Mr & Mrs. Smith’s shooting stars. Plus battle lines drawn in UK hoops turf war.

To win bragging rights in the Smith household of New Castle (Delaware), you had to bring it all or leave with nothing.

Kathy Smith had game. So too Charles Senior. His parents too. “We had a court right across the street from where we grew up,” recalls Charles of Newcastle (upon Tyne), the eldest of the next generation.

“It was always there. My Dad went to Cheyney State in Pennsylvania. My Mom played in high school. When we were younger there, they still played in little leagues. I remember one night, they lowered the rims to about eight and half feet. And my Mom went out and dunked it.”

With his 40th birthday now in this current calendar year, it’s the turn of the Eagles veteran’s three daughters to see that the old man still has hops. Must be something in the genes, what with middle sibling Steve recently signing off from his own European odyssey and youngest Smith Devin still going strong with Maccabi Tel Aviv.

The trifecta, all with similar dreams journeying down parallel paths.

“We follow each other,” Charles declares. “Devin’s come over to see me. When he was in Spain. I’d go to see him. We follow each other’s careers as well as our Steve who just finished up last year. He was in France the last couple of years so that was easy to catch up on. We support each other and it makes us happy to see another one doing great.”

In such circumstances, there is usually a pecking order that will forever remain frozen in time. Charles in charge? You bet.

“I was able to take advantage of them because I’m a lot older than they are. And if you look at Devin, I think he’s taken advantage of the skills that Steve and I had. He’s a combination of us two and what we’d learned. And that’s been good, to see him make it to the highest levels.”

Like winning the Euroleague title in Madrid last May with one of his inspirations-in-chief cheering on as David Blatt provided one final prize before bolting off to the NBA.

There was a touch of envy, the elder Smith declares. Not for the acclaim or the rich rewards, not for a second.

“I played in other countries but I never played in a European competition,” he reflects. “To be in that atmosphere and to get the chance to play at a higher level would be great.”

Smith and Flournoy have shared multiple successes.

The clock is ticking down, both for Smith and long-time colleague Fab Flournoy. Newcastle are flirting with going into the Eurochallenge. The admission has been that it cannot happen until their new arena comes on stream, a construction job whose timetable would not see doors opened until late-2016 at the earliest.

“We talk about it over the summers every year,” Smith reveals of his chats with his player-coach-friend, “how we’ll try and hang on for one more season to do that. It would be a great way to end my career. Hopefully we can get some funding from somewhere and make that step before I do hang it up.”

First things first, he underlines. Now into a BBL Trophy semi-final with Plymouth, and with the Cup already secured and the league title theirs to lose, another clean sweep sits on the horizon, a distinct possibility.

Bringing Smith off the bench is a luxury their rivals would kill for. In 14 seasons on Tyneside, this may be as potent a crew as he has seen.

“It’s right up there. It’s got to be one of the best because we’re deeper than in the past. Even those great teams we had, we only had six or seven guys. Now we have one through ten that can play.”

That should, bar an upset, be enough to repel whatever Leicester Riders or perhaps Worcester Wolves can throw their way in the four months ahead. A mix of complacency and boredom, Flournoy has said, is their greatest potential foe.

“What can stop us is guys is looking ahead to it,” Smith concurs. “We’re just trying to take it one step at a time. That’s been the key. The good thing is we have veteran guys here who have been through all this before.

We just have to keep on them and look only at what’s in front of us.”

The numbers game

If there is serious investment in the air for British basketball, then the BBL clubs are willing to listen. But not on the current terms proposed.

Representatives from 11 of the 13 franchises attended a meeting in Birmingham on Saturday to discuss a collective next step in what has become an increasingly tetchy power battle with Basketball England. Legal and financial advisors are now in place. Due diligence on the £36 million package put together by the BBall UK consortium, headed by former BE director Ameesh Manek and New York-based equity fund GEM, is expected to commence in the coming days.

“There was unanimity among the clubs supporting our current approach,” one team official confirmed. “They endorsed our decision to appoint advisors.”

It is thought that the model proposed would only leave existing owners with around a 10% stake in their current clubs, a figure described by one insider as a disincentive to remain. Additionally, there is the thorny issue of the varying values of each franchise. Newcastle, with its huge infrastructure, big crowds and arena financing, would cost much more than their neighbours Durham. In practice, if investors effectively scooped up the league lock, stock and barrel, the expectation is that the Wildcats and Cheshire Phoenix would not survive the cull with resources centred on bigger cities.

Yet there is another ferocious battle front. A round-table conference was arranged on Monday between senior figures from the BBL and Basketball England, including its chairman Jan Hagen. “It was designed to present a united front,” said one BBL source.

An jointly-agreed statement between both sides, issued on Tuesday, read: “Basketball England and the BBL are dedicated to providing the best possible strategy to help basketball achieve its potential and will continue to work productively together throughout the forthcoming developments of the sport. Representatives from both organisations will meet again as soon as practical.”

However calls have emerged from within the Basketball England membership for its entire board – and chief executive Huw Morgan – to resign for their oversight of a process which has been riddled with diverse conflicts of interest. Even among the three supposedly independent members of BE’s review panel, legal official Jane Aldred is the wife of Brian Aldred, the governing body’s coaching and development manager.

There are growing fears that the Sheffield-based organisation could melt down once again, with Sport England privately furious at their muddled governance.The paperwork trail, and the timings involved in this whole process, will inevitably come under close scrutiny in the inquest.

MVP has learnt that, amid claims from Hagen that an investment approach was only made last November, initial overtures were made in the spring of 2014 to a small number of senior BBL representatives to discuss a possible buyout, with a parallel approach understood to have been made by Morgan and Manek to summer league and event operators Midnight Madness, the London-based offshoot of the Reach and Teach Foundation.

The stakes have rarely been higher.

With political will quick to line up behind the BBL’s position, a hornet’s nest has now been well and truly kicked.

Outside shots

Dan Routledge recalls the legacy from the BBL’s last cash drop

Paul Sturgess striving to make a big impression in Cheshire

Remi Dibo leaves Worcester Wolves

BBL Insider appears every Tuesday on MVP 

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