Three parties are in discussions to take over the Illawarra Hawks as Simon Stratford's ownership collapses.
The Mercury has learned Hawks staff gathered on Monday afternoon, to be told by general manager and club legend Mat Campbell they would be stood down.
And while sporting clubs across Australia have closed or restricted operations during the COVID-19 crisis, the Hawks licence is set to be taken over by the NBL, as they consider their options for a new owner.
It's understood the Hawks staff received an email from Stratford discussing their leave entitlements, but would otherwise no longer be paid by the club.
The Hawks have long been one of the great battlers of Australian sport, with Campbell leading a 'Save The Hawks' campaign - where they were bailed out by mining magnate Arun Jagatramka in 2009 - and then going into administration at the start of James Spenceley's reign in 2015.
The Mercury has been told Stratford, who took sole ownership from Spenceley in 2018, has been in ongoing discussions with two parties about the sale of the club for some months, but is now prepared to hand back the licence amid mounting financial pressure.
The potential new owners include:
A consortium led by a prominent Illawarra businessman.
A well-known Sydney businessman involved in discussions with media interests.
An interstate party which has only opened formal discussions in recent days.
One source close to the situation told the Mercury "there's a need to establish the amount of debt the Hawks carry, so it's a matter of thoroughly looking through the books first before jumping into anything. The NBL is in charge of that process".
It is believed that because of the NBL's capacity to take over the licence, the Hawks will likely avoid another period of administration.
Another source said the fortnightly staff payments were due on Tuesday, but other than leave entitlements they would no longer be paid, including coach Matt Flinn.
The players are expected to be paid out in full as part of the NBL's agreement.
It comes just a month after Stratford emailed members and sponsors to declare his commitment to the club.
"Please be assured that despite what you may have read or heard, we are committed to the club and have the full support of the NBL as we start the next decade of the Illawarra Hawks," the email read.
Stratford did not respond to the Mercury on Tuesday.
Illawarra started this season with great hype after signing potential No.1 NBA draft pick LaMelo Ball as part of the NBL's Next Stars program, but finished 5-23 and at the foot of the NBL ladder.
Campbell also did not return calls, however, in Monday's Mercury, said the club still had bright prospects.
"What we've been able to achieve in the last two years has been phenomenal from a club point of view," Campbell, who played in the Hawks' 2001 title win, said.
"We're really on an upward trajectory and I'd like to think we're going to continue on that path.
"What we're seeing in the sporting landscape right now indicates there's going to be a definite decrease in what we did last year, which was the best in club history in terms of revenue."
The NBL released a statement on Tuesday afternoon, declaring "The NBL is working closely with key stakeholders to ensure the ongoing viability of foundation club, the Illawarra Hawks".
"We are in ongoing discussions with the owners of the Hawks and the Australian Basketball Players' Association (ABPA) and working together with them in what are challenging times for all sport and business right now.
"We are committed to the club remaining in the NBL and the league will step in and operate the licence should a resolution not be found in the short term. However, as is the case with many clubs across different sports, staff may be stood down as we work through this period."