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Shimane fires Vlaikidis, names ex-JBL star Hanson new bench boss

by Ed Odeven

Staff Writer

The Shimane Susanoo Magic, who have lost seven straight games, including their past three by a combined 59 points, made a coaching change on Sunday.

Former JBL star Reggie Hanson was hired to replace Vlasios Vlaikidis, Shimane announced on its website.

Vlaikidis, who was in his first season at the helm, was relieved of his coaching duties after the team’s 5-21 start. Shimane has the worst record in the 10-team Western Conference a season after reaching the second round of the playoffs.

Vlaikidis, who coached the Iwate Big Bulls to a 7-19 record to open the 2011-12 season before resigning, did not respond to email messages seeking comment.

The 45-year-old Hanson served as a longtime University of Kentucky assistant coach (2000-07) after his playing days. He was a University of South Florida assistant from 2007-11, and then USF’s director of basketball operations through the spring of 2013.

“I want to thank Shimane management for the opportunity to coach the team,” Hanson said in a statement.

“I am very excited to bring a fun style of basketball to the Shimane community.”

What’s his immediate focus?

“Developing offensive and defensive fundamentals will be my main focus to improve the team,” he said.

“It’s great to be back in Japan,” added Hanson, who has a bachelor’s degree in education.

Hanson starred for the Isuzu Motors squad in 1993 and played for JBL rival Denso from 1994-98, while also serving as an assistant coach. He starred for Aichi Kikai from 1998-2000 as a player and assistant coach. At various stages of his distinguished JBL career, he led the league in scoring, rebounding, steals and blocked shots.

To close out the 1997-98 NBA season, Hanson, then 29, signed two 10-day contracts with the Boston Celtics and appeared in eight games for the storied franchise.

According to statistics posted on his Kentucky bio online, Hanson averaged 20.6 points, 8.7 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 2.6 steals and 1.6 blocks during his JBL career.

Hanson suited up for Kentucky from 1988-91, including his final collegiate campaign as a team captain.

Current Louisville bench boss Rick Pitino, his final Wildcats coach, recognized the value and commitment Hanson made to the men’s program, as evidenced by the Reggie Hanson Sacrifice Award issued to a player who exemplifies team-first qualities. (While at Kentucky, he averaged 11.6 points and 5.4 rebounds in 101 games and endured NCAA-imposed sanctions, including no chance of appearing in the NCAA Tournament, due to a recruiting scandal before Pitino’s arrival while other players left the program.)

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Players around the league have paid close attention to Shimane’s demise. Last season, the Magic were a legitimate contender to reach the Final Four under former coach Zeljko Pavlicevic, who guided the franchise to three playoff appearances in its first three seasons, with all-around star Michael Parker setting the tone. Both men are now leading the Wakayama Trians’ revival in the NBL (rebranded JBL).

Why did Shimane tumble so far, so fast?

One Eastern Conference player believes Vlaikidis failed to develop a plan for success.

“When I talk to the (Magic) guys, they were saying he didn’t come up with any real game plans or strategy to win games,” the player who requested anonymity told The Japan Times on Sunday evening. “(They) said he would just tell them to play hard…”

He added: “Yeah, they need some structure.”

A Shimane player agreed that a coaching change was needed.

“Yeah, I think it was the right time for the team to go in a different direction,” the player told this newspaper. “Coach Hanson has a good résumé and I know he is going to give us some good offensive and defensive principles so that we can be successful.”