TULSA, Okla. (AP) -Former SuperSonics coach Bob Hill still believes the team will find a way to get a new arena built and remain in Seattle.
``I think quite frankly when it's all said and done that they'll get a building in Seattle and stay right there. That's what I think,'' Hill said Monday during an appearance at a youth basketball camp at Holland Hall High School.
Clay Bennett, the Oklahoma City businessman who bought the SuperSonics last year, has said he's pessimistic the team will find a way to get a new arena built - Bennett's prerequisite for keeping the team in the Pacific Northwest. The Washington Legislature rejected a plan to use King County revenues to cover $278 million of the $500 million cost of a proposed arena, and the only chance to secure public funding before an Oct. 31 deadline set by Bennett would be a special session.
``I think that the general sentiment there is that this has been a big bluff and that the team's not going to move. Until they back the wagons up, maybe then Seattle will move a little quicker on it,'' Hill said.
``There is a lot of support to keep the team there. It's a good sports town. The Mariners do pretty well, the Seahawks do well. I think for Seattle to move forward in the future and maintain its world-class status, professional sports is an important machine to keep that image.''
Beyond holding out hope for Seattle, Hill also was optimistic about Oklahoma City's NBA aspirations.
``I think (the Sonics will) end up staying there, and I think that a team will come to Oklahoma City because I think that everyone in the NBA game, especially those of us that have come here and tried to play a game in that damned arena, know how difficult it was and the potential for a tremendous home-court advantage and the whole 10 yards,'' Hill said.
Hill, who was fired in April after the Sonics went 31-51 in his first full season as head coach, said he has been keeping busy with appearances at basketball camps and other speaking engagements while recovering from hernia surgery. He hopes to eventually hone his golf game on a new course that's been built in the community where he lives near San Antonio.
He's also been working with an NBA hopeful who's recovering from a knee injury, and he doesn't plan to be away from basketball long. The camp Monday was hosted by Ted Owens, who was the head coach at Kansas from 1979-83 when Hill was an assistant there.
``I'd like to get back as an assistant with a really good team. That's what I'd like to do,'' Hill said. ``Professional basketball has become such an international sport that there will be jobs opening. I don't really want to sit the year out, but if I do, I do.''
Hill, who formerly coached the San Antonio Spurs and New York Knicks, expressed disappointment that he didn't get a second season in charge of the Sonics and said he thought Bennett was set on making changes as soon as he took control of the team.
Bennett fired Hill over the phone, hours after his hernia surgery, then issued a short news release instead of answering questions about the move.
``We don't have any control over them, and what we think doesn't matter. They bought the team, they can do whatever they want to with the team. They can say any quotes that they want to say,'' Hill said. ``I know that last season, under the circumstances, is the best job of coaching I ever did.''
Hill blamed many of the Sonics' struggles on injuries, including those to stars Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis, but said he believes the team made improvements after ranking worst in the NBA in defense in 2005-06. He believes Seattle has young players with potential and that ``the roster doesn't need a complete overhaul. It just needs to be tweaked a little bit.''
``You always need time. There's not such a thing in sports as instant gratification,'' Hill said. ``It takes hard work and sacrifice and development. I think the fans in Seattle - for 40 years they've been following the team, so it's an intelligent fan base and they understand that.
``So, I would have enjoyed the opportunity to coach them healthy.''
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