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Originally published May 7, 2007 at 12:00 AM | Page modified May 7, 2007 at 2:01 AM

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Hill could coach 11-foot hoop game

Former Sonics coach Bob Hill was back in Seattle this weekend, cleaning out his office and apartment, with plans to head back to his home...

Seattle Times staff reporter

Former Sonics coach Bob Hill was back in Seattle this weekend, cleaning out his office and apartment, with plans to head back to his home in San Antonio on Tuesday.

But despite being fired by the Sonics last month, Hill may not have coached his last game in Seattle.

Hill said Sunday he hopes to coach one of the teams in an experimental exhibition game being organized by former Sonics assistant coach Tom Newell that will feature 11-foot hoops.

The game is scheduled for June 16 at Edmundson Pavilion and negotiations are in the works for it to be televised live on Fox Sports Net. Admission will be free, though Newell will ask for a canned food donation for Northwest Harvest Food Bank.

"I think it's a great idea and I'd certainly like to be a part of it," Hill said.

Hill said he's still unsure exactly what his schedule may call for next month, but said that as of now, he's planning on coming back for the game.

Newell, an assistant for the Sonics from 1986-90 and a longtime coach and scout at many levels, announced plans for the game last month, saying he wants to stage an experiment to see if raising the hoops a foot — and making a few other changes such as a 30-second shot clock and eliminating three-point shots until the fourth quarter — might return more teamwork and passing to professional basketball.

Hill said he thinks the NBA game is fine as is but that "this will answer some questions" about whether there is a way to make the game better.

Hill says raising the hoop a foot "is something that's been talked about over the years, but all that has ever happened is just talk. I just think this will open up some eyes to see if it is feasible, or maybe 10 ½ feet or whatever."

Newell and Hill are longtime friends and Newell said he approached Hill about coaching in the game after Hill was fired, saying "I think this would really be a nice way for him to leave Seattle."

Paul Woolpert, coach of the Yakima Sun Kings of the Continental Basketball Association, has also agreed to coach in the game and Newell said former Sonic Alton Lister, now coach at Mesa (Ariz.) Community College, and former Husky and longtime NBA player James Edwards will serve as assistants.

The game will feature former college players, most with connections to the area, such as former Husky Hans Gasser and former UCLA guard Brian Morrison, a graduate of Lake Washington. The NBA will not allow current NBA players to take part.

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For now, the game is the only coaching Hill has in his future. He said Sunday he would like to get back into coaching but "right now I'm just trying to find out where there might be opportunities so it's too early to speculate."

Hill, who led the Sonics to a 31-51 record this season and was 53-81 overall, had hernia surgery in San Antonio on the day he was fired and said the recovery has gone well.

As for the Sonics, Hill expresses no hard feelings over his firing, saying "I really didn't have any problems with it" and that he "kind of expected it would happen. New owners always want to bring their own people in. The thing that was so disappointing for me was that we had so many damned injuries. If we had stayed healthy — if we had just had the normal year in terms of injuries — we could have been in the playoffs. But it was just that we had bad luck on top of bad luck on top of back luck. In spite of that, they played hard all the way through."

Ultimately, he said all the injuries exposed that there was too much inexperience on the bench.

"I loved being here and I loved the city and I think the team here is an easy fix for whoever comes in," Hill said. "They just need to tweak the roster a little bit, get a little bit more experience, especially coming off the bench, and it could be a very, very good team."

Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or bcondotta@seattletimes.com

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