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Yokohama to name Katsuhisa coach

by Ed Odeven

Staff Writer

A familiar face will be on the sideline for the Yokohama B-Corsairs next season. Multiple league insiders have told The Japan Times that Michael Katsuhisa will be named the second coach in team history.

Katsuhisa served as assistant coach under Reggie Geary during the team’s first two seasons, including Yokohama’s 2012-13 championship.

Geary and cash-strapped Yokohama could not agree to terms on a new contract. He was appointed as Chiba Jets head coach — the franchise’s third in as many seasons — on Friday, a move that was expected for weeks and first reported by this newspaper.

The Jets’ jump to the National Basketball League (the renamed JBL) begins with a coach who guided the B-Corsairs to back-to-back bj-league Final Fours and a 66-38 record in the regular season. A former NBA guard, Geary will turn 40 on Aug. 31.

Katsuhisa, 30, played as a reserve guard for the Osaka Evessa from 2009-11 before joining the Yokohama staff for its inaugural season. He attended Nishimachi International School in Tokyo (where his father, Hikojiro, was the headmaster) and Bellevue (Washington) High School.

Geary will now work with Geoffrey Katsuhisa, Michael’s older brother, who has served as team interpreter for head coaches Bob Hill (Tokyo Apache, 2010-11), Eric Gardow (Chiba Jets (2011-12) and Shinji Tomiyama (2012-13).

“I’m very happy and appreciative of the Chiba Jets organization for honoring me with this great opportunity to be the team’s first head coach in their move to the NBL,” Geary said in a statement released on Friday.

“The organization has a long-term plan to build a championship level team, and I’m excited to set the foundation for this process on the basketball court. Everyone involved knows this process will not be easy and may take time, but we will face all challenges head on.”

Geary, who starred at the University of Arizona and was known for his demonic defensive presence on the court, said the Jets are committed to put in the work needed to build a strong foundation club.

“The players, my staff, and I will work tirelessly to bring a competitive and entertaining team from day one to the sponsors and boosters of the Chiba Jets,” he added. “From my experience, it’s important to recognize the valuable and prominent role these two groups will play into our success as a team.

“My family and I are excited to continue our life in Japan, and I look forward to working with the players, building relationships, and being active in the Chiba community on behalf of the Jets.”

Chiba went 26-26 last season and qualified for the playoffs for the first time. The Jets were 18-34 in their inaugural season.

In other bj-league news, veteran center Dzaflo Larkai has joined the Sendai 89ers. He spent the past two seasons with the Ryukyu Golden Kings. Larkai is the second prominent import player to receive a contract from the 89ers in the past week; former league MVP Wendell White also finalized a deal to play for the Tohoku-based club.

The Saitama Broncos, meanwhile, hired Ryutaro Onodera as an assistant coach for new coach Takatoshi “Big Bashi” Ishibashi.

Most recently, the 31-year-old Onodera has worked as a Nippon Tornadoes (International Basketball League) head coach.

Also, Hiroki Fujita, who played for the Hamamatsu Higashimikawa Phoenix (2008-10) and Miyazaki Shining Suns (2010-11) was added to Gunma Crane Thunders coach Ryan Blackwell’s staff as an assistant.

Fujita was out of the league last season. He was then-Miyazaki coach Koto Toyama’s translator for the 2011-12 season.