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DTL
07-01-2002, 08:36 PM
Bird: I'd come to Charlotte to build a winner
By TIM WHITMIRE
Associated Press Writer
July 1, 2002


CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) -- Larry Bird is ready to lead a new NBA team to replace the departed Charlotte Hornets.

Making his first public appearance in Charlotte since announcing his interest in bringing the area an expansion team, Bird said on Monday he intends to be as successful as a general manager as he was as a player and coach.

``I can't tell you how long it would take to make the playoffs,'' Bird said. ``But I'll be here a long time -- so close the windows and lock the doors.''

Bird, a Hall of Famer who led the Boston Celtics to three NBA titles and coached the Indiana Pacers to an Eastern Conference title, is the most famous face of a potential ownership group led by Boston-area businessman Steve Belkin.

Also involved is former Celtics player and coach M.L. Carr, currently president of the WNBA's Charlotte Sting. Bird, 45, would be the team's director of basketball operations, while Carr would handle community relations.

The Belkin group is in negotiations with the NBA for a team to replace the Hornets, who moved to New Orleans after this year's playoffs.

Bird met with reporters after leading a basketball clinic for about 200 local children before the Sting played the Phoenix Mercury.

Earlier in the day, he and Belkin met with city business and political leaders.

City leaders have said they are willing to build a $231 million arena, replacing the Charlotte Coliseum, for an expansion team and are expected to soon begin negotiations with the NBA on a lease.

``If you get the arena, you're going to have a new owner,'' Bird said. ``It might not be us, but you'll have a new owner.''

Bird said one of the greatest challenges facing a new ownership group would be rebuilding trust that was lost during the Hornets' final seasons. After years of leading the NBA in attendance, the Hornets saw support wither amid fans disenchanted with the ownership of George Shinn and Ray Wooldridge.

``I couldn't believe it,'' Bird said of the Hornets' move. ``I didn't understand all of it. From what I hear, there were other issues. ... I think we can get the fan support back.''

Unlike his coaching stint in Indiana, where he kept a vow to stay just three years, Bird said his commitment to running a Charlotte team would be open-ended.

Though Bird said he doesn't believe his stature in the NBA gives his group an inside edge, his partners clearly believe otherwise.

``Larry is a huge asset,'' Belkin said, ``not just in who he's been to the NBA, but also in his commitment to excellence.''

Belkin said he expects the NBA to negotiate an arena lease with the city, then come to potential ownership groups with a franchise fee -- expected to be anywhere from $200 million to $300 million. If more than one group is willing to pay the fee, he said, he expects the league to make a ``qualitative decision'' about which group gets the team.

Belkin has set an aggressive timetable for winning a team, saying he wants a decision by September and for the team to begin play in the 2003-04 season. That would mean at least one season at the Coliseum before a new arena would be ready.

Drbio
07-01-2002, 08:54 PM
If I were the league I would say screw Charlotte.

MavKikiNYC
07-01-2002, 09:09 PM
I think the league said screw New Orleans.