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The awards circuit

Kyle Riviere
kriviere@weeklycitizen.com
Weekly Citizen Sports Editor Kyle Riviere.

The red carpet was laid out on Wednesday night. Athletes, actors and musicians all gathered out in Hollywood for the Espy Awards to celebrate a tremendous year in sports

They crowned their winners, and it inspired me to do the same.

When it comes to coaching, I thought UConn basketball's Kevin Ollie was the best coach in college sports.

The longtime NBA journeyman settled into coaching and took over the program after all-time great Jim Calhoun decided to retire.

In his second year at the helm, Ollie righted the ship after the Huskies suffered a 33-point beatdown at the hands of Louisville.

It looked like a good excuse to quit but instead, Ollie helped make it a turning point for the Huskies.

After that drubbing, UConn reeled off eight wins in their final nine games--including a national title win over preseason No. 1 Kentucky. It was their fourth championship victory in school history.

My pick for professional coach of the year would be the Spurs' future Hall of Famer Gregg Popovich.

"Pop" was already regarded by many as one of the greatest coaches in NBA history prior to the season, and what happened this year will do nothing but reinforce that belief.

Despite a heart-wrenching loss in last year's NBA Finals, despite many of their stars being in the latter part of their careers and despite having to battle injuries all year, the Spurs finished the season with the league's best record.

After a tough seven-game series with the Mavericks in the opening round, San Antonio cruised to the finals where they met a familiar foe in Miami.

They quickly avenged last year's championship loss to the Heat as they put up three straight near-perfect performances to close out the two-time defending champs in just five games.

After winning these final three games by a combined margin of 57 points, the Spurs took home their fifth world championship.

Going back to UConn, I think point guard Shabazz Napier was the college athlete of the year.

Napier flew under the radar for much of the season with stars like Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker and Julius Randle stealing most of the headlines.

However, when tournament time rolled around, Napier quickly showed the world that he was the most valuable player in the nation.

Nobody had an answer for him as he led the seventh-seeded Huskies to huge upsets over both Michigan State and top-seeded Florida to reach the title game. There, he led UConn to a comfortable championship win over Kentucky.

On his way to being named the tournament's Most Outstanding Player, Napier averaged 21 points and four assists per game

I have to give the edge to Peyton Manning as best professional athlete. Though things didn't end well in the Super Bowl, Manning put up astronomical numbers that cannot be ignored.

In the Broncos' run to a division title and top seed in the AFC, Manning set new NFL records for most passing yards in a season with 5,477 and most touchdown passes in a season with 55.

And even though he didn't play well in the big game, Manning put up a 32-43, 400-yard passing performance against the Patriots in the Broncos' AFC Championship victory.

I give the nod for best college team to Florida State football.

After not living up to expectations for the last few years, the Seminoles finally put it all together and went a perfect 14-0 to win their third national title in school history.

The 'Noles made it look easy for much of the year as they averaged 53 points during the regular season and never won by less than 14 points.

However, in the national title game against Auburn, they showed their championship grit as they battled back from a 21-3 deficit to win in thrilling fashion 34-31.

It was hard picking the best professional team between the Spurs and the Seahawks, but I gave the slightest of edges to Seattle.

The Seahawks went 13-3 during the regular season, won their division and beat two very good Saints and 49ers teams in the payoffs.

In the Super Bowl, they showed that they were by far the best team in the league as they absolutely dismantled the Broncos 43-8. It was the third-biggest blowout in Super Bowl history.

But what was most impressive is how they flustered Manning--picking him off twice and in turn, they held the most high-scoring offense in NFL history to just eight points.