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Neumann honored

by Ed Odeven

John Neumann, the globe-trotting, high-intensity head coach of the first-year Rizing Fukuoka has been named the bj-league Coach of the Year, the league announced.

The Rizing stunned the host Takamatsu Five Arrows, who had 10 more regular-season wins, in the Western Conference wild-card game on Sunday, winning 112-94 for their eight triumph in 11 games.

Fukuoka (21-24) now prepares for a May 3 semifinal clash against the two-time champion Osaka Evessa.

Neumann arrived in Japan in early September, less than two months before the team’s first-ever game.

The team’s original hire, longtime American coach Howie Landa, never coached a game, and Neumann was essentially asked to work with Landa’s players.

Neumann, who has coached in several countries, welcomed the challenge.

“It is a great honor to receive this award,” Neumann said in a statement released by the bj-league. “It has been a great thrill coaching this team when everyone thought we would give up. Through our faith in each other and playing team basketball, we have been able to overcome many things this year.”

A former NBA and ABA player and star at the University of Mississippi, he then crafted a winning team out of the group, and worked effectively with mid-season newcomers — Michael Parker and Kazuyuki Nakagawa.