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Bates makes his pitch for Dolphins job

DAVIE, Fla. (AP) Miami Dolphins interim coach Jim Bates wore a suit to work Tuesday, dressed for success and a big job interview _ barely 12 hours after his team beat the Super Bowl champion New England Patriots.

Bates met with owner Wayne Huizenga at the team complex, hoping to remain head coach next season.

``Believe me, I've got a sales pitch ready,'' Bates said.

He remained a long shot for the job, with an offer to LSU coach Nick Saban perhaps imminent. The only other confirmed candidate is Oakland Raiders coach Art Shell.

Bates strengthened his case Monday night when the Dolphins scored two touchdowns in the final 2:07 and upset New England 29-28. With the improbable comeback, Miami (3-11) improved to 2-3 since coach Dave Wannstedt resigned.

It says a lot about the team,'' quarterback A.J. Feeley said.It says a lot about coach Bates. ... The guys in the locker room adore him.''

Players say Bates has brought to the job infectious enthusiasm that has kept the Dolphins from quitting on the season. When Arturo Freeman made an interception in the final minute to clinch Monday's victory, he was greeted on the sideline by Bates with a flying chest bump.

The 58-year-old coach said he didn't fear hurting himself.

``I was worried about hurting Arturo,'' Bates joked.

Bates last held a head coaching job in 1985, when he led the San Antonio Gunslingers of the USFL. His only other seasons as a head coach were in 1969-71 at Sevier County High School in Tennessee.

But the longtime defensive assistant has worked with such successful coaches as Bill Belichick, Frank Kush and Johnny Majors. He even has ties with Saban _ both were assistants with the Cleveland Browns in 1991-93.

``I have a tremendous amount of confidence in what I can do,'' Bates said.

With little to motivate them except pride, the Dolphins have played better since Bates was promoted from defensive coordinator. The biggest upgrade has been on offense, with Miami averaging 23.8 points per game under Bates, compared with 13.7 in the first nine games.

People say we're a different team under him, and it's true,'' tight end Randy McMichael said.I will play for that man anywhere, any day of the week.''

The offensive line, the team's biggest weakness this season, has blocked better in recent weeks. And there are signs of progress by Feeley, who made it through a start without an interception for the first time Monday.

The mark of this team over the past five weeks has been improvement and playing hard,'' said Bates, practicing his pitch for the job.It's a credit to a lot of people, with all the adversity and all the different stories that are coming out, that these guys have stayed focused and tried to win games down the stretch.''

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