History of the Bears
off-season saw another wholesale change in the Bears locker-room,
with only Alleyne and Baker returning. They were joined by Terrance
McGee and previous league MVP Jerry Williams, but the team struggled,
never managing to put a run of wins together. The Bears finished
eighth in the league with a 17-23 record, and failed to progress
beyond the first stages of the Trophy, Cup or Playoffs.
highlight of the year was undoubtedly the signing of NBA legend
Dennis Rodman for three games. Rodman had recently appeared in the
Celebrity Big Brother TV show in the UK, and his appearances for
the Bears drew packed houses and arguably the largest media presence
ever seen at a British basketball game. Rodman's appearances were
certainly welcomed by the Bears fans, but they also caused controversy
when it transpired that the Bears had broken player eligibility
rules by playing Rodman alongside the three permitted work-permit
the summer of 2006 the Bears announced that they would be taking
a year off from the BBL "in the interests of the long term viability
of the franchise". Owner Nick Nurse was reported to be looking into
options for moving the Bears into an NBA Development League or a
rival BBA league, but neither options came to fruition. Nurse moved
back to the States, and with no fellow Directors to take over the
reigns the once glorious Bears were no more.
was a new-look Bears team that took to the court this season, with
only Yorick Williams and Andrew Alleyne returning from the previous
years' title winning squad. Among those joining them in the blue
and white were Ryan Huntley, Ajou Deng and Tony Holley, with Ronnie
Baker making a welcome mid-season return to the south coast after
a 12 year absence.
season started on a low note with the Bears having to withdraw from
European competition at the last minute, but there was much better
news on the domestic front with Nick Nurse's men winning 16 of their
first 20 league games to go to the top of the table. This spell
of games also saw the team reach the final of the Trophy after a
nail-biting 87-84 victory over the London Towers , and climaxed
in the Bears winning the BBL Cup for the second time in three seasons,
following a 90-74 defeat of the Scottish Rocks at the National Indoor
season had started so well that a "clean sweep" of all four domestic
honours was being discussed in hushed tones amongst the Bears faithful.
Unfortunately, disaster was about to strike, with both Yorick Williams
and Ryan Huntley picking up season ending injuries. The early season
form was turned on its head, with the Bears easily beaten by the
Newcastle Eagles in the Trophy final at the Brighton Centre, and
then losing 14 of their remaining 20 games to slump to a fifth place
finish in the league. The season ended with a 91-56 playoff quarter
final thumping from the Sharks.
only the second time in the club's history the Bears raised their
ambitions to the European level this season, entering the ULEB Cup.
Nick Nurse had to rebuild his team to meet the differing Import
restrictions, retaining only Randy Duck, Mike Brown and Rico Alderson
from the previous year's squad. Joining them were Kendrick Warren,
Andrew Alleyne, Jason Siemon, Sullivan Phillips, Yorick Williams
and Tom Frederick. The new Bears line-up was arguably the deepest
the club has ever seen.
Bears' early ULEB Cup games contained some remarkable encounters,
including an overtime defeat to Split Croatia and a two point defeat
to Lietuvos Rytas in front of 800 boisterous Lithuanians at the
Brighton Centre. Despite running most teams close the Bears had
a 0-5 record, but astonishingly won four of their last five games
to just miss out on a second round berth. The Bears pulled off incredible
victories against European giants Split and Rytas on their own courts,
and wrapped up the adventure with an exhilarating double-overtime
victory over Cholet, led by 49 points from Randy Duck.
the domestic front the Bears were neck and neck with the Sheffield
Sharks in the league title chase, and stepped up the pressure during
a 15 game unbeaten run against British opponents that lasted for
well over 3 months. As the Sharks faltered towards the end of the
season the Bears went from strength to strength, securing the BBL
League title for the first time in eleven years with victory over
the Leicester Riders.
Bears fared less well in the knock-out competitions, falling to
the Chester Jets in both the Trophy final and the Playoff semi.
Nurse was named BBL Coach of the Year, with Kendrick Warren being
voted on to the BBL All League Team.
Nurse became sole owner of the Bears in the pre-season and quickly
set about building a team to challenge for honours. The nucleus
of the previous year's squad was retained, with Wilbur Johnson,
Randy Duck, Michael Brown, Sterling Davis and Errol Seaman all returning.
It was however the signing of All Stars Rico Alderson and Ralph
Blalock that really caused a stir, with the Bears on paper at least
looking a force to be reckoned with
season certainly got off to a flying start, with the Bears winning
their first 11 games to leap to the top of the league table. Three
straight losses brought the team down to earth though, as they exited
the Trophy at the first hurdle. Better progress was being made in
the National Cup, with a narrow win over the London Towers setting
up a showdown with the Chester Jets . Wilbur Johnson dominated the
Final with a 24 point MVP performance, and an 89-79 victory gave
the Bears their first piece of silverware since 1995. Eight years
of hurt had finally been healed.
Bears' push for the League title suffered continued setbacks, however,
as a series of injuries saw Duck, Blalock, Seaman and Emiko Etete
all missing a series of games. Down the stretch the destiny of the
league title was still in the Bears' hands, but home and away losses
to the Sheffield Sharks saw the Yorkshire side pick up the title.
In the Playoffs the Bears saw off the Towers and Eagles, but fell
at the final hurdle, losing 76-83 to the Scottish Rocks in the BBL
Johnson and Sterling Davis were both named on the BBL All League
Kriwald pulled off a major coup in the pre-season by tempting ex-Towers
play-caller Nick Nurse to join the club as Head Coach, General Manager,
Director and co-owner. Nurse immediately went about re-building
the team, retaining only Michael Brown, Wilbur Johnson and Errol
Seaman from the previous year's squad. New additions included captain
Randy Duck, Albert White and Sterling Davis, and the team had a
remarkable season with a 21-11 league record bringing the Bears
within inches of winning the Southern Conference.
team reached the Quarter Finals of the Trophy and the Semi Finals
of the Playoffs, the first time the Bears had enjoyed post-season
action for 6 years. Highlights of the season included a memorable
night at the Triangle in which the Bears ended the game with 18
unanswered points to beat the Lions by a point, and a heart-stopping
tip-in by Rodger Farrington to take the Bears past the Eagles in
the Playoff Quarter Final. White, Davis, Duck and Nurse all played
in the All Star Game, with White and Davis also being named in the
All League team.
the previous season's encouraging return to Brighton this was a
disappointing year, with Mark Dunning's team falling well short
of the play-offs. The highpoint of the season was the signing of
Wilbur Johnson from the Sheffield Sharks , and he led the Bears
from the front through an injury ravaged season. Other signings
included Dave Wahl, Demetric Reese, Kevin Wallace and Errol Seaman.
Off-court there was a further set-back as the Tessa Sanderson deal
fell through. Mark Dunning was sacked at the end of the season.
club's first year back in Brighton was a marked improvement on the
previous years' decline. Home games were held at the Brighton Centre
and the Burgess Hill Triangle, and attendances peaked at close to
the season the Bears appointed Mark Dunning as their 7th coach in
3 years, and the club's ownership changed hands as well, with Romek
Kriwald buying out Christian and Eileen Hamilton's interest to become
sole owner of the franchise. On court, new signings including Jan
Trojanowski and Michael Brown led the Bears to a respectable tally
of 11 league wins, four short of a play-off berth. In the off-season
Olympic gold medallist Tessa Sanderson acquired a stake in the Bears
and became a director.
new season saw a new-look Bears outfit, with American Chris Pullem
taking over coaching duties. New signings included Jon Gaines and
Larry Coates, and the team got off to a good start with some early
victories. As ever though the next crisis was not far away, and
after only 7 games Chris Pullem resigned after disagreements with
owners Wood and Hamilton.
Loucks was drafted in to replace Pullem, but he was not able to
keep the ship afloat, and the club lost 30 (yes, 30) straight games.
The club finished rock-bottom of the league, with only 4 wins out
of 36 starts. Late in the season Bob Wood sold his share of the
club to Romek Kriwald, and as the season drew to a close the announcement
was made that the Bears were to leave Worthing and head back to
Brighton. The increased revenue and TV exposure that a venue such
as the Brighton Centre could bring were seen as the only route back
to success for the Bears.
and Wood assembled a squad from their own back yard, with Don Faux,
Ryan Williams, Ben Caton, Ryan Cuff and coach Chris Jones all fresh
out of the Utah college system.
Nelson and Gary Smith returned, and were joined by talented Canadian
Shawn Swords. The season started brightly, but in November Fullerton
sensationally quit the club without explanation.
Wood and new co-owner Christian Hamilton vowed to fight on, but
the club's budget had been dramatically cut, and Caton, Cuff, Jones
and Swords all followed Fullerton out of the door. The Bears hardly
had enough players to field a team, and in the next few weeks went
through their bleakest ever spell. A 113-40 loss to the Sheffield
Sharks spoke volumes for the depth of the crisis. The squad was
strengthened with the addition of Joel Burns, Greg Francis and Peter
Knechtel, but the Bears continued to struggle, and went on a 19
game losing streak that was finally broken in an emotional Valentine's
Day victory over Derby.
Bears finished bottom of the league, and faced losing their top-flight
status. The owners convinced the league that they should be allowed
to carry on.
Lewis and Neil McElduff were busy in the off-season, hiring players
from far and wide. Some of them proved to be unsuccessful (South
African David Uniacke, Spaniard Ernesto Moreno and Canadian Mark
Craven all came and went), but others were anything but. Anthony
Thomas was a solid and talented small forward, but it was the discovery
of James Hamilton that was the highlight of an otherwise forgettable
led the league in rebounding (11.38rpg) and was the third highest
scorer (24.09ppg), and it was largely down to him that the Bears
were even able to win 12 league games in the season. They finished
in 11th place, and failed to make the play-offs.
club's financial plight hit the headlines once again as the council
pulled the plug on a provisionally agreed £25,000 handout after
the club had put the franchise up for sale without informing councillors.
In August 1997, just when it seemed the club was to go to the wall,
American multi-millionaire Greg Fullerton flew in from Utah to buy
the franchise. Fullerton and partner Bob Wood talked bullishly of
taking the Bears back to the top and even discussed building a brand
and Irish added US imports Derek Plair and Steve Paci to their line-up,
and the team started encouragingly with a two-legged overtime loss
to Portuguese outfit Uniao Desportica in the Korac Cup. The team
had a mid-table season, but progressed well in the 7-Up Trophy,
the only prize that the club had so far failed to pick up.
a nail-biting 2 legged victory over the Sharks in the semi, the
Bears met the London Towers in the final, and blasted off to a 10
point half time lead. Playmaker Andrew Bailey had picked up an early
injury though, and the Towers were able to pull back in the second
half, eventually winning 90-84. The Towers went on to win the league
while the Bears ended the season in seventh place, and for the first
time in 5 years failed to make it to Wembley.
cash problems meant the club was put up for sale, but eventually
the town council came to the rescue with a £30,000 grant. In the
off-season Irish and Cunningham left the club, and Cleave Lewis
was installed as the new coach.
Cunningham retained his starting five for the new season, but the
lack of depth on the bench combined with ageing limbs meant that
the Bears struggled in the regular season, finishing only seventh
in the league. When it came to the play-offs though it was a case
of wisdom, guile and experience coming to the fore.
Bears overcame the Tigers in a classic 3 leg quarter-final, and
breezed past the league winning Sheffield Sharks to set up a final
against the Manchester Giants. The Bears got off to a slow-start
in the game, but in the end out-thought and out-fought the Giants
to secure a 77-73 victory. The team had created basketball history
by winning at Wembley for the third time in a row (the 'Three-Peat');
all the more amazing from a position of seventh seeds.
team had won 5 major championships in 3 seasons - still referred
to as "the glory years". All good things come to an end though,
and the team broke up in the off-season, with Irish taking over
as player-coach and dispensing with the services of Harried and
Lewis. Alan Cunningham, despite having just retired, was tempted
back for 'one more year' by his old friend.
all-conquering Bears maintained much of their squad for the new
season, the notable exception being Herman Harried returning to
a hero's welcome to replace Kalpatrick Wells. The league was again
dominated by the Bears and the Tigers, although it was the Bracknell
team that pipped the Bears to the league title. Worthing certainly
had their own successes though, with a 92-83 victory over the Tigers
giving them their first National Cup win at the Sheffield Arena.
The season was topped off with the Bears retaining their Wembley
Championship title with a 71-65 victory over the Guildford Kings.
Bears squad was almost completely rebuilt over the summer of 1992,
with new player-coach Alan Cunningham bringing in Colin Irish, Steve
Nelson, Cleave Lewis and Kalpatrick Wells. The new team gelled quickly,
and gave the Bears their first top-flight tournament win in the
Carlsberg International Challenge.
Bears built on this early success to dominate the league, running
out League Champions with a 31-2 record. This success could not
be repeated in the club's first National Cup final, however, where
they went down to Guildford Kings, but the Bears had the last laugh
when they defeated arch rivals the Thames Valley Tigers 75-74 in
a dramatic Wembley final to become Play-off Champions.
incredible season also included arguably the greatest game ever
held in Worthing. The visitors were of course the Thames Valley
Tigers, and before the match a capacity crowd saw the league championship
trophy formally presented to Colin Irish. Early in the game it looked
as if the 'pussy cats' would spoil the celebrations as they roared
to a 11-1 and then a 19-9 lead, but an 18-9 burst from the champions
saw the scores level at half-time. The teams traded the lead for
most of the second period until the final dramatic minute:
- 1 min - the
Valley sneaked a six point lead (73-79)
- 55 secs -
Mike Spaid hits an unlikely 3-pointer
- 15 secs -
Colin Irish shoots a trey, misses but is fouled. He sinks all
three free-throws to tie the game
- 6 secs -
Tigers lose possession and then........
- 2 secs -
Cleave Lewis shoots the ball from just inside the halfway line,
the ball hits the backboard and drops through the net for a famous
Shackleford entered his third year as player coach with a largely
intact squad, including the likes of Bryan Heron, Ronnie Baker,
Mark Scott, Mike Spaid and Gary Smith. The Bears had a very good
season, finishing third in the league behind the clean-sweeping
Kingston. Semi-finals in the National Cup and the play-offs were
also achieved, but the best was still to come…..
signing a new contract, Herman Harried left the club to join a Portuguese
side in the off season. Dale Shackleford returned as coach, and
added Bryan Heron and Ronnie Baker to the squad. This season marked
the Bears' entry to the basketball Premiership after three successful
seasons in Division One. Attendances were up to an average of 950
per game, and the Bears' seventh place in the league, a WICB semi-final,
National Cup quarter final and a first round play-off berth were
more than satisfactory rewards for the first year with the big boys.
The Bears celebrated the end of the 1990-91 season with the Club
of the Year award and seven consecutive sell-outs.
the first time since 1986 the Bears appointed a full-time coach
in Dale Shackleford, who (temporarily) hung up his boots although
soon took on a player-coach role. Two new Americans were signed;
Gary Sparks and the soon to become legendary Herman Harried. The
league itself was strengthened with the addition of three former
Harried was worshipped by the fans and was surely one of the best
ever Bears players. He top scored in 21 of his 26 games in the season,
and recorded astonishing statistics of 31 points, 18 rebounds, 3
assists, 4.5 steals and 3 blocks per game, while shooting 69% from
season saw one of the most exciting games ever to be held at the
Worthing Leisure Centre. The visitors were Crystal Palace, and the
game was high-paced and nip and tuck all the way. Harried was the
Bears saviour, scoring four points in the last five seconds to give
his team a thrilling two point win. The scenes of jubilation that
ensued were to be matched only by those after the defeat of Thames
Valley in 1993. The Bears finished second in the league with a 19-3
record, but fell in the first round of the play-offs to Crystal
Palace and the recently traded Gary Sparks.