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Kawachi excited to be coaching again

by Kaz Nagatsuka

This is the fourth straight year that the legendary streetball AND1 Mix Tape team comes to play in Japan. This year, its opponent is the bj-league All-Star team and the league’s commissioner, Toshimitsu Kawachi, will be back on the sideline as head coach of the bj-league team.

News photoToshimitsu Kawachi, the bj-league commissioner, discusses this week’s AND1 Mix Tape Tour games in Japan during an interview last week at the league office. Kawachi will coach the bj-league team, making a return to the sideline for the first time since 1998.
YOSHIAKI MIURA PHOTO

Kawachi, who coached the Japan national team at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, shared his expectations on the AND1 events this week in Tokyo and Osaka in an exclusive interview with The Japan Times.

It will have been 10 years since the last time you had a head coaching job. How much are you looking forward to this opportunity?

I really wanted to do (a head coaching job), and fortunately this chance came to me this time. I’m getting excited.

Have you done anything special, such as watching videos of games or creating plays to prepare for the games?

I’ve been watching tournaments and events, including from last year’s World Championship and Asia Championship to collegiate games and NBA games. Then, I’ve been amazed by how the players perform and thrilled by who wins and who loses. But since it’s been set that I would do this, I’ve changed the way to look at the games, thinking like, “OK, they could’ve done this and that.”

How much do you know about the AND1 Mix Tape Tour? This is a bit of a different style of basketball, isn’t it?

Right. This is not a type of game that you play for an Olympic bid or winning a national championship. But you know, our catch phrase is “We want to play basketball.” And in that respect, we still play the same game. In addition, this is the fourth year for AND1 to hold these events here and this year we’ve come to a stage to play with them. We want to let both basketball fans and non-basketball fans know about this, telling them there is a game like this.

What will be the highlights of the events?

What I want the bj-league players to exhibit is to play a game with a lot of transitions, which is one of the most attractive points about this game. Also, we will play with players that will join us through Open Run (tryout-style games that are always held before events), so we have to make them feel good to be playing with us, professional athletes, and reconfirm it is real fun to play this game by giving them many chances to perform their best.

What do you look forward to seeing from the AND1 team?

They play for fun like children, but they come up with amazing plays out of the “plays.” I believe we can learn from them in terms of that. Also, basketball is a team game. There are a lot of plays like alley-oops, though those cannot be done only with physical ability, but with communication, ability and team work. I think we can absorb this knowledge from them.

Who do you recommend from the bj-league team as players to keep an eye on in these games?

I’ve only seen him in a tryout, but Okinawa’s (Ryukyu Golden Kings) Bryan Simpson, who plays in the Tokyo event, is said to have a high leaping ability. So I want him and point guards like (Niigata Albirex BB’s Makoto) Hasegawa and (Tokyo Apache’s Kohei) Aoki to communicate well with each other and challenge for big plays to show there are players that can do those big plays in this league.

How is it helpful for the bj-league to have an association with the AND1 Mix Tape Tour?

While we want to learn individual skills and team work from them, we have an ideology of “sports entertainment.” In this respect, we want to absorb from what they’ve been doing around the world entertainment-wise.

Note: The AND1 Mix Tape Tour team rosters are included in Monday’s Scoreboard.