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Cartwright won’t return to Osaka Evessa

Team to announce new coach next week

by Ed Odeven

Staff Writer

Former Chicago Bulls head coach Bill Cartwright has parted ways with the Osaka Evessa, the bj-league team he resurrected after an awful start last season.

In a news release posted on its website at midnight on Saturday, the Evessa announced that Cartwright’s tenure as head coach has officially ended. Since the end of the regular season in late April, there were no definitive statements by the Evessa about their plans for the coaching staff.

Cartwright led the Evessa to 17 victories in 28 games. He took over a 5-19 team that had become the laughingstock of the league — with head coaches Zoran Kreckovic, who was canned after an 0-4 start, and Takao Furuya failing to steer the team in the right direction. The three-time champion had been a first- or second-place finisher in each of the previous seven seasons.

Motofumi Iguchi, Osaka’s new team president, and Cartwright were unavailable for comment on Saturday.

A new head coach will be appointed on July 1, the team announced in the news release. Whoever takes over will be the team’s fourth coach in a year, and fifth in three seasons. (Ryan Blackwell, who was the bench boss for two winning seasons, was axed after the 2011-12 campaign.)

Cartwright has said in recent weeks that he is interested in returning to the NBA as a coach. After a playing career that lasted from 1979-95, Cartwright served as an assistant coach with Chicago, the team he won three championship rings (1990-91, 1991-92 and 1992-93) for as the starting center, New Jersey and Phoenix. He was one of Phil Jackson’s assistants for the title-winning Bulls in 1996-97 and 1997-98.

The former University of San Francisco All-American, the No. 3 overall pick in the 1979 NBA Draft, is the chairman of CartwrightDownes Inc., which specializes in background checks. He also owns a restaurant in the Chicago metropolitan area.

On the move: Veteran point guard Tsubasa Yonamine will play for the Iwate Big Bulls next season, it was announced Friday. He has agreed to a one-year contract.

Yonamine played the past four seasons with the Ryukyu Golden Kings. He’ll now reunite with his former Ryukyu bench boss Dai Oketani, who also coached him when the two worked for the Oita HeatDevils.

A native of Okinawa, Yonamine has played in the bj-league since 2006. He won a championship with the Golden Kings in 2011-12, Oketani’s fourth and final season with Ryukyu. That season, Yonamine came off the bench in 40 of 52 games. The 30-year-old had primarily been a starter since 2007-08, his second season in the league. This past season, he appeared in 47 games (12.2 minutes per contest) and averaged 2.9 points. He had 82 assists and 33 turnovers for sideline supervisor Koto Toyama, who was fired after the team, which had a league-record 42-10 record in the regular season, failed to reach the Final Four. (Toyama has landed a job for next season as the first coach in Bambitious Nara history.)

Yonamine has been one of the league’s best decision makers with the ball in his hands since the bj-league’s inception. Case in point: He had 1,228 career assists against 393 turnovers in 326 regular-season games.

Oketani transformed the Big Bulls into a Final Four contender in their second season in 2012-13, a 15-win improvement over their inaugural season’s performance.

Now, with the addition of Yonamine, the team brings an experienced player who has faced high-pressure playoff competition. He’ll be expected to be a mentor to the team’s younger players, too.

“I appreciate very much having the opportunity to be able to play for the Big Bulls basketball team and head coach Oketani,” Yonamine said in a statement. “(To the fans), thank you for your support.”