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Reports: Jim Harbaugh, 49ers mutually part ways

12.28.14 at 8:04 pm ET
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In a move that surprised no one, Jim Harbaugh and the 49ers have mutually parted ways, according to multiple reports.

Harbaugh has been the coach of the 49ers since 2011 and went to the Super Bowl in 2012. Things were ugly in San Fransisco this season, as the 49ers went 8-8 and missed the postseason.

The coach is now a top candidate to be the next coach at the University of Michigan.

Top Boston Sports Stories of 2014, No. 6: Patriots lose to Broncos in AFC championship game

12.28.14 at 10:21 am ET
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Over the final days of the year, WEEI.com will count down the top 14 stories of 2014 in Boston sports. This is No. 6: Patriots lose to Broncos in AFC championship game. To read other stories in this series, click here.

Alfonzo Dennard and the Patriots couldn't keep up with Demaryius Thomas and the Broncos in the AFC title game. (Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Alfonzo Dennard and the Patriots couldn’t keep up with Demaryius Thomas and the Broncos in the AFC title game. (Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

The Patriots’ 2013 season was not quite like the ones fans are used to.

Sure, New England boasted a solid 12-4 record, clinched the AFC East well before season’s end, earned a first-round bye and breezed past its divisional-round opponent to reach its third straight AFC championship game. But this Patriots team limped its way through the season as a group pillaged by losses to a number of key players.

It started with tight end Aaron Hernandez, who was arrested weeks before training camp and subsequently released by the team before being charged with murder. But that was just the start of the Pats‘ woes, as the likes of Vince Wilfork, Jerod Mayo and Rob Gronkowski were lost for the season with major injuries.

However, fans still sought that coveted fourth Vince Lombardi trophy after the Patriots won five of their last six regular-season games to win their fifth straight division title, then crushed the Colts, 43-22, led by 166 yards and four touchdowns from LeGarrette Blount.

Up next, as expected, was Peyton Manning and the top-seeded Broncos. It would be the 15th time Tom Brady and Manning would square off, the fourth time they would meet in the playoffs and their second matchup of the season.

The Patriots rallied from a 24-0 halftime deficit to beat the Broncos, 34-31, in overtime at Gillette Stadium in the regular season. But with a 13-3 record to end the year, the Broncos hosted the Jan. 19 meeting for the right to play in the Super Bowl.

With all that was unique and difficult about the Patriots’ season, one thing was similar to the year before: It ended with a disappointing loss in the conference title game.

This time, the Broncos manhandled the Patriots defense for 507 total yards in a 26-16 beatdown in a game that wasn’t as close as the scoreboard read.

“You can’t win when you can’t get off the field,” defensive end Rob Ninkovich said after the game. “That’s basic fundamental football. They do a good job of keeping the sticks moving with various formations.”

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Read More: Aqib Talib, Bill Belichick, Demaryius Thomas, Peyton Manning

Top Boston Sports Stories of 2014, No. 7: Red Sox bolster offense with signings of Pablo Sandoval, Hanley Ramirez

12.27.14 at 4:21 pm ET
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Over the final days of the year, WEEI.com will count down the top 14 stories of 2014 in Boston sports. This is No. 8: Red Sox bolster offense with signings of Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez. To read other stories in this series, click here.

Pablo Sandoval comes to Boston after helping the Giants win their third World Series in five seasons. (Elsa/Getty Images)

Pablo Sandoval comes to Boston after helping the Giants win their third World Series in five seasons. (Elsa/Getty Images)

The Red Sox made some big splashes early this offseason when they acquired veterans Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez.

Boston looked for offensive help after the team finished the 2014 season with 634 runs, 18th fewest in baseball. Especially at third base, the Red Sox saw inconsistency and instability from former prospect Will Middlebrooks. After starting a promising career with 15 home runs in 75 games in 2013, Middlebrooks finished this past season with two home runs and a .191 batting average.

Even before the season ended, analysts saw a potential fit for Sandoval in the Boston lineup. ESPN’s Buster Olney said the Giants were worried a team would make a push for the third baseman, who averaged 20 home runs and 86 RBIs per season since his debut in 2008.

“I saw the Giants the last couple of nights, and there’s a lot of anticipation within that organization that someone’s going to make a run at Pablo Sandoval. That team could turn out to be the Red Sox,” Olney said on Sept. 24. “He would fit them in a lot of regards. When I talked to some people with the Giants about that, they were nodding their heads and said, ‘You know what? He’d be a really good fit.’ Because he could play third base, and he had a good year defensively.”

Sandoval went on to have one of the greatest offensive postseasons of all time, collecting 26 hits over 17 playoff games. In the World Series, Sandoval finished with 12 hits and four RBIs in the seven-game set. All eyes were upon him as he grabbed the last out of Game 7.

A few teams emerged as possible suitors for Sandoval as free agency commenced, with the Red Sox and Giants at the top of the list. Sandoval visited Boston for the first time in the middle of November. The Red Sox and the player reportedly discussed a multi-year contract in the $90 million range.

Soon after his initial visit, Sandoval made his final decision: He would be a a member of the Boston Red Sox. He signed a reported five-year, $95 million deal that included a team option for a sixth season. The third baseman said it was time for a different adventure after spending the first half of his career with the Giants. He also said he was eager to play with his new teammates.

“I want a new challenge,” Sandoval said. “I made that choice to be here in Boston because I need a new challenge. The legacy they have here. To show them the fan support they have here. That’s what I wanted to make sure I made the right decision. It took me a long time, but I’m happy to show the fans all the support they gave to this team. Now I want to show I came here to give them the support to go into the postseason again.

“It’s exciting for me to be with Hanley and David Ortiz. Like everyone says right now in media relations, it’s the ‘Three Amigos.’ It’s just exciting to be part of this lineup and this organization.”

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Read More: Ben Cherington, hanley ramirez, John Henry, Pablo Sandoval

Top Boston Sports Stories of 2014, No. 8: Patriots acquire standout CB Darrelle Revis

12.27.14 at 9:20 am ET
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Over the final days of the year, WEEI.com will count down the top 14 stories of 2014 in Boston sports. This is No. 8: Patriots acquire standout cornerback Darrelle Revis. To read other stories in this series, click here.

Darrelle Revis helped turn the Patriots defensive secondary into one of the team's strength. (Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)

Darrelle Revis helped turn the Patriots defensive secondary into one of the team’s strength. (Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)

Heading into the 2014 offseason, the Patriots were in desperate need of a premier pass-catcher. Instead, they got one of the league’s best at shutting down other team’s receivers.

The courtship of Darrelle Revis was brief and profitable. The veteran cornerback agreed to a deal with the Patriots on March 12 just hours after being released by the Buccaneers in a cost-cutting move.

Revis, whose best days were with the rival Jets from 2007-12, helped transform a New England defensive secondary that had struggled the previous few seasons, leading some to call him the 2014 Patriots MVP.

Heading into the final two games of the regular season, Revis had been targeted 74 times by opposing quarterbacks, who completed just 50 percent of those passes. The passer rating of those QBs when throwing at Revis was 68.7.

With Revis — along with some other key additions — the Patriots defense has improved from a rank of 25th in yards allowed and 23rd in points allowed last season to 16th in yards and eighth in points.

You needn’t convince Tom Brady of Revis’ importance to the team.

“He’€™s a phenomenal player and I’€™ve loved playing with him,” Brady said last week. ‘€œI’€™ve hated playing against him, and I’€™ve had my fair share of those opportunities. He’€™s a great teammate. He’€™s a phenomenal player. I think the thing that I’€™m so impressed with is his coverage skills without getting penalties.”

Revis also appears to have bought into the Patriot Way, focusing on the team rather than individual performance.

“Look, it’€™s a team effort, it’€™s a defensive effort. It’€™s all aboard,” he said earlier this month. “We have great, talented players on this team, this defense. We just have to continue to play great team ball, chemistry ball. We’€™ve been doing that. Guys have been coming to work. It doesn’€™t have anything to do with me, or me being the focal point. Everybody is doing their job, and it’€™s working well for us.”

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Read More: Darrelle Revis, Top Boston Sports Stories of 2014,

Top Boston Sports Stories of 2014, No. 9: Celtics miss out on Kevin Love, draft Marcus Smart, James Young

12.26.14 at 5:14 pm ET
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Over the final days of the year, WEEI.com will count down the top 14 stories of 2014 in Boston sports. This is No. 9: Celtics miss out on Kevin Love, draft Marcus Smart and James Young. To read other stories in this series, click here.

Marcus Smart (left) and James Young (Nick Laham/Getty Images)

The Celtics used their two 2014 first-round draft picks on guards Marcus Smart (left) and James Young. (Nick Laham/Getty Images)

Throughout the summer of 2014, Celtics fans were teased at the possibility of another superstar power forward landing in Boston, once again via a trade with the Timberwolves.

All-Star power forward Kevin Love was on the market, and after registering a career high in points (26.1) while pulling down 12.5 boards per game during the 2013-14 season, the UCLA product was in high demand for a multitude of teams.

The Celtics seemed to have the resources to net Love, with multiple first-round picks — including the sixth overall selection of the 2014 draft — at their disposal, as well as young tradable assets in power forwards Jared Sullinger and Kelly Olynyk.

The “Summer of Love” continued to grow into hysteria as the weeks ticked closer and closer to the draft — held on June 26. Excitement was at a fever pitch for Celtics fans on June 1, as Love was spotted at Fenway Park.

Photos later emerged of Love meeting with C’s captain Rajon Rondo, leading many to believe than the California native was scouting out one of his new potential destinations.

Even other athletes joined in on the news of Love’s appearance at Fenway, with Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz sending his own recruiting pitch to the Timberwolves big man via Twitter.

Despite the Celtics‘ interest in Love, other teams soon threw their names into the bidding, with squads such as the Warriors and Bulls linked to the 25-year-old All-Star. Reports of potential deals centered on the Bulls’ Taj Gibson, Nikola Mirotic and Doug McDermott, as well as Minnesota’s reported interest in Golden State’s Klay Thompson, quickly dispelling any notion that the Celtics were the lone wolf in terms of negotiations for Love.

While many teams continued to harangue the Timberwolves throughout the summer, no deal was put in place by the time of the draft, leaving the Celtics to make their two first-round selections (sixth and 17th overall).

With the sixth pick, Boston selected Oklahoma State point guard Marcus Smart, who averaged 18 points and 5.8 assists per game during his sophomore campaign with the Cowboys.

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Read More: Boston Celtics, James Young, Kevin Love, Marcus Smart

Top Boston Sports Stories of 2014, No. 10: Bruins trade Johnny Boychuk to Islanders

12.26.14 at 10:44 am ET
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Over the final days of the year, WEEI.com will count down the top 14 stories of 2014 in Boston sports. This is No. 10: Bruins trade Johnny Boychuk to Islanders. To read other stories in this series, click here.

Johnny Boychuk (Francois Laplante/Getty Images)

Johnny Boychuk spent five productive seasons on the blue line for the Bruins before being sent to the Islanders in a cost-cutting move. (Francois Laplante/Getty Images)

It was a rare trade that, upon announcing its completion, Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli acknowledged it made his team worse.

When the Bruins sent Johnny Boychuk to the Islanders on Oct. 4, there was no hiding the fact that the move was made purely for financial considerations. The Bruins sent the 30-year-old defenseman to New York in order to clear his $3.36 million salary from the books and because it appeared unlikely they would be able to re-sign him when he becomes a free agent at the end of the season. They received two second-round draft picks and a conditional third-rounder in return.

“This doesn’t make us better now, obviously,” Chiarelli said at the time, “but it’s something that, when I look at it in a series of steps, I think we made the right move.”

With Dougie Hamilton, Torey Krug and Reilly Smith set to become restricted free agents and Carl Soderberg an unrestricted free agent at season’s end, Chiarelli gave himself one less player to fit under the cap.

“We’ve got a lot of people to sign,” Chiarelli said. “There’s a list of priorities, and part of my job is to prioritize things. That’s a little bit of how it shakes out. I’d love to keep this team together player to player as long as I could if I felt it was prudent on the hockey front and the financial front. I’ve tried to keep the critical mass together and will continue to provide the right moves for the organization.”

Boychuk said the writing was on the wall.

“Everybody knew somebody was going to get traded,” he said. “Everybody. Everybody on the team.”

When he received the phone call from Chiarelli, Boychuk knew it was bad news.

“Peter phoned me when I was just waking up from my pregame nap, because I was supposed to play [against Detroit],” Boychuk. “As soon as I said ‘Hello’€™ and he said, ‘€˜Hi, Johnny, this is Peter,’€™ I was like, ‘Ugh.’€™ You know that you’€™re getting traded when Pete calls you.”

Added Boychuk: “He praised me, and obviously I was upset. It was the fact that I was leaving Boston and there’s a lot of things going through your mind when it happened. He said all positive things. It’s not like I [got myself traded]. You try to make things as hard as possible. It is what it is.”

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Read More: Johnny Boychuk, Peter Chiarelli, Top Boston Sports Stories of 2014,

Friday’s Morning Mashup: LeBron James receives mostly positive welcome back from Miami fans

12.26.14 at 8:26 am ET
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Welcome to Friday’s Morning Mashup. For the latest news, start at our WEEI.com home page or click here for the top stories from our news wire.

FRIDAY’S BROADCAST HIGHLIGHTS:
NBA: Nets at Celtics, 1 p.m. (CSNNE)
NBA: Hornets at Thunder, 8 p.m. (NBA TV)
College football: Heart of Dallas Bowl, Illinois vs. Louisiana Tech, 1 p.m. (ESPN)
College football: Quick Lane Bowl, Rutgers vs. North Carolina, 4:30 p.m. (ESPN)
College football: St. Petersburg Bowl, NC State vs. Central Florida, 8 p.m. (ESPN; WEEI-FM)
Soccer: Premier League, West Ham at Chelsea, 7:40 p.m. (NBCSN)
Soccer: Premier League, Newcastle at Manchester United, 10 a.m. (NBCSN)
Soccer: Premier League, Queens Park at Arsenal, 12:25 p.m. (NBCSN)

AROUND THE WEB:

— The Heat welcomed LeBron James back to Miami on Christmas Day before sending him home to Cleveland with a loss.

James hugged and high-fived his former teammates, taking extra time to joke around with Dwyane Wade, then saw Wade score 24 first-half points en route to a 31-point night in the Heat’s 101-91 victory.

James, who finished with 30 points and eight rebounds, was the first player introduced of Cleveland’s starters, and the crowd wasn’t given much time to react before the next player’s name was called. However, he received an ovation when a video tribute was played during the first timeout of the game. There were some boos but mostly cheers for his first game in South Florida since his four-year stint there.

“We only play this game for so long,” James said. “You’ve still got life afterwards. For us we’re going to compete, we’re going to go about our business and do what we need to do in our profession. You’ll never let friendship come in between that.”

James expressed dismay that people criticize his decision to switch teams as a free agent.

“The question I have, which is kind of bothering me sometimes, is when a player decides to decide his own fate, there is always questions about it?” James said. “And, ‘Why did this guy do that, do that and do this?’ When an organization decides to go elsewhere for a player, it’s that they did what’s best for the team. Let’s figure that out some time.”

James said he has not had any contact with team president Pat Riley since announcing his plans to sign with the Cavs, but he spent Christmas Eve at Wade’s house.

“We didn’t have a bad breakup,” Wade said. “We played against each other for seven years, man. The weirdness just wasn’t there. It wasn’t like we played against each other our whole career and the breakup happened. We played against each other for seven years, then with each other for a period of time, then he went back to the same situation and I’m in the same place.”

Said Heat coach Erik Spoelstra: “Couple of the best in this generation. Spectacular. I wish I could sit back and enjoy it like a fan, because it’s just fantastic basketball. … However long these two guys play, you’ll get your money’s worth.”

Rex Ryan might soon be headed out of town, but Geno Smith believes he can be with the Jets for the foreseeable future.

“I see myself being the quarterback here for a long time,” Smith said. “I see myself helping this team turn things around. Obviously, I’m a part of the reason why we are in this position, so I’d love to be a part of the solution.”

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Read More: Curt Schilling, Dwyane Wade, Geno Smith, Johnny Manziel

Top Boston Sports Stories of 2014, No. 11: Jerry Remy returns to Red Sox booth shortly before son pleads guilty to murder

12.25.14 at 5:08 pm ET
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Over the final days of the year, WEEI.com will count down the top 14 stories of 2014 in Boston sports. This is No. 11: NESN Red Sox announcer Jerry Remy returns to the booth shortly before his son pleads guilty to murder. To read other stories in this series, click here.

Remy LJ cartoon 14

Jerry Remy’s decision to return to the booth rekindled the debate over his role enabling his son’s violent behavior. (Larry Johnson/WEEI.com)

Not many Boston sports figures had it harder than Jerry Remy in the first half of 2014.

The longtime NESN broadcaster found himself consumed by his internal struggle, along with heated debate on the outside, as to whether or not he should return to the booth for the 2014 Red Sox season in the wake of his son, Jared, being charged with first-degree murder in the death of live-in girlfriend Jennifer Martel in August 2013.

Jared Remy was charged with fatally stabbing Martel, the mother of their 4-year-old daughter, on Aug. 15, 2013. Remy pleaded not guilty at the time and was held without bail, with a trial set to begin in October. Jerry Remy took a leave of absence following the incident and didn’t return to the broadcast booth for the remainder of the Red SoxWorld Series run.

Remy announced at a news conference in January that he would be returning to the Red Sox broadcast booth for the 2014 season. He said he was leaning toward not returning to the booth as late as New Year’s Day, but opted to return after gaining support from his close friends along with his wife, Phoebe.

“It’€™s always been my comfort zone, for 40 years. I can’€™t sit there. I just can’€™t sit in my chair. I’ve been there long enough already,”€ Remy said at the time. “€œI’ve got to be busy. I’ve got to do something to preoccupy myself. I need to do something I enjoy. And this is what I enjoy doing and I always have. I’ve done it for 26 years. This will be No. 27 as an announcer. I still enjoy it. I’€™m not crazy about the 4 o’€™clock arrivals, but the game itself I truly love, and I always have and I still do, and that’€™s not going to go away. So hopefully it will be therapeutic in some ways.”

Remy returned to the NESN booth alongside play-by-play man Don Orsillo in spring training with his son still facing murder charges. The discussion from the booth was centered around baseball, as Remy said it would be.

But the debate over whether or not Remy should return took a dramatic twist on March 23 when an extensive Boston Globe story detailed Jared Remy’s long history of run-ins with the law, primarily involving domestic abuse allegations.

The Globe article painted Jerry and Phoebe as enablers for their troubled son as his constant legal troubles resulted in just one short jail term thanks to the help of a high-priced lawyer hired by the Remys.

Just five days after the report came out, Remy told Dennis & Callahan he tried to get his son treated for his mental issues but never considered stopping his support of him.

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Read More: jared remy, jerry remy, Top Boston Sports Stories of 2014,

Top Boston Sports Stories of 2014, No. 12: On 1-year anniversary of Boston Marathon bombing, American wins race for first time in 31 years

12.25.14 at 11:55 am ET
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Over the final days of the year, WEEI.com will count down the top 14 stories of 2014 in Boston sports. This is No. 12: On the one-year anniversary of the Boston Marathon bombing, an American wins the race for the first time in 31 years. To read other stories in this series, click here.

Meb Keflezighi didn’t even compete in the 2013 Boston Marathon. He was just a spectator. But after witnessing the tragedy of the bombings from the stands, he vowed to take part in the next race in Boston.

In 2014, he was a champion. Keflezighi became the first American man to win the Boston Marathon since 1983, and at 38 years old, he was the oldest to finish first in 83 years.

“Boston strong, America strong,” Keflezighi said after winning the race. “To come back from what was a disaster to a patriotic day.”

Keflezighi nearly competed in the 2013 race, but he pulled out about a week before because on an injury. Although he didn’t run, being at the marathon was an emotional experience, as it was for many who witnessed the explosions at the finish line.

“We started crying because we knew how many people were there,” Keflezighi said.

Before running in the Boston Marathon, Keflezighi, an immigrant from Eritrea, won a silver medal for the United States in the 2004 Athens Olympics and also finished first in the 2009 New York City Marathon. But he had never won in Boston, finishing fifth in 2010.

With talented Kenyan racer Wilson Chebet in a field of over 35,000 runners, it would be an uphill battle for Keflezighi. After coming in 23rd place on November 2013 in New York, it appeared that Keflezighi might not have a shot to win in Boston. His personal-best time of 2:09:08 was viewed as a figure that would never be something Keflizighi could top.

“Most people thought my career was done,” Keflezighi said. “But you can’t test the heart.”

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Read More: 2014 Boston Marathon, Meb Keflezighi, Top Boston Sports Stories of 2014,

Top Boston Sports Stories of 2014, No. 13: BC’s Pete Frates inspires ice bucket challenge phenomenon

12.24.14 at 7:48 pm ET
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Over the final days of the year, WEEI.com will count down the top 14 stories of 2014 in Boston sports. This is No. 13: Pete Frates inspires ice bucket challenge phenomenon. To read other stories in this series, click here.

Two years ago, Pete Frates found out he had amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, better known as Lou Gehrig‘s disease. The former Boston College baseball captain and Beverly native had to deal with the reality that his voice was gone and his mobility would be restricted.

But even with his body working against him, Frates helped create a viral campaign in 2014 along with friend and fellow ALS patient Patrick Quinn that raised awareness and millions of dollars for research for the debilitating illness.

The ice bucket challenge campaign started with videos of Frates’ friends and family dumping ice water on their heads, then challenging other people to do the same within 24 hours or make a donation to ALS research.

The challenge spread like wildfire by the end of July, and thousands of people shared their own ice bucket challenge videos through social media. Local teams and athletes got into the act, including challenges from multiple Bruins players and a video from the entire Red Sox front office. Tweets, retweets and Facebook shares allowed the challenge to go national. Famous personalities across the country like Bill Gates, Oprah Winfrey and former president George W. Bush, among others, dumped ice water on their heads for the cause.

He couldn’t play baseball anymore, but Frates brought a strong mentality from his playing days to this campaign.

“As a jock and locker-room guy, Pete lived by the code, ‘Go big or go home,’ ” his father, John Frates, said. “But when the videos started jumping out of the immediate circle of family and friends, to pro athletes like the Bruins, Patriots and his high-profile BC classmates — Matt Ryan of the Atlanta Falcons and Brian Boyle of the Tampa Bay Lightning — it started to get crazy. The sheer power of association and calling out three or more to accept the challenge, it was the perfect formula to go viral.”

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Read More: Cory Schneider, Matt Ryan, Pete Frates, Top Boston Sports Stories of 2014