The Saitama Broncos have parted ways with head coach Natalie Nakase. The expected announcement was made official on Friday afternoon.
Nakase, the first female bench boss in bj-league history, guided Saitama to 12 wins in 41 games to close out the 2011-12 season.
Overall, the Broncos were 16-36, the worst record in the 10-team Eastern Conference. Dean Murray coached Saitama to begin the season but was fired in November, and Nakase, who began the season as the assistant, was named his replacement.
Former Harlem Globetrotters forward Tracy Williams was named Saitama’s new head coach on Friday, and the draft will be held on Tuesday. The Broncos have a major rebuilding task at hand.
The 32-year-old Nakase had coached the Wolfenbuttel Wildcats, a women’s pro team in Germany, after her she retired from playing ball professionally in the European nation. She starred at UCLA (1999-2003) as a point guard. She also served as an assistant under longtime NBA coach Bob Hill, the Tokyo Apache sideline supervisor in 2010-11.
“The season with the Broncos was a learning experience for me,” Nakase said via email from California. “The positive was the loyal Bronco boosters and all the people that I met. I was also fortunate enough to be the head coach of the East All-Star team, a great group of guys. With the situation I was given, I wouldn’t have done anything differently. I wish I had more time preparing for the season and implementing my system.”
Nakase made it clear that her ultimate goal is still to coach in the world’s top league.
“I would like to coach in Japan for more experience, but my main goal is to coach in the NBA. My next step would be to work hard and network with the NBA coaches.’
Williams, 48, played college ball at James Madison University in Virginia, and suited up for the Globebrotters from 1987-89 and 1991-93. He also played overseas in Argentina, Germany and France, according to online reports.
“I am so excited as I have become the head coach for the Saitama Broncos and will get to work for the upcoming season,” Williams said in a statement released by the team. “I will use my 30 year of experience as a player, trainer and coach for the Broncos. I am sure that we will open the new chapter for the Broncos in the 2012-13 season. It’s a start of us as a winning team.”
Looking back at his playing days in a 2009 interview with the Carteret County (North Carolina) News-Times, Williams said, “We made it to the NCAA Tournament second round when I was at James Madison, and we played Michael Jordan and (North) Carolina. I played with the Globetrotters and played in Olympic stadiums with 82,000 people watching us. I played in the old Boston Garden, which was sold out when we played there.”
The 201-cm Williams has worked in recent years as a motivational speaker. In 2003, he established the U R Gifted Foundation. A statement on his website (www.tracywilliams.com) summarizes his dedicated involvement in this work. “Through his speaking, Tracy Williams has shared his creative approach to success with thousands in person and on television. Small business, professional organizations, Universities and schools, Fortune 500 companies and even The White House; have contacted Mr. Williams to help develop their key individuals,” it read.
He’s also served as a national spokesperson for Kids Against Bullying in Schools (KABS).
Williams, who hails from North Carolina, has also conducted development work in basketball for many years.
Neither his biographical information released by the Broncos nor his own website cite any professional league coaching experience, though, and for a team that has had seven consecutive non-winning seasons, this hiring raises a few eyebrows around the bj-league.
Williams was contacted via email for this story, but at press time had not responded.
The Broncos’ revolving door approach to coaching has failed since Day One, with Charles Johnson, Kenji Yamane, David Benoit, Masato Fukushima, Bob Nash, Murray and Nakase warming the seat for the next hire.