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Nara selects Toyama as first coach

by Ed Odeven

Staff Writer

It didn’t take long. Koto Toyama has landed another coaching gig.

The Bambitious Nara have handed the reins to Toyama for the team’s inaugural season, 2013-14.

The announcement was made earlier this week, just days before the June 19 draft. (Koju Munakata, a former Toyota Motors sideline supervisor, was tabbed in March to coach the Aomori Wat’s, next season’s other new bj-league team.)

Toyama coached the Ryukyu Golden Kings last season, guiding the Western Conference powerhouse to a league-record 42-10 record. The Golden Kings won the Western Conference regular-season title, but fell short of their goal of reaching the Final Four for the fifth straight season, falling to the Kyoto Hannaryz in the conference semifinals in Okinawa.

That playoff series defeat cost Toyama his job. It was a stunning ouster on May 19, the day of the championship game.

Toyama stepped into the Okinawan spotlight after Dai Oketani had guided the franchise to two titles in four seasons before departing with his second championship.

The 30-year-old Toyama is joining his fourth organization in the bj-league. He previously worked as an assistant coach for the Hamamatsu Higashimikawa Phoenix (2008-10), before taking over as the Miyazaki Shining Suns bench boss at age 27.

Toyama led the Shining Suns for two seasons, with the squad going 13-37 in 2010-11 and 22-30 in 2011-12. Miyazaki cleaned house after its second season, essentially gutting the squad of nearly its entire roster and staff. That included Toyama’s departure. (After the 2012-13 season, Miyazaki dropped out of the league due to financial woes.)

In a news release issued by the Bambitious, Toyama said he’s looking forward to this opportunity and is excited to help build the team in Nara Prefecture.

When he was hired to lead the Golden Kings, one Eastern Conference coach told The Japan Times, “(This) could be an inspired choice. Toyama has the potential to be an excellent coach.”

In other league news, Motofumi Aoki will return for his second season as the Tokyo Cinq Reves head coach. The Cinq Reves went 18-34 in their inaugural season.

Also, recently retired forward Kazuhiro Shoji has joined new Niigata Albirex BB head coach Fujitaka “Bomber” Hiraoka’s coaching staff as an assistant.

The 39-year-old Shoji played for Niigata during the team’s JBL days. Shoji, a gifted perimeter shooter, spent the past three seasons with the Akita Northern Happinets, and before that suited up for the Takamatsu Five Arrows and Saitama Broncos. He has been around the bj-league since its inception in 2005.