Basketball: Bullets' chance to end run of blanks

Birmingham Sports Centre could represent the "last chance saloon" for Steve Tucker tonight as the beleaguered Bullets coach attempts to end the British Basketball League's worst record - and the worst in the club's history - of 21 consecutive defeats.

Bullets could hardly hope for friendlier opposition than Leicester Riders at the end of a bizarre week. Riders have won only three BBL games and have lost all of their previous 18 visits to Birmingham in the last 17 years.

The week began when the Bullets' owner, Craig Bown, suggested Tucker should stand down if he is unable to handle the strain. "If he feels he can't do the job it's his judgement and he can offer his notice," Bown said. "It was not a [suggestion that he should] quit. I don't believe anyone is better placed to make progress for the club at this time."

Tucker's response was to suspend his experienced playmaker Rob Paternostro, who many of Bullets' dwindling band of supporters wanted to see take over as coach last summer.

Tucker, who is referred to on the supporters' website as "Mutha Tucker", denied he felt threatened by Paternostro, whom he accused of a "negative and confrontational attitude".

But supporters suspect his motive is to beat the under-strength Riders without the Italian-American Paternostro to boost his own position. Paternostro missed Thursday night's 102-86 defeat against the leaders, Sheffield Sharks, and many fans were further dismayed at Bown's backing for the suspension.

Bown said: "I do support [Tucker's] decision on Rob, it wasn't done lightly and I was fully informed and agree it was the right decision. Saying that, I hope Rob can make the changes required to be back in the line-up as soon as possible.

"Rob's a long-serving Bullets player and has some great strengths," he added. " They all need to be serving the team."

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