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JBA leaders should resign following national team’s poor showing

by Ed Odeven

It’s foolish to think the Japan Basketball Association understands what it takes to build a successful men’s basketball program.

It’s even more idiotic to believe the JBA will take any positive steps in the years to come.

Therefore, there is only one logical solution: It’s time for JBA’s top leaders, including deputy president Yushi Samuro, secretary general Takashi Kiuchi and president Taro Aso (yes, that Taro Aso, the prime minister) to resign immediately from their posts. The JBA needs new leadership, led by individuals who truly care about building a real national team, featuring the nation’s best JBL and bj-league players.

For crying out loud, it’s time for a fresh start.

The Japan men’s national team finished an embarrassing eighth at the FIBA Asia Championship in 2007, which was held in Tokushima. It was Japan’s worst-ever finish at the continental tournament.

How’s this for an encore?

Japan placed 10th at the 2009 tournament, which wrapped up last Sunday in Tianjin, China.

Notice a trend here?

And hey, don’t expect things to improve with the current crop of “leaders” running the show.

The JBA’s leadership is living in the past, living under the assumption that JBL players are ready to succeed at the international level.

That’s hogwash. And nothing can be further from the truth.

In the JBL, there’s a one-foreigner rule which has been counter productive.

Need proof?

Watch video of Japan’s awful play in the past two continental tournaments. JBL players are ill-equipped to compete in the international game against bigger, stronger, better players.

After all, they play almost exclusively against Japanese players.

(In the bj-league, on the other hand, as many as four non-Japanese players per team, if one is Asian — and typically three Americans per team — are permitted on the court at any time.)

Few people have shown the courage to speak up about this losing strategy, but, believe it or not, there are voices of reason in this nation.

Former Japan national team assistant coach Bob Pierce, who currently coaches the Shiga Lakestars of the bj-league, said it’s simply ridiculous for national team officials to make excuses about the team’s lack of interior size, one of its perennial weaknesses.

“They complain that they don’t have a big center, like Iran, South Korea, or China, but 202-cm Tseng (Wen-Ting) from Taiwan dominated inside in yesterday’s game,” Pierce, who coached on the national team in 2002, told The Japan Times after Japan’s 99-79 loss to Taiwan on Aug. 12.

Blowout losses — the hallmark of a horrible team — were not an uncommon occurrence for Japan in the Asia Championship. For instance, South Korea beat Japan 95-74. Japan also suffered a 101-71 loss to Iran.

Pierce continued by saying, “All you have to do is look at the arms of the Korean players and Japanese players to tell who is serious about lifting weights and who isn’t.

“If they really wanted to improve the big guys they have, (JBL regulars) Joji Takeuchi, Daiji Yamada, etc., they would have those guys play in the bj-league.

“My big guy Hiro (203-cm forward/center Hirotaka Sato) matched up at various times with (Ryukyu Golden Kings center) Jeff Newton, (Osaka Evessa power forward) Lynn Washington and (Rizing Fukuoka forward) Michael Parker last season.

“JBL players never get that chance to compete against those kind of American players. The JBL on-the-court-one rule is ‘supposed’ to give Japanese big guys more chances to play . . . but it just allows one soft guy to guard another soft guy (and) neither gets any better.”

Since 2006, there have been four national team head coaches: Zeljko Pavlicevic, Kimikazu Suzuki, David Hobbs and Osamu Kuraishi. This revolving door only compounds the problem. Players need continuity and a clear vision from those at the top.

So will a new floor boss be appointed to coach the team in the near future?

Some well-informed sources wouldn’t be surprised if that happens.

“Their solution will be to hire another JBL coach,” Pierce predicted. “How about bringing in my assistant, Takatoshi Ishibashi, who at (208 cm) is a former national team player and would be great to have as an assistant to work just with the big guys.”

Pierce is absolutely correct.

Ishibashi’s experience as a former JBL and bj-league player should make him an ideal addition to any national team coaching staff. But there’s been no indication the JBA will permit anyone employed by a bj-league team to have any role on the national team.

In short, that’s a national disgrace.

Now it’s time to raise hell.

How?

It’s time — this week or this month, way in advance of the upcoming 2009-10 season — for each and every Japanese player in the JBL and bj-league to unify, sign a petition and demand equal opportunities on the national team, a perennial loser on the international stage, as evidenced by the fact it hasn’t qualified for the Olympics since the 1976 Montreal Games.

Simply put, they need to work together to build a successful program, starting with intense tryouts, all-inclusive training camps and regular exhibitions, or real games, between JBL and bj-league teams.

This important display of solidarity would show the JBA’s clueless leadership that the current model isn’t working and won’t work in the future.