Longtime assistant coach Ryuji Kawai has been named the Hamamatsu Higashimikawa Phoenix’s new coach, replacing the departed Kazuo Nakamura, it was announced Thursday night.
Kawai, who turns 36 on July 16, has been in the Phoenix organization since 1994. He was a player from 1994-99 for the JBL’s OSG Phoenix before becoming an assistant coach in 1999 and helping the team excel after it moved on to the bj-league.
Another ex-Nakamura assistant, Koto Toyama, took over as the bench boss of the expansion Miyazaki Shining Suns before the start of the 2010-11 season.
Kazuo Nakamura, who captured two bj-league titles and three Eastern Conference regular-season titles as the team’s coach after it left the JBL in 2008, had been with the organization since 1998. The 70-year-old is reportedly set to become the second coach in Akita Northern Happinets history, replacing Bob Pierce, who was fired last week.
Kawai is eager to help the Phoenix maintain their high level of success next season.
“I would like to respect what head coach Nakamura has established and we hope to build up our Phoenix brand of ball, step by step,” said Kawai, an Aichi Prefecture native. “As the league went through so many obstacles after the earthquake during the 2010-11 season and battled through in the circumstances, we hope to overcome a new challenge as a more united group in the upcoming 2011-12 season. We hope to receive as much support from every one of you as we always have.”
In other league news, the Sendai 89ers’ status for next season will depend on Sendai Municipal Gymnasium’s ongoing repairs due to the March 11 tsunami and lining up enough sponsors to meet its ¥250 million to ¥300 million budget), the league announced on Thursday.
“I’m relieved,” 89ers president Teruhisa Nakamura was quoted as saying by Kyodo News.
“The 89ers want to walk down the path of recovery with the people of Sendai. I’m confident we can be back in business.”
The league expects Sendai will play next season, joining 19 other teams, including the four expansion clubs: the Shinshu Brave Warriors, Chiba Jets, Yokohama B-Corsairs and Iwate Big Bulls.
“We want the club to come back to the league after solving the issues of the sponsorships and the gymnasium,” commissioner Toshimitsu Kawachi said.
Also Thursday, the league said it will place all four expansion teams in the Eastern Conference. That means that there will be 11 East clubs next season and nine Western squads.