JBA’s reputation sinks lower after Hobbs’ dismissal

by Kaz Nagatsuka

Here’s what the Japan Basketball Association set forth in new policies about the men’s national team for its restart in January: It wanted to establish a strong squad and eventually gain a spot in an Olympics.

Although the qualifiers for the London Games will not be held this year, it seems doubtful that any of the goals will be met with the status quo.

The latest example is the abrupt dismissal of head coach David A. Hobbs, who was replaced by Osamu Kuraishi, the former national team chief, a month before the FIBA Asia Championship (ABC), which will be held Aug. 6-16.

The JBA said that Hobbs stepped down due to health problems that the 60-year-old American coach had claimed since the East Asia Championship.

But for some reason, it wouldn’t reveal precisely what kind of illness he had or what sort of symptoms he carried.

“(Hobbs) is under treatment,” Kuraishi, 53, ambiguously said, responding to a question on Hobbs’ physical status, last week.

But he would not add more words. Instead, he ended up saying with a bitter smile, “I can’t say anything specific because I’m not a doctor. I want you guys to speculate about this.”

So why doesn’t the JBA want to reveal more details about Hobbs’ condition if he really was sick?

Apparently, even the players were not notified about the coaching change until the day after the announcement.

Veteran shooter Takehiko Orimo said that he learned about it while surfing the Net on his cell phone.

Orimo, who has played in two World Championships, said he had mixed feelings about this sudden substitution.

“It’s a shame, because Hobbs came to a practice and asked me in person to join the national team,” he said.

Shunsuke Ito, a 204-cm center, said of Hobbs: “He was reasonable in practice. And he was so good at bringing our motivation up.”

Hobbs is not so young at 60. So it is not strange at all he reportedly has health issues. But at the same time, Kuraishi said when Hobbs was introduced as head coach in February that the JBA chose him over numerous other candidates because he was so passionate about the challenge.

But it is too hard to believe that Hobbs suddenly lost his enthusiasm and health.

Then, this doubt came up: He might have been fired for another reason.

Meanwhile, however, there is no clear-cut reason why Hobbs would have had to be let go. He at least met the minimum requirement by qualifying for the ABC in the East Asia Championship last month, guiding Japan to a second-place finish. Why? The JBA perhaps would say it explained already. But fans are not convinced as if many don’t believe that Lee Harvey Oswald assassinated John F. Kennedy by himself.

It is such a bygone way to decide things in a closed room and not make them public.

If the JBA is truly serious and desperate about making the men’s national team move competitive, being honest might be the first step. Otherwise, the goals it set will never be achieved.