Basketball: Tucker hopes home run will turn tide

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The Independent Online

If anyone needs a change of fortune as the BBL Championship moves into 2004, it is Birmingham Bullets' Steve Tucker. But it is unlikely to come this weekend as the American coach searches for his first win of the season at home to Chester Jets tonight and Thames Valley Tigers tomorrow.

Tucker thinks otherwise. After being forced to play their first six games away - their owner Craig Bown fell out with the operators of Aston Villa Leisure Centre - the new year is overloaded with home games for the Bullets at Birmingham Sports Centre. "Our season comes down to the next two months. If we can win 12 of our 16 home games then take three or four on the road, that will put us in the play-off quarter-finals," Tucker said.

Tucker's first spell at the Bullets in the mid-90s was inauspicious to say the least, but they did win some games. This season Bullets have lost all 11 in the Championship, all four in the Trophy.

Tucker, who admits to being "really hurt" by their campaign, is as safe as any coach in the league. After Bown fell out with his three former coaches over a string of disputes, his associate Tucker fell into the job no one else wanted. Few will be queuing to replace him.

Bown's track record with players meant Tucker also had to recruit BBL rookies and, apart from the returning playmaker, Rob Paternostro, their unfamiliarity with the league is adding to Bullets' burden.

They go into this weekend's games with doubts over whether the American Herb Baker, who fouls out of virtually every game, is still with the team. Tucker criticised the 6ft 9in American after their last defeat: "Herb has got to adjust. He has got to stay on the floor for us."

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