Basketball: Bears' make or break

Worthing Bears, the Budweiser League side, have made a final appeal to the local borough council to help save them from folding.

Bears, who won an unprecedented three successive Wembley championship play-off titles from 1993, will be wound up unless they are given a cash injection by mid-July. The club's directors have written to all local councillors asking them to reconsider their refusal of a pounds 25,000 grant.

The council have put pounds 100,000 into the club over the last four years, but turned their application down last week following the directors' decision to put the club up for sale.

Discussions are taking place with several interested parties following the move to advertise the club's franchise, but one of the directors, John Hazelwood, says they do not have enough time to clinch a deal before the crucial mid-July deadline.

He said: "Such an important move takes time and a deal has to be done with the right people on the right terms. We have to have the appropriate funding in place by the middle of next month in order to operate next season."

The new season begins on 13 September and Mike Smith, chief executive of the Basketball League, has confirmed if the Bears are wound up the franchise would automatically revert to the league and cannot be resurrected or transferred to any other party or organisation.

Hazelwood added: "The only way that basketball could subsequently return to the area would be by a new party complying with the league's rules for the issue of a new franchise.

"This would require an upfront investment of probably pounds 100,000, guaranteed availability of a large modern arena for home games, and the ability to fund consequent annual operating costs in the region of pounds 250,000."

Brian Hill became head coach of the Vancouver Grizzlies yesterday and will direct a team that begins their third year in the National Basketball Association after winning 15 and then 14 games their first two seasons.

He replaces Brian Winters, the first Vancouver coach who was fired in January. Less than a month later Hill was replaced in Orlando after a players' revolt.

Hill figures he can overcome the stigma of Orlando by calling upon his experience and teaching credentials. "There are similarities with any expansion group," he said. "Right now you don't have the talent base you're going to have in two or three years when you expect to win more games.''

Hill, 49, directed the Magic to the NBA Finals two years ago where they were swept by the Houston Rockets. The Magic won 191 games under Hill, but the team hovered around the .500 mark last season after free agent Shaquille O'Neal left Orlando to sign with the Los Angeles Lakers.

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