The Kyoto Hannaryz, a first-year bj-league expansion team, have fired head coach David Benoit, the team announced on Friday.
Assistant coach Kazuto Aono, who turns 34 on April 28, was named the new head coach.
Kyoto, ravaged by injuries this season, is 14-26 entering a two-game weekend series against the visiting Takamatsu Five Arrows. The Hannaryz have 12 regular-season games remaining this season.
“I was saddened about the company decision, but I will try my hardest,” said Aono, who also worked as an assistant coach under Benoit for the Saitama Broncos in the previous two seasons.
Kyoto is tied with the Toyama Grouses for the third-worst record in the 13-team league.
“This opportunity didn’t pan out the way I wanted it to,” Benoit said in a telephone interview on Friday.
“The whole situation is tough.”
The Hannaryz, who are 4-16 on the road, began the season with three wins in their first five games, then lost seven straight. In the weeks that followed, the club suffered a string of key injuries.
Starting center Reda Rhalimi missed 10 straight games from late November to early January. Ex-NBA guard Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf was sidelined for nine consecutive games in December and January.
Forward Josh Bostic, the team’s leading scorer (21.7 points per game), has missed the last four games due to an injury, as has guard Taizo Kawabe, the team’s top Japanese scorer (10.3 ppg).
Benoit, who went 40-56 in two seasons as Saitama’s bench boss, said the Hannaryz have struggled to develop a cohesive unit.
“Dealing with injuries all the time, the team never had a chance to come together and jell,” he said.
Benoit, who played eight seasons in the NBA, and also in China and Japan, said from Day One that he planned to build a winner in Kyoto.
“Of course we wanted to win a championship, but the reality is . . . you have to step back and look at it this way — this is not going to happen overnight,” said Benoit, who revealed he’s interested in future coaching opportunities in the bj-league.