Basketball: Smith ready to turn back on Jets as family commitments take toll

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The Independent Online

Paul Smith may not return to coach Chester Jets in the new season in October, when they set out to defend their British Basketball League championship.

Smith stepped up to the head coaching role when Robbie Peers left for London Towers and led the Jets to the BBL Trophy title -- their fourth in succession -- in his debut season in 2003-04, then added the major prize of the league championship last season.

But Smith is now reconsidering whether he can continue combining family life, running a business and coaching in a national competition with franchises stretching from Plymouth in the south to Glasgow in the North.

Smith said: "Some nights I've had to go to a game in Sheffield coming off the back of a working day. It's all a question of whether I can make a living out of basketball." The Jets' strong club structure would make it easy for former coach and mentor Mike Burton to resume coaching full-time, but there is also the possibility of tempting back Peers, who has become the latest in a line of coaches to fail to resurrect the fortunes of the once-powerful London Towers.

In the second-tier English Basketball League, Alan Cunningham has stepped down as coach to Solent Stars, who narrowly avoided relegation. Solent's directors accepted Cunningham's recommendation that his assistant Steve Chant should step up into the head coaching role.

Also in the EBL, the Essex and Herts Leopards have re-appointed Jon Burnell as coach and re-signed the former London Tower player Steve Ogunjimi.

Burnell took over last summer at the Leopards, a former BBL franchise, and led them to eighth place in the first division and qualification for the play-off quarter-finals.