The new leader of Japan’s men’s basketball team doesn’t believe that its current status fits the talent level of this nation.
As a coach who just guided a club to the summit here, he certainly recognizes that.
The Japan Basketball Association (JBA) officially introduced ex-Link Tochigi Brex bench boss Thomas Wisman as the national team head coach on Friday afternoon.
“I’m very excited to accept the job for the men’s national team. I understand it’s a challenging position,” Wisman said at a news conference at Yoyogi National Gymnasium No. 2 on Friday.
Nobuhiro Hagiwara, a JBA top-level official who directs the men’s national squad, said that the JBA had two foreign finalists for the job and decided to select Wisman, who led the Brex to their first JBL championship during the 2009-10 season.
Wisman has had a long coaching career, including stints with the JBL’s Isuzu Giga Cats (now defunct) and the JOMO Sunflowers of the WJBL.
“We wanted someone that has a global vision and intelligent networks in the world, not just in Asia,” Hagiwara said. “We thought that he was the best fit.”
Wisman, 61, is expected to be at the helm until 2014, when the FIBA World Championship will be held in Spain.
Wisman and the JBA are going to start a national team training camp in early May and work on selecting approximately 25 players for the squad.
Wisman said that he’s simply going to assemble Japan’s best available hoop stars, including ex-NBA player Yuta Tabuse of the Brex.
“Any coach needs the best players and the best talent to have any kind of success,” he said. “And we’ll be trying to get our best players. Certainly, I count Yuta Tabuse as one of our best players. But at this time we’re talking to all players and looking at trying to get longer commitments from them before we announce the entire team.”
Asked if he will have any bj-league players on the national team, which would mark the first time that has happened since the league was established in 2005, Wisman responded by saying that bj-league players will be taken into consideration after they are registered as JBA members.
But he said the timetable for this process to be formalized is still unknown, acknowledging it will take “some time.”
The JBA said that it wants its national team to regain its status as one of Asia’s top basketball squads, which was the case until the 1990s. The men’s squad, however, has been on a steady decline in recent years. It placed eighth at the 2007 FIBA Asia Championships in Japan and finished 10th overall in 2009 at the continental tournament.
Wisman doesn’t believe that he can wave a magic wand and instantly make the national squad a top contender. Instead, he’s focused on long-term development and overall improvement of the team.
“This is a non-qualifying year in Asian basketball, so we’ll get to work this year setting objectives of returning to respectability with the Japan team,” said Wisman, a former national team coach for Great Britain, Hong Kong and Malaysia.
“I believe 10th place is not a respectable place for Japan to be and we are going to use this year to lift ourselves to return to a respectable position. As far as a goal (about) where we are going to finish in the next Asian Championships, the goal is to win.”
As the past JBL season wrapped up last week, Wisman stepped down from his position with the Brex, due to a JBA rule that states a coach can’t hold both posts.
Now, he’ll concentrate on coaching the national team. And it’s a challenge he embraces fully.