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Broncos fire Williams, name Ishibashi new coach

by Ed Odeven

Staff Writer

The Saitama Broncos’ annual coaching change was on the agenda on Friday.

Head coach Tracy Williams’ expected departure was made official on Friday evening. A news release was posted at 7:56 p.m. on the team website.

Exactly one minute later, the Eastern Conference team posted a second new release that stated Takatoshi “Big Bashi” Ishibashi will be the Saitama coach for the 2013-14 campaign.

Williams’ stint as bench boss lasted one season. Saitama, in its eighth season in the bj-league, went 15-37, grabbing one more victory than the expansion Gunma Crane Thunders in 2012-13.

The 44-year-old Ishibashi coached the Shinshu Brave Warriors this past season and was let go in May after a 17-35 campaign. He was Shinshu’s assistant coach in 2011-12 under Motofumi Aoki. Before that, the former Japan national team center coached the Toyama Grouses for the final 42 games of the 2008-09 season, and they went 8-34 in that time.
Ishibashi moved on to the Shiga Lakestars as an assistant coach under Bob Pierce for the 2009-10 campaign. Ishibashi replaced Pierce that off-season, and served as the sidelined supervisor for the first 34 games of the 2010-11 season. He was fired in early February, when the Lakestars had a 19-15 record and were tied with the Rizing Fukuoka for third place in the Western Conference.

Ishibashi becomes the second coach in bj-league history to be appointed head coach of four franchises, and his overall record at his three previous stops is 44-84. Aoki has guided the Takamatsu Five Arrows, Tokyo Apache, Shinshu and Tokyo Cinq Reves, the latter squad in 2012-13.

Knowing the Broncos’ long history of mediocrity — eight non-winning seasons and zero playoff appearances — since the bj-league’s inception, a league insider issued this warning to Ishibashi on Friday evening: “He better get his resume ready for his next (bj-league) gig.”

Starting with Charles Johnson in 2005, the Broncos have hired (or promoted) and fired coaches Kenji Yamane (2006-07), David Benoit (2007-09), Masato Fukushima (2009-10), Bob Nash (2010-11), Dean Murray (2011), Natalie Nakase (2011-12) and Williams. The franchise’s overall record was exactly 100 games under .500 entering the 2012-13 season, and then the Broncos were among the league’s worst teams for the entire season. Only Benoit coached the Broncos for a second season in the bj-league.

With Williams, a former Harlem Globetrotter in charge, the Broncos played an up-tempo style. But they allowed a league-worst 94.4 points per game. Former Apache star John “Helicopter” Humphrey led the league in scoring (27.2 ppg), snatching the scoring crown for the third time, but that didn’t translate into team success.

Looking ahead to next season, Ishibashi said that he wants to create a team that generates strong support from boosters.

Since mid-May, just days before the Yokohama B-Corsairs won the championship at Ariake Colosseum, the Shimane Susanoo Magic, Ryukyu Golden Kings, Niigata Albirex BB, Sendai 89ers, Chiba Jets (who have defected to the NBL) and Saitama have either replaced or axed their head coach.