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Year in Review: 1997

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Re-rank the list of top sports stories of 1997

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Tiger Woods takes
golf world by storm

Pedro Martinez signs
record deal with Sox

Latrell Sprewell
assaults coach, gets ax

Rick Pitino becomes
Celtics coach, president

Bill Parcells quits after Patriots' banner year

Martina Hingis
rules women's tennis

Florida Marlins win World Series

Women's pro hoop
meets with success

A Patriots surprise:
Super Bowl XXXI berth

Wil Cordero charged
with assaulting wife


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Check out the top news stories of 1997

Players take it in stride

By Nick Cafardo, Globe Staff, 02/01/97

For the most part, the Patriots players seemed philosophical yesterday after Bill Parcells announced he was leaving as coach.

Parcells' departure might particularly affect one player, linebacker Chris Slade, an unrestricted free agent who could be inclined to stay now. It's no secret that Parcells wasn't a Slade favorite after benching the linebacker and making him a platoon player. Slade's value went sky high when he delivered in the second half of the season.

"Bill Parcells is a good coach," said Slade. "He brought me in and taught me a lot about playing in the NFL. We enjoyed a lot of success this season, but this is a business. His decision to leave is a business decision that he had to make for himself and for his family. He chose not to continue with the Patriots, but that isn't going to affect the direction of this team."

Kicker Adam Vinatieri was loyal to Parcells, who took some heat for dumping veteran Matt Bahr right before the start of the season in favor of the rookie from the World League.

"I admire him," said Vinatieri. "He stuck with me and gave me the opportunity to play in the NFL. But business is business."

Defensive tackle Chad Eaton said, "I learned a lot from Coach Parcells and I respect him as a coach. I wish him the best in the future."

Across the continent in Hawaii, several members of the Patriots' six-man Pro Bowl contingent checked in with their sentiments.

Defensive end Willie McGinest sounded like a man who'd lost one too many times in a week.

"I was disappointed. I didn't want to see him leave," said McGinest. "You know, I figured Bill was going to be here for at least a couple more years. Especially after the season we had, and that we came so close, I figured he'd come back and try to go for it again."

McGinest hoped against the inevitable but said he picked up strong emotional vibes from Parcells in the locker room after Sunday's 35-21 Super Bowl loss to the Green Bay Packers.

"I went up to Bill and I hugged him. He had a look in his eyes and said, `You had a great year. You've been a great kid.' And he kissed me. That's the first time he's ever done that, so I figured something was up."

McGinest choked a bit on the words.

"I told him we needed him, and he was a big part of the reason we were there in New Orleans. But he said he understood there were circumstances that propelled fate.

"I know that Bill had some differences with some people, but I can respect that. I'm just appreciative of what he's given me and all the things he's taught me. I learned so much from him in three years, it's unbelievable."

Running back Curtis Martin was much less emotional, but he, too, said he'll miss Parcells.

"I have a lot of respect for Coach Parcells and I think he's maybe the greatest coach in the NFL," said Martin. "But the way I see it, it's his business what he does. I'm the type of player who will get along with whoever coaches."

Quarterback Drew Bledsoe said, "If he does go to the Jets, they need discipline and he could provide that. He's certainly been successful with us."

Return specialist David Meggett, who played on Parcells' 1991 Super Bowl champions with the Giants, said nothing surprises him anymore in the NFL. "I've seen everything in this league," he said.


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