The Tokyo Apache’s immediate future is still up in air.
Though the team and the bj-league announced on Tuesday that the Apache have suspended operations and won’t field a team in 2011-12 due to financial problems, at least two groups are actively seeking to purchase the team, The Japan Times has learned.
One group, led by American entrepreneur Todd Wiley, who resides in Kanto, and former NBA Japan director of business development and business operations Dan Weiss, will meet with commissioner Toshimitsu Kawachi on Monday.
Another group includes former bj-league executive Daijiro Kusakabe, who has served in an advisory role for the Tokyo Apache for the past year.
Thus, a swift reversal could be in the works for next season. Or the team could be purchased from parent company Evolution Capital Management and then rejoin the league for 2012-13.
Weiss said in a Friday telephone interview that there are “ongoing talks of an ownership change.” He said, however, that the league would need to be “very careful” in approving the team’s next owner, noting the impending sale of the team would give it five owners in the past six years.
If the Wiley-Weiss group, which also includes Apache marketing executive Sean Kameoka, is approved and the team does return to the league for the 2011-12 season, assistant coach Casey Hill is considered the leading candidate to be its next head coach.
Casey Hill served as his father Bob’s assistant for the Apache last season, when the team went 20-14 as its season ended prematurely after the March 11 earthquake.
Weiss said the goal would be “to try to have continuity as much as possible,” including in leadership positions. “I know a lot of the players like him,” he added, speaking of Casey Hill. Also, he said, “we want to keep Cohey Aoki, Darin Satoshi Maki and other players.”
The elder Hill, a longtime NBA coach, is currently serving as a consultant for the Taiwan men’s national team after one season with Tokyo.
The bj-league’s annual draft will be held next Thursday in Tokyo, meaning Kawachi would need to make a quick decision to approve an Apache sale. This would affect the team’s current players, all of whom became free agents this week, and potential newcomers.
The Apache’s new prospective owners would need to show the league it has ¥30 million to ¥50 million in the bank to be a “viable candidate,” Weiss said. The actual estimated purchase price for the franchise remains unknown at press time.
The Wiley-Weiss group became interested in buying the team after finding out last week that it was going to suspend operations, according to Weiss. He said he believes there would be no incurred debts from Evolution, a global investment firm, adding that he thinks all of the team’s bills have been paid.
Weiss said the next ownership group must expect to spend around $2 million per season on the team, but be “much more cost-effective” than Evolution.
In addition, it’s in the interests of the league and the team to not have to re-launch the Apache for 2012-13. Despite their instability over the years and frequent management changes, the Apache are “one of the key pieces of the bj-league,” said Weiss, a former JBL star.
Which makes Monday’s meeting a big one for all parties involved. “Again, this is still an ongoing process,” Weiss said. “We’re just talking to them (the bj-league) to try to save the team.”
In other league news, after a disastrous 10-38 season, the Takamatsu Five Arrows have parted ways with head coach Atsushi Kanazawa, the team announced on Thursday.
Kanazawa’s stint with the Five Arrows lasted one season. The 28-year-old replaced well-traveled mentor John Neumann, whose team went 13-39 in 2009-10, his lone season at the helm.
Kanazawa had previously worked under Neumann for the Rizing Fukuoka during the Western Conference team’s first two seasons in the league.
The Five Arrows quickly filled Kanazawa’s spot, giving the job to Kenzo Maeda, 28, who had served as an assistant coach and team translator for the past three seasons.