Glendale, Ariz. — Wayne Gretzky’s tenure as coach of the Phoenix Coyotes, a period marked largely by on-ice futility, ended abruptly Thursday when the “Great One” announced he would be stepping down amid the financial turmoil surrounding the team.
The Coyotes hired former Dallas Stars coach Dave Tippett hours after Gretzky announced his departure, which had been rumored as the bankruptcy court battle between Canadian billionaire Jim Balsillie and the NHL over the sale of the team dragged on.
“This was a difficult decision that I’ve thought long and hard about,” Gretzky said in a statement Thursday on his Web site. “We all hoped there would be a resolution earlier this month to the Coyotes ownership situation, but the decision is taking longer than expected.”
Gretzky, who was due to make $8.5 million this season, coached the Coyotes from 2005-2009, finishing 143-161-24, and the team missed the playoffs in all four seasons. Gretzky, 48, also owns a small piece of the franchise.
Ohio boy recovering
Akron, Ohio — Brain swelling has subsided in a 4-year-old Ohio boy whose skull was fractured when he was hit by a foul ball at a minor-league baseball game, doctors said. Luke Holko can move his arms and legs and appears to blink his eyes when spoken to, but he can’t talk. Doctors at Akron Children’s Hospital said a brain-stem injury is healing.
Renault loses 2 sponsors
Madrid — Renault lost sponsorship deals with insurance companies Mutua Madrilena and ING on Thursday in the wake of the Formula One team’s race-fixing scandal. Mutua Madrilena said its move was based on Monday’s decision by F1 ruling body FIA that Renault deliberately had one of its cars crash during last year’s Singapore Grand Prix.
Pierce launches campaign
New York — Kansas University product Paul Pierce has launched a campaign to fight childhood obesity.
The Boston Celtics star created “The Truth on Health Campaign” as part of his charitable foundation. It includes a Web-based club that encourages kids aged 10-14 to make a one-year pledge to eat healthy and participate in an hour of physical activity each day.
Knicks, Lee agree
New York — Power forward David Lee re-signed with the New York Knicks Thursday, on a one-year deal worth about $8 million.
Russian called unpatriotic
Moscow — Russian tycoon Mikhail Prokhorov’s bid to buy the New Jersey Nets was called “unpatriotic” by a member of his country’s upper parliament chamber’s sports committee.
“I can’t consider this action as anything other than unpatriotic,” sports committee member Aslambek Aslakhanov said Thursday, according to the state news agency RIA Novosti.
Army fires Crews
West Point, N.Y. — Army fired men’s basketball coach Jim Crews after seven losing seasons.
Crews brought the Black Knights to the Patriot League tournament semifinals the past three seasons, but his best overall record was 15-16 in 2006-07. Army went 11-19 last season. In seven years, Crews had a record of 60-139.
O’Hair takes early lead
Atlanta — Sean O’Hair opened with a 4-under 66 on Thursday to take a one-shot lead over Tiger Woods in the final FedEx Cup playoff event. Woods recovered from a shaky start with three birdies during a four-hole stretch on the back nine to shoot 67, leaving him tied with Padraig Harrington and Stewart Cink.
Britain, Ireland ahead
Saint-Nom-La-Breteche, France — Britain and Ireland led, 3-2, over Europe after Thursday’s opening fourball event of the Vivendi Trophy on the European Tour.
McNabb likely out vs. K.C.
Philadelphia — Donovan
McNabb is still not able to practice, and it appears unlikely he will play this week. McNabb, who suffered a broken rib in a season-opening victory over the Carolina Panthers, is expected to miss his second straight game as the Philadelphia Eagles host the Kansas City Chiefs.
Kevin Kolb started last week in a loss to the New Orleans Saints and is expected to start again. Veterans Jeff Garcia and Michael Vick will be the backups.
Giants shelve Phillips
East Rutherford, N.J. — Safety Kenny Phillips will miss the rest of the New York Giants’ season due to an injury to his left knee.
Carter fined $5,000
Pittsburgh — Pittsburgh Steelers safety Tyrone Carter has been fined $5,000 for a hit that left him with a bruised left thigh.
Sanchez will play Sunday
Florham Park, N.J. — New York Jets rookie quarterback Mark Sanchez has some tendinitis in his right knee that isn’t expected to affect his availability for this weekend’s game against Tennessee.
LT, Merriman miss practice
San Diego — Seven San Diego Chargers players missed practice on Thursday, including running back LaDainian Tomlinson and outside linebacker Shawne Merriman. Tomlinson said his injury was getting better, but he’s not sure if he’ll be able to play Sunday. Merriman said he’ll practice today.
Peterson says he’s ready
Eden Prairie, Minn. — Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson said Thursday that his back injury is “not a big deal at all,” meaning he should play against San Francisco this weekend.
Mays plans to return
Los Angeles — Southern California coach Pete Carroll says All-America safety Taylor Mays will return from a knee injury Saturday against Washington State. Mays is a bit less certain, putting his chances of playing at about “50-50,” he says.