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IT’S BEEN NEARLY seven months since Bryan Harsin walked out of his football office at Auburn for the last time.

He did so with a $15.3 million parting gift — the kind of pricey buyout Auburn has become known for when it comes to fired football coaches — and a promise to himself and his family that his sights would remain straight ahead and not in the rearview mirror.

“I wasn’t going to let it eat at me, no matter how s—ty some of the things were that my family had to endure,” Harsin told ESPN recently in his first extended interview since being fired Oct. 31, 2022.

“There were things we didn’t like. There were things that were disappointing, on and off the field. There were things that I wish I would have done better, and there were things where we got a chance to see some of the worst in people.

“At the same time, here we are. We’re thriving.”

Harsin is back home in Boise, Idaho, with his family and a group of close friends, some of whom he went to college with at Boise State. He never sold his house when he made the move to Auburn on Dec. 22, 2020, and when he was fired 22 months later, it was an easy decision to head back. The return to Idaho has been therapeutic for Harsin and his family, really from the time he and wife Kes loaded their two dogs and embarked on the 33-hour cross-country drive back to Boise, where they first met as teenagers in junior high school.

“The person who bought our home in Auburn bought it as is, furniture and everything,” Harsin said. “We flew the kids back, and Kes and I jumped in the car. We drove through Mississippi and Louisiana, through rainstorms, through Colorado in the snow with a truck driver in front of us. We had a hell of a time.”

It was the start of Harsin seeing a life beyond coaching, which has made it easier to forget everything that went wrong at Auburn.

And a lot did go wrong.

THINGS started going wrong even before he had the Auburn job. His interview with the school, which was conducted over Zoom, had some glitches. “The screen went blank during the interview. I couldn’t see them, but they told me to keep on, so I kept rocking along,” Harsin said. “I walked out of my office, and my wife asked me how it went. I said, ‘I don’t know. The screen went blank, and I couldn’t even see them.'”

But that wasn’t the end of the technical difficulties. Harsin finished 9-12 in less than two seasons, losing 10 of his final 13 games, and never gained any real traction on the recruiting trail. He was viewed as an outsider by influential boosters from the time he stepped foot on campus and experienced a mass exodus of players and coaches following his first season.

Following the departures, a university-directed investigation into Harsin and his relationships with players and staff members left him in limbo for eight days. He was retained, but during that time, social media message boards were filled with ugly rumors about Harsin and his family and their personal lives. “Everything we were going through — these players, this program, the attacks on my character and my family — was bulls—,” Harsin told ESPN in the wake of the investigation.

Then, just before the start of Harsin’s second season in 2022, Allen Greene, the athletic director who hired him, stepped down as it was clear new university president Chris Roberts had no intention of renewing Greene’s contract.

Once again, Harsin was left in a difficult spot, or as one rival SEC coach told ESPN prior to last season, “cut off at the knees” in a league that chews up and spits out even the most established coaches. Harsin was fired after a home loss to Arkansas left Auburn with a 3-5 record. A statement from the school said Roberts “made the decision after a thorough review and evaluation of all aspects of the football program.”

“We dealt with it as a family, and it made us even closer, because that was the first real failure in a lot of ways because we were winning and had a lot of success everywhere else we’d been,” said Harsin, who won 10 or more games in five of his six full seasons as head coach at Boise State. He also was part of two undefeated seasons as the Broncos’ offensive coordinator under Chris Petersen.

Successful coaches don’t typically forget how to coach overnight. But for myriad reasons, the Harsin/Auburn marriage just never was a fit.

“You learn in every situation, the good and the bad,” Harsin said. “But when you really get tested as we were at Auburn, and it’s the same challenge for your players, your true colors are going to show in how you handle it. Certainly, there are things we could have done better and things we would have done differently if you could go back.

“But as a family, we stood on the things we believed in and held firm on those things. That was our foundation, and that’s the way we’re moving forward.”

HARSIN CAN’T SAY whether he will be ready to be back on the sideline for the 2024 season. The 46-year-old said he received some interest from schools after being fired, but nothing he felt was right.

Plus, he’s getting to do things that would have never been possible in the past. He’s enjoyed three-hour lunches with former teammates and old friends and spends mornings with his wife drinking coffee, working out and helping clean the house.

“Kes is probably enjoying it as much as I am, watching me go through all the things she has all these years,” Harsin said with a laugh. “The most important thing, though, is that we’re doing things. We’re not sitting around and moping and watching Netflix. We are active and out, and we are trying to better ourselves and take advantage of the time we have together.”

They went to see a Kane Brown concert, and Harsin is building a 1969 Mustang Mach 1, “a bad machine,” as he calls it. It takes him back to his days of racing drag cars at speeds of 200 mph when he finished high school. His father, Dale Harsin, was one of the pioneers of Funny Car racing in the early 1970s, and at one point, Harsin thought his future would be in racing cars and not coaching football.

Harsin’s father was a huge part of his childhood, and he’s used the past few months to strengthen the connection with his son. He recently went on a whirlwind football tour to several colleges with his son, Davis, a rising senior at Eagle High in the Boise suburbs and quarterback prospect at the college level.

Some of Davis’ teammates and their fathers were also part of the tour, and as much as anything, Harsin soaked up the chance to be a dad, listen to his son ask questions to coaches and see the recruiting process from a whole different perspective.

They visited Pac-12 schools and smaller schools, too, from Oregon and Cal to UC Davis and Idaho State. Idaho State coach Cody Hawkins is the son of Dan Hawkins, who hired Harsin at Boise State in 2001 as a graduate assistant.

“It was really cool hearing Davis’ thoughts and what he got out of sitting in some of the meetings and watching the practices,” Harsin said. “It’s an experience I’ll always remember, being able to go to all these places with my son, tap into some of our connections with past coaching colleagues … and do it as a dad and not so much as a coach.”

During their travels, Harsin couldn’t help but think back to a conversation he used to have with Petersen at Boise State.

“I used to tell Pete, ‘Wouldn’t it be awesome if coaches could take a year, like a sabbatical, and go out there and see other things and get a different perspective on stuff?'” Harsin recalled.

Petersen’s response was always the same: “Yeah, that’s called getting fired.”

Harsin has heard from numerous coaches since his firing, including Mack Brown, for whom he was offensive coordinator at Texas. Harsin said former Duke and Ole Miss coach David Cutcliffe, now working for the SEC, gave him some of the best advice.

“He said that when he got fired [at Ole Miss] that he jumped right back in and it wasn’t the right thing to do,” Harsin said. “I have tremendous respect for David Cutcliffe and just his wisdom on things. He told me to take some time, and I had that in my mind already, and that conversation with him only helped.”

Former Washington coach Jimmy Lake sent Harsin a so-called game plan for how to cope with losing a job. There were about 15 things on the list. Among them: Don’t panic. Be yourself. Have no regrets. Get out of the house.

Another one was to do something you’ve always wanted to do.

For Harsin, that was spending more quality time with his entire family. Both of his daughters, Devyn and Dayn, are also in the Boise area. Devyn is an esthetician, and Dayn (named after former Wisconsin Heisman Trophy winner Ron Dayne) is a junior at Boise State.

“I feel as good as I’ve ever felt, refreshed,” Harsin said. “My body feels good. My mind feels good. I feel younger and have a lot in my tank to go do whatever I choose to do.

“Right now, that’s enjoying my family.”

HARSIN IS NOT interested in looking back, even though he says his short time at Auburn would help him be more discerning, more selective and more inquisitive when and if he decides to go back down the coaching road.

“The first thing I would say is that I would ask different questions,” Harsin said. “The football piece is just one piece. It’s everything else around the program that really matters. You can solve a lot of problems by asking the right questions, not the football part so much, but everything else.”

One of the most challenging things for Harsin when he took the job was that he arrived with COVID-19 restrictions still in place. A frequent criticism of Harsin was that he didn’t make enough of an effort to get to know key power brokers and establish himself in the Auburn community, an approach his critics say also spilled over into recruiting.

“It was difficult to get out and see anybody, to meet people,” he said. “And from that point, in some ways, it felt like you were playing from behind.”

New Auburn coach Hugh Freeze is the school’s third head coach in four seasons. Auburn has fired its past five coaches and paid a total of $44.2 million in buyout money to the past three.

Harsin isn’t in the business of giving advice, but he’s more convinced than ever that complete alignment from the president to the board of trustees to the athletic director is critical to win consistently in the SEC, especially when you’re playing Alabama and Georgia every year.

“But we don’t want to make that our problem any longer,” Harsin said. “That’s Auburn’s problem. We’ve moved on and being home has never felt better.”

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Canadian fires force MLB, WNBA postponements




Canadian fires force MLB, WNBA postponements

Major League Baseball has announced it is postponing games in New York and Philadelphia on Wednesday night because of poor air quality caused by smoke from Canadian wildfires.

A National Women’s Soccer League game in New Jersey and an indoor WNBA game set for Brooklyn were also called off Wednesday amid hazy conditions that have raised alarms from health authorities.

The New York Yankees‘ game against the Chicago White Sox was rescheduled as part of a doubleheader starting at 4:05 p.m. on Thursday, and the Philadelphia Phillies‘ game against the Detroit Tigers was reset for 6:05 p.m. on Thursday, originally an off day for both teams.

“These postponements were determined following conversations throughout the day with medical and weather experts and all of the impacted clubs regarding clearly hazardous air quality conditions in both cities,” MLB said in a statement.

The National Weather Service issued an air quality alert for New York City, saying: “the New York State Department of Health recommends that individuals consider limiting strenuous outdoor physical activity to reduce the risk of adverse health effects.” In Philadelphia, the NWS issued a Code Red.

The Yankees and White Sox played through a lesser haze on Tuesday night.

The WNBA said a game between the Minnesota Lynx and New York Liberty would not be played Wednesday, saying the decision was made to “protect the health and safety of our fans, teams and community.” A makeup date wasn’t immediately announced.

The NWSL postponed Orlando’s match at Gotham in Harrison, New Jersey, from Wednesday night to Aug. 9.

“The match could not be safely conducted based on the projected air quality index,” the NWSL said.

At nearby Belmont Park, The New York Racing Association said training went on as planned ahead of Saturday’s Triple Crown horse race.

“NYRA utilizes external weather services and advanced on-site equipment to monitor weather conditions and air quality in and around Belmont Park,” spokesman Patrick McKenna said Wednesday. “Training was conducted normally today, and NYRA will continue to assess the overall environment to ensure the safety of training and racing throughout the Belmont Stakes Racing Festival.”

New York’s NFL teams, the Giants and Jets, both had Wednesday off from offseason workouts. The Giants had been planning to practice inside Thursday, and the Jets say they are also likely to work out indoors Thursday.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Yankees place Judge on 10-day IL with toe injury




Yankees place Judge on 10-day IL with toe injury

NEW YORK — For the second time this season, the New York Yankees will need to play without Aaron Judge.

New York placed its superstar slugger on the injured list with a contusion and a ligament sprain in his right big toe, it was announced Wednesday.

Judge does not have a fracture or break in his toe, according to team physician Dr. Christopher Ahmad.

“The biggest thing now is trying to get the swelling out of there,” manager Aaron Boone said Tuesday. “He had some improvements today, but now we’ll see where he is in the coming days and then week. But the biggest thing is getting the swelling out of there.”

“I think it definitely could have been worse. Hopefully it’s on the shorter side of things.”

Judge was hurt while making a running catch and crashing into the outfield fence Saturday against the Dodgers and hadn’t played since.

He also spent time on the injured list earlier this season because of a right hamstring strain. When he’s been healthy, Judge has put up MVP-type numbers again, hitting .291/.404/.674 with 19 homers and 2.2 bWAR in 49 games.

New York’s pitching depth also is getting tested.

Nestor Cortes will be placed on the injured list due to a left shoulder injury. Boone mentioned Cortes has struggled to bounce back between starts. He’s expected to miss at least two starts.

Cortes has a 5.16 ERA in 11 starts, striking out 59 batters in 59⅓ innings.

To replace Cortes, New York called up Randy Vasquez from Triple-A. The righty made his major league debut on May 26 against the San Diego Padres, allowing two runs in 4⅔ innings pitched.

Also, pitcher Ryan Weber was diagnosed with a UCL strain and has been placed on the 60-day injured list. The 32-year-old righty has pitched in eight games this season, posting a 3.14 ERA in 14⅓ innings.

In a related roster move, the Yankees recalled outfielder Billy McKinney.

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Why this Stanley Cup is so important to Indigenous players Brandon Montour and Zach Whitecloud




Why this Stanley Cup is so important to Indigenous players Brandon Montour and Zach Whitecloud

LAS VEGAS — For the Florida PanthersBrandon Montour and the Vegas Golden KnightsZach Whitecloud, this year’s Stanley Cup Final carries a significance that goes well beyond both of them trying to help their teams win what would be each franchise’s first championship.

They are also part of the conversation about representation in hockey.

While records have not been meticulously kept, Montour and Whitecloud appear to be the first pair of players who identify as Indigenous to play against each other in a Stanley Cup Final in more than 30 years, based on data compiled by Hockey Indigenous, a Canadian nonprofit organization that promotes the sport among Indigenous people.

“I think it’s obviously pretty crazy. I don’t know the exact number of Indigenous players on the Stanley Cup, but just the league in general, to have that is huge,” said Montour, who is in his third season with the Panthers. “To support not just my reserve and his reserve, but the whole countries of Canada and the [United States] will be watching. The support will be huge for both of us.”

Both Montour and Whitecloud, who did not know each other before the Cup Final, are among 10 players on current NHL rosters who identify as Indigenous. The list also features Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price, Washington Capitals forward T.J. Oshie, Ottawa Senators defenseman Travis Hamonic and Vancouver Canucks defenseman Ethan Bear.

A New York Times story from 2018 suggests that Tony Gingras along with brothers, Magnus and Rod Flett, might have been the first Indigenous players to win a Stanley Cup in 1901 and 1902, when they played for the Winnipeg Victorias. Gingras along with both Flett brothers were Métis, according to The Times.

Since then, there have been numerous Indigenous players who have won a Stanley Cup. They include four members of the Hockey Hall of Fame: George Armstrong, Theo Fleury, Grant Fuhr and Bryan Trottier. Other Indigenous players to win a Cup include Dwight King, Jamie Leach, Reggie Leach, Jordan Nolan and Chris Simon.

Oshie is the most recent Indigenous player to win a Stanley Cup when he helped the Capitals beat the Golden Knights to win the first title in franchise history during the 2017-18 season.

The meeting between Montour and Whitecloud appears to be at least the fourth time two Indigenous players have faced each other in a Cup Final since 1980.

That year, Trottier and the New York Islanders defeated Leach and the Philadelphia Flyers in six games. In 1983, Trottier and the Islanders faced Fuhr and the Edmonton Oilers, but Fuhr did not play in the Final, which the Isles won. A year later, Fuhr did play as he and the Oilers beat Trottier and the Islanders for the title.

Based on information on, the most recent meeting between Indigenous players on opposite teams in the Cup Final came in 1989, when the Calgary Flames beat the Montreal Canadiens. Fleury, who is Métis, played against Shayne Corson, who is also reported to be Métis. ESPN contacted an event management firm that represents Corson to seek clarification but did not receive a response.

“It’s a cool experience for a lot of our youth in our communities. … It’s about sending a message to a lot of those kids that this is possible,” said Whitecloud, who is in his third full season with the Golden Knights. “Dreaming and going after your dreams are attainable. That’s the most important part for me. It’s being able to get to this point but also, being a role model in terms of saying this is possible with hard work, dedication and that doesn’t stem from just hockey. … Whatever your passion is in life, go get it.”

Montour, who is Mohawk from Six Nations of the Grand River, has been one of the Panthers’ best players this season. He finished the regular season with 16 goals and 73 points, shattering his previous career highs of 11 goals and 37 points in 2021-22.

In the postseason, Montour is leading the Panthers and third in the NHL in average ice time at 27:29 per game. His six goals are tied for third on the Panthers, while his nine points are the most for a Panthers defenseman.

“You see players like myself come from the same town as you or little towns where all of us came from, it just gives that sense of hope,” said Montour, who grew up in Oshweken, Ontario. “When I was a kid, I was in the same situation trying to watch and follow the footsteps of my heroes and guys I looked up to. To be in that spot, obviously, is huge and you take that in a full serious note and enjoy playing for all of them.”

Whitecloud, who grew up in the Sioux Valley Dakota Nation, about 30 miles west of Brandon, Manitoba, expressed a similar sentiment. Growing up close to Brandon, he saw players who reached the NHL, both those who were from there or who played for the WHL’s Brandon Wheat Kings.

Keegan Kolesar, Whitecloud’s Vegas teammate, is from Brandon, and Golden Knights general manager Kelly McCrimmon played for the Wheat Kings before becoming their coach, GM and owner prior to reaching the NHL.

But Whitecloud said there were no hockey players who came from the Sioux Valley Dakota Nation who went further than juniors. He said his dad was among them, but the numbers were few from the Sioux Valley Dakota Nation, which has a population of 2,500.

Whitecloud said his dad has always been his hockey role model and continues to have a passion for the game. It’s what led to Whitecloud working his way to the Golden Knights, signing as an undrafted free agent after two seasons at Bemidji State University. He spent two seasons playing for Vegas’ AHL affiliate before he became a full-time NHL player during the 2020-21 season.

Jennifer Bone, who is chief of the Sioux Valley Dakota Nation, told ESPN there is an immense sense of pride in that community watching Whitecloud. She said there is a sign that welcomes people when they enter the community that reads, “Home of NHL player Zach Whitecloud of the Vegas Golden Knights.”

“When we had a watch party last week, we gave away T-shirts at the school and there are cars driving around with flags on their window and people have flags outside their homes,” Bone said. “They are really supportive and people are being fans of Zach. … It’s like, ‘Wow, he is in the Stanley Cup playoffs’ and the success he has had over the past few seasons and the limited number of First Nation who have achieved that in hockey makes it more inspiring for our community members.

“Just having that and having him and Brandon Montour in the Stanley Cup Final just shows the representation of Indigenous people and showcases the talent that they have.”

Like Montour, Whitecloud has made significant contributions to the Golden Knights’ playoff run. The biggest came in Game 1 of the Cup Final, when he had the winning goal in a 5-2 Vegas victory. Whitecloud is averaging just under 19 minutes per game but has paired with Nicolas Hague to create a defensive partnership that has logged the most 5-on-5 ice time of any Golden Knights pairing in the playoffs.

Bone said the Sioux Valley Dakota Nation will continue to have watch parties. The nation’s website features a graphic that includes a picture of Whitecloud and words such as “Ambassador,” “Role Model,” “Trail Blazer” and “Warrior.”

The Six Nations of the Grand River also will host watch parties for every game of the Stanley Cup Final, according to the community’s official website, with Chief Mark B. Hill issuing a news release that said Montour “represents Six Nations of the Grand River with pride.”

Bone said she received a phone call from Hill days before the Cup Final in which they talked about the significance of seeing two members of their communities represent what it means to be Indigenous on hockey’s biggest stage.

“Jordin Tootoo was one of the role models for me, and Micheal Ferland and some of those guys,” Whitecloud said. “People that look like me that got to those levels. That was always cool, but I was never the player that was first picked for teams or was always praised for being that person. I was fine with that. I think that’s a big part of why I am where I am today. I genuinely played the game because I love it.”

Bone was not able to attend the Game 1 watch party but said more than 100 people did, which she said is a strong number for their community events.

While she was talking about the watch parties, Bone said she had thought about what would happen if the Golden Knights won the Stanley Cup and what it would mean for Whitecloud to have his day with the Cup in their community.

“It would be a huge event for us and a huge celebration,” Bone said. “Zach returns to the community during the summer months, and he was here for an annual power celebration. Him visiting and spending a few hours with people is a big deal. There was a line of people wanting photographs, autographs or have him sign whatever memorabilia and meet with him and have a chat with him. It’s definitely going to be a huge event if that happens.”

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