Today in sports: Another member of the Red Sox braintrust may be leaving town, Kobe Bryant's move to Italy runs into a scheduling snag, and the perilous state lockout talks didn't stop five NBA stars from enjoying a night out in New York this past weekend.
- On Friday, the Boston Red Sox announced that manager Terry Francona wouldn't return to manage the team in 2012. Now it looks like general manager Theo Epstein could be on the move as well, possibly to take over as general manager of the Chicago Cubs, who fired Jim Hendry in August. Epstein technically still has a year left on his contract with the Red Sox, but the club pointedly still hasn't picked up his option for 2012. If they don't do so by Saturday, Epstein will be free to take any job he wants, with Chicago seen as the most likely landing spot, since they could also make him team president. One baseball source tells ESPN Red Sox reporter Gordon Edes the odds of Epstein leaving Boston for Chicago right now are about "50/50," but he's reportedly been interested in the job since it opened up back in August. Along with the Cubs, the Los Angeles Angels are also reportedly interested in bringing in Epstein. [ESPN Boston]
- Vritus Bologna team president Claudio Sabatini told reporters to expect an update on the team's pursuit of Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant's later Monday night. On Friday, Sabatini told the Associated Press a deal for Bryant to join the Italian team for 35 days was "95% done," but rival clubs Cremona and Varese have complicated the process by refusing to sign off on a proposed schedule change allowing Bologna to play half of its first ten games at home in order to maximize Bryant's presence at the box office. Meanwhile, it emerged over the weekend that the German molecular orthopedist who performed knee injury on Bryant in July also treated actor Nick Nolte and Pope John Paul II for arthritis. [AFP and ESPN the Magazine]
- At a meeting in Washington D.C., the presidents and chancellors of the Big East conference's 14 remaining member school (plus representatives from soon-to-be member Texas Christian) gave commissioner John Marinatto the go-ahead to "aggressively pursue" talks with other universities about joining the league. So far, the Big East has been the hunted rather than the hunter when it comes to conference expansion, losing Syracuse and Pittsburgh to the Atlantic Coast Conference last month, but almost all of the remaining member schools have pledged to keep the conference in-tact. together. Navy, East Carolina, Air Force, Houston, Memphis, Central Florida, and former member school Temple top the list of possible targets. One member school that's not on-board with keeping the league together is the University of Connecticut. Last week, Connecticut governor Daniel Malloy said UConn would only consider remaining in the Big East as a "fall back" if it didn't get an invitation to join ACC. [Boston Globe]
- NBA commissioner David Stern warned there would be "enormous consequences" if players and ownership failed to reach a breakthrough during negotiations this weekend in New York on a new collective bargaining agreement, but that didn't stop Carmelo Anthony, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, LeBron James and Dwayne Wade from attending five-year anniversary party of Tenjun, a club in the meatpacking district, on Friday night. A witness said the group appeared to be "in great spirits, most notably Carmelo," who briefly Swizz Beatz for a stint in the club's DJ booth. The weekend's negotiations were less succesful, though players and owners continued to negotiate "in small groups" today after not meeting at all yesterday. [Page Six]