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Miyazaki’s departure means 21 teams again next season

by Ed Odeven

Staff Writer

Another offseason of major change is already in full swing. As a wizened comic might blurt out, “There no end to the chaos.”

The Miyazaki Shining Suns have exited the bj-league after three seasons of financial woes and an accumulation of outstanding debt to the league.

The announcement was made official on Wednesday, though it was expected for weeks after the cash-strapped team’s intentions to withdrawal from the league were made public.

This news arrived just two days after the Ryukyu Golden Kings made Tsutomu Isa their new coach, taking over for ousted bench boss Koto Toyama, who led the team to a league-record 42-10 record.

The Shining Suns, who had a league-worst 9-43 record this season, were coached by Junichiro Hongo and Kimitoshi Sano in 2012-13, the latter taking over in February.

In a detailed report in The Japan Times on March 1 (“Gunma’s Keller alleges pattern of malfeasance by Miyazaki”), former Miyazaki player Dominique Keller and others highlighted several issues that painted a bleak picture about the team’s daily operations, including the way team president Shunsaku Kamada conducted business. A fraudulent business was the consensus description given by several league insiders in discussions with this newspaper.

Reached on Wednesday evening for comment, Keller was not surprised about the Shining Suns’ demise.

“When you treat people the way that the president (does), bad stuff is bound to happen,” Keller told The Japan Times. “Not paying players on time is one thing, but to not be honest about it is even worst. I have never saw a president/GM burn so many bridges with players, agents, league officials and his own workers. It’s sad but I hope someone takes over the team with integrity and the right plan. The city of Miyazaki deserves that.”

In a news release, the bj-league stated that if the Shining Suns repay their debts to the league office, re-entry into the league could be considered for the 2014-15 campaign. But the team has stated it wants to join the NBDL (previously known as the JBL2) in the future.

The news release did not cite the financial figures of the team’s debts, though it is reportedly in the millions of yen.

There were 21 teams in the bj-league this season, which concluded with the Yokohama B-Corsairs capturing the championship on Sunday at Ariake Colosseum.

With the departure of the Chiba Jets to the NBL — this was announced last summer — two teams are dropping out of the league. But with the addition of the Aomori Wat’s and Bambitious Nara, there will be 21 teams again next season. And there will be an unbalanced schedule as a result.

Further expansion is planned for the 2014-15 season, which will be the league’s 10th season, and a group in Koriyama, Fukushima Prefecture, recently expressed its desire to launch a team that season.

The league has added expansion teams every season since it started in the fall of 2005 with six sqauds — the Osaka Evessa, Niigata Albirex BB, Saitama Broncos, Sendai 89ers, Oita HeatDevils and Tokyo Apache — and the expansion fees provide a known source of revenue for a league that has struggled to make a splash despite nonstop growth in new markets spanning the nation.

The HeatDevils, another Kyushu-based team with a long history of financial woes, were taken over by the league office earlier this season. After a roster purge and major salary cutbacks, the bankrupt HeatDevils were restructured. They will remain in the league for 2013-14, as determined by the league’s board of directors. That was also announced on Wednesday evening.

Meanwhile, players from the Jets, HeatDevils and Shining Suns will become free agents like those from other teams, though Chiba’s case is unique since it will sign players to compete in a different league.

The Tokyo Apache were the first bj-league team to fold, doing so in June 2011 when American ownership cut its ties to the league. This after spending lavishly on ex-NBA head coach Bob Hill, holding preseason training camp in Texas and hiring a squad composed almost primarily of American cheerleaders and flying them to live and work in Japan.

Miyazaki never made a big financial splash and it got progressively worse.