Richard Obert
The Arizona Republic
Jun. 29, 2004 12:00 AM

After coming up 4 yards short of a championship Sunday, there are four important questions the Rattlers need to address this summer.

Will coach Danny White be back?

Will somebody be able to buy the Rattlers to partner with new Suns ownership?

Will there be a team beyond the 2005 season?

Will the team's nucleus return for one more shot at the title?

First, the Suns ownership transaction between Jerry Colangelo and Robert Sarver needs to be completed Wednesday.

Then, issues can be evaluated.

Rattlers President Jim Pitman, who worked closely on the financial transaction in the past three months, said that the Rattlers will be a high priority, along with Suns free agency this summer.

Pitman gave White credit for one of his best coaching jobs, turning a 3-5 team to 13-5, before losing to San Jose 69-62 in ArenaBowl XVIII.

"I think our season was very successful," Pitman said. "I think the coaching staff and coach White in particular did a great job."

Pitman, who has worked under Colangelo's ownership, said he doesn't know what his position with the Rattlers will be next season.

He said he hopes the team doesn't fold after next season. The team is committed to the league for the 2005 season. Sarver said last week he wasn't thinking beyond 2005 because he was working on closing the ownership deal.

Sunday's ArenaBowl crowd of 17,391, the largest ever to see a Rattlers game at America West Arena, was proof that the Rattlers have a strong fan base.

"The city still loves the Rattlers," Pitman said. "We still want to bring them a championship."

Attorney Kim Coben is trying to buy the team, which is worth about $17 million after Colangelo bought it in 1991 for $250,000. That's not a done deal, though, White said. Pitman said he could not comment on Coben's attempt to purchase the team.

Most important to White, 52, who has led the Rattlers to five ArenaBowls and 12 consecutive playoff appearances, is being able to get along with the owner.

"It's more I just need to know who I'm working for before I say, 'Yeah, I'm going to coach the team for five more years,' " said White, whose contract has expired. " . . . It would be hard for me to work for someone I don't respect. Until I know who that person is, it's so important to me. I've always worked for people I've had great respect for."

With his children all grown, White said he would leave Arizona for an NFL opportunity. Right now, he says he's in a "holding pattern."

"I'm going to be pursuing other opportunities," he said. "For the Rattlers, there is nothing anyone can do right now."

White believes the Rattlers, who have won 141 games in 13 years, can contend for another title if he returns. Quarterback Sherdrick Bonner and receiver/linebacker Hunkie Cooper, both 12-year veterans with the Rattlers, each have one year left on their contracts. Cooper said he will honor his; Bonner also is likely to return for one more shot at a ring.

"We're going to contend if I'm the coach," White said. "I can't speak for all of the players. If some of those guys leave, we'll just have to find some young players. We're going to contend if I have anything to do with it, whomever the players are."