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Finals Watch: Presidential shot, top coach, player

Thursday - 4/4/2013, 9:40pm  ET

NCAA President Mark Emmert speaks at a news conference Thursday, April 4, 2013, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

ATLANTA (AP) -- Around the Final Four and its host city with journalists from The Associated Press bringing the flavor and details of everything surrounding the games.


Presidential parting shot

The formal question-and-answer portion of his news conference had just ended when NCAA president Mark Emmert looked at a reporter and said "I know you're disappointed, but I'm still here."

It was a fitting parting shot on Thursday for Emmert, who has faced criticism as the NCAA has revealed it broke its own rules while investigating the scandal involving a Miami booster.

Emmert said dealing with criticism is a part of his job, especially as the NCAA goes through change.

"If you're gonna launch a change agenda you've got to be able to deal with criticism," he said.

-- Charles Odum --


Coach, player of the year

Michigan guard Trey Burke has been named The Associated Press' college basketball player of the year, and Miami's Jim Larranaga has been named the AP's coach of the year.

Burke wasn't able to attend the ceremony Thursday, he was with his the Wolverine teammates preparing for the national semifinal against Syracuse on Saturday night.

Larranaga was on hand and spoke to the media afterward.

Burke is the first Michigan player to win the award since Cazzie Russell in 1966. Burke got 31 votes, easily outdistancing Otto Porter Jr. of Georgetown, who had 16.

Larranaga won his award with 29 votes. Jim Crews of Saint Louis was second with 19.

-- Noah Trister --


Louisville's 'great motivator'

Kevin Ware is from Rockdale County High School, about 40 minutes east of Atlanta, and he has returned to Georgia a sudden celebrity.

Ware, Louisville's sophomore guard, suffered gruesome compound fractures in his right leg in Sunday's Midwest Regional final win over Duke that sent the Cardinals to the Final Four. He had successful surgery and flew with the team to Atlanta.

Coach Rick Pitino says he's proud of the way Ware and his teammates have handled the shocking injury.

"I think it's going to be a great motivator for us," Pitino said Thursday. "I don't think I've ever been more proud of a group of young men the way they acted and cried their brains out for Kevin, and then the way Kevin got them together and the way he reacted.

"Now we are refocused. Kevin's with us."

And Ware is a celebrity.

"He's doing David Letterman's top 10," Pitino said before adding with a laugh "I don't know if he has time for us."

-- Charles Odum


MLK the basketball player

Former U.N. Ambassador Andrew Young said Thursday that civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. was a pretty good basketball player.

Young noted that Thursday marks the 45th anniversary of King's assassination in Memphis, Tenn. Young recalled watching King play basketball on courts around Atlanta in the early days of the civil rights movement.

It was necessary to build community support, Young said: "The only place to get to some of the young people was on the basketball court, and they wouldn't listen to you until you got in the game with them."

As for King's skills, Young said, "Even though he was shorter than me, he could handle the basketball. And he could shoot well with either hand."

-- Bill Barrow --


Chilly, soggy start

The Final Four coaches made their first appearances in Atlanta on Thursday. Atlanta's spring weather? That's still at least a day or two away.

The city is all dressed up for college basketball's biggest event. Stages are set up and banners have been raised in Centennial Olympic Park, near the Georgia Dome where the games will be played, but the gloomy weather put an early damper on the festive spirit.

Fans arriving early for the Final Four found soggy and cold conditions in Atlanta. The forecast called for temperatures to remain below 50 on Thursday. Low clouds covered the top of the skyscrapers in downtown Atlanta, where all the Final Four activities are planned. Brisk winds and light rain added to the gloom.

At least it's not as bad as Atlanta's infamous Super Bowl freeze. An ice storm made travel through downtown treacherous in January 2000 for the Super Bowl between the St. Louis Rams and Tennessee Titans.

This week's forecast is more promising. The rain is expected to leave by Friday, when the projected high is 62 degrees. Saturday will look more like spring, with a forecast for sun and a high in the low 70s.

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