brooklyn Moors and Olympic alternate Emma Malabuyo. But a preseason incident involving a former team member using racist language caused a rift between coaches and some gymnasts that lingered through the season.

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RAMS

From Gary Klein: He led the NFL in receptions, yards receiving and touchdown catches. And he put an exclamation point on his record-setting season by scoring twice in the Rams’ Super Bowl victory over the Cincinnati Bengals.

Now, in wake of the recent spike in salaries for players at his position, does Cooper Kupp expect to haul in a new contract that will make him the league’s highest-paid receiver?

“I don’t think that’s really kind of the approach that I take,” Kupp said Tuesday during a videoconference with reporters. “I definitely think there’s a place that you want to be. … I’m not trying to beat anyone. I’m not trying to compare myself to anyone else.

“It’s more of just being in a place that is just right for both sides.”

Kupp spoke to reporters after the first workout of the Rams’ voluntary offseason program, which will run through June and conclude with a mandatory minicamp.

UCLA BASKETBALL

From Ben Bolch: Jaime Jaquez Jr. is coming back to UCLA and Peyton Watson and Jake Kyman are leaving.

Jules Bernard? It could go either way.

The senior guard announced Tuesday on Instagram he will enter the NBA draft while retaining his ability to return to college in case he wants to use the extra season of eligibility granted in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Bernard, who averaged 12.8 points and 4.7 rebounds last season, is not listed on most mock draft boards but could improve his standing if he secures an invitation to the draft combine next month in Chicago or workouts for individual teams. He has until 8:59 pm PDT on June 1 to withdraw his name from draft consideration and preserve his college eligibility.

“I’m super excited to start this process,” Bernard wrote, “and I’m looking forward to taking steps towards achieving my dreams.”

KINGS

From Helene Elliott: The Lakers imploded under the weight of a roster that was well past its shelf life, finishing a miserable 11th in the NBA’s 10-team play-in race. The Clippers, given two chances to earn a playoff berth though a generous play-in format, blew double-digit leads in the fourth quarter against Minnesota and New Orleans and were left to again hope next year will be the big year they’ve never had.

The Ducks collapsed after a strong start, changed general managers and became sellers at the NHL trade deadline on the way to missing the Stanley Cup playoffs for the fourth straight season and extending their tedious rebuild.

All of which leaves the Kings as the only local winter sports team with a chance to reach the playoffs this spring. Their chances are looking solid after they defeated the Ducks 2-1 on Tuesday night at Anaheim and continue navigating through a favorable schedule during the final week of the regular season.

“It’s a cool thing. LA’s obviously a great sports city. There’s so many teams,” said Minnesota-born center Blake Lizotte, who joked that he was proud that his Timberwolves eliminated the Clippers but sad that Los Angeles lost a playoff team.

“It’s cool to be in LA and be one of the sports teams here. I think the city rallies around any team that’s close to the playoffs or in the playoffs, so hopefully we can just push through and get in there.”

The Kings have won a single playoff game in two postseason appearances since they skated off the ice in 2014 with their second Cup title in three seasons. After gradually infusing youth and skill into what had become a creaky lineup, they’re in position to experience postseason play for the first time since 2017-18, when they were swept by eventual West champion Vegas. Six players remain from that last playoff series: defenseman Drew Doughty (who recently underwent season-ending wrist surgery), forwards Anze Kopitar, Alex Iafallo, Dustin Brown and Adrian Kempe, and goaltender Jonathan Quick.

————

NHL roundtable: Will the Kings make the playoffs? Will the Ducks play spoilers?

DODGERS

From Jack Harris: Some fans cheered. Others booed. But when Kenley Jansen made his return to the Dodger Stadium mound, toeing the rubber at Chavez Ravine in another team’s uniform for the first time in his career, everyone in attendance Tuesday night was on their feet.

The Dodgers’ long-time closer had returned to Los Angeles.

And in the Braves 3-1 win, Jansen earned the save against his former team, ending the game with a flyout against former Braves star Freddie Freeman.

After 12 seasons with the Dodgers, Jansen signed with the Braves as a free agent this offseason, joining the defending World Series champions on a one-year, $16-million contract.

Before Monday’s series opener, Jansen talked to reporters about the difficulty of the transition, and the emotions that came with his exodus from Los Angeles. He greeted old teammates in the clubhouse before the afternoon. Then, on the field, he was warmly received during a pregame ceremony Monday, joined on the field by Dodgers manager Dave Roberts, third baseman Justin Turner and president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman.

“Just to see the reception he got from the fans, it really was great,” Roberts said. “You could see him getting a little bit emotional.”

Roberts had hoped it would be the last the Dodgers saw of Jansen this week.

But with the Braves leading by two going into the bottom of the ninth on Tuesday, Jansen came trotting out of the right field bullpen at Dodger Stadium for the first time in his career.

After getting Will Smith to fly out and Mookie Betts to swing through a trademark cutter, Jansen fittingly faced Freeman, who is facing the Braves this week for the first time since signing with the Dodgers this spring.

Freeman got a hold of a sinker down the middle, but watched the ball die in left-center field for the final out. He walked back to the Dodgers dugout. Jansen celebrated on the mound with his new team.

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Hernández: Clayton Kershaw’s competitive fire rages even as Dodger fans show him love

ANGELS

Jo Adell tied a career-high with three hits and Kurt Suzuki and Brandon Marsh drove in two runs each as the Angels used a big fifth inning to break open the game and cruise to an 7-2 win over the Houston Astros on Tuesday night.

Both teams were missing stars. Los Angeles center fielder Mike Trout was sidelined for a second game with a bruised left hand and Houston second baseman Jose Altuve out after straining his left hamstring Monday.

But the Angels got third baseman Anthony Rendon back after he sat out of Monday’s game because of a stomach bug. He had two hits to help Los Angeles rebound after an 8-3 loss in the series opener.

THIS DATE IN SPORTS

1912 – Fenway Park opens in Boston with the Red Sox beating the New York Yankees 7-6 in 11 innings. Tiger Stadium in Detroit also opens its doors as the Tigers defeat the Cleveland Indians 6-5.

1958 – The Montreal Canadiens win the NHL Stanley Cup for the third straight year with a 5-3 victory over the Boston Bruins in the sixth game.

1986 – Chicago’s Michael Jordan sets an NBA single-game playoff scoring record with 63 points in a 135-131 double overtime loss to the Boston Celtics, in Game 2 of the first round in the Eastern Conference.

1991 – Mark Lenzi becomes the first person to score 100 points on a single dive. On his last dive, Lenzi scores 101.85 points on a reverse 3½ somersault from the tuck position to win the 3-meter springboard title at the US Indoor Diving Championships.

1997 – Chicago’s Michael Jordan wins an unprecedented ninth scoring title with an average of 29.6 points, the first time in those nine seasons that he fails to average at least 30 points.

2007 – Roger Federer wins his 500th career match, defeating David Ferrer 6-4, 6-0 in the quarterfinals of the Monte Carlo Masters.

2008 – Danica Patrick becomes the first female winner in IndyCar history, capturing the Indy Japan 300 in her 50th career start. Patrick takes the lead from pole-sitter Helio Castroneves on the 198th lap in the 200-lap race and finishes 5.8594 seconds ahead of Castroneves.

2008 – Lorena Ochoa becomes the first LPGA Tour player in 45 years to win four tournaments in consecutive weeks. Ochoa shoots a 3-under 69 in the final round of the Ginn Open and beats rookie Yani Tseng by three strokes for her fifth victory in six starts. Mickey Wright did it in 1963.

2014 – Bernard Hopkins, 49, becomes the oldest to win a unification light heavyweight bout as he captures a split 12-round decision over 30-year-old Beibut Shumenov of Kazakhstan. Hopkins, who improves to 55-6-2, retains his IBF title and wins the WBA and IBA belts.

2015 – Lelisa Desisa of Ethiopia wins the 119th Boston Marathon, his second victory here. Desisa, who finishes in 2:09:17, also won the 2013 race just hours before a pair of bombs exploded at the finish line. Caroline Rotich of Kenya wins the women’s race.

2017 — LeBron James finishes with 41 points, 13 rebounds and 12 assists, and the Cleveland Cavaliers set an NBA postseason record by erasing a 25-point halftime deficit to beat the Indiana Pacers 119-114 and take a 3-0 lead. Cleveland trailed by 26 in the first half and was still down 74-49 at halftime. The largest halftime deficit overcome to win a playoff game had been 21 points by Baltimore against Philadelphia in 1948.

2017 – Roman Josi scores twice, Pekka Rinne has 30 saves and the Nashville Predators beat the Chicago Blackhawks 4-1 to complete a surprising sweep of the Western Conference’s top seed. It’s the first time a No. 1 seed is swept in the first round since the NHL adopted its current playoff format in 1994.

And finally

Michael Jordan scores 63 points against Boston in the playoffs. Watch and listen here.

Until next time…

That concludes today’s newsletter. If you have any feedback, ideas for improvement or things you’d like to see, email me at houston.mitchell@latimes.com, and follow me on Twitter at @latimeshouston. To get this newsletter in your inbox, click here.



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