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Nash returns to Toyama Grouses for third season at the helm

by Ed Odeven

Staff Writer

With a familiar face still in charge, the Toyama Grouses will resume their quest for a championship when the season tips off in October.

Head coach Bob Nash will be back on the bench for a third season, the Eastern Conference squad confirmed this week.

The Grouses captured the East’s 2013-14 regular-season crown with a franchise-best 42-10 record and advanced to the Final Four, finishing third overall among the participants.

Nash’s team has a 77-27 record in the past two seasons.

“I’m thankful to have the opportunity to continue as the head coach of the Grouses for the 2014-2015 season,” Nash said in a statement posted on the team website on Monday. “As a team, we will pursue the goal of winning a bj-league championship.”

He also issued an upbeat message to the team’s fans: “We ask for your continued support this upcoming season as we begin our journey towards a championship. Once again I am happy to return to coach the Toyama Grouses.”

Nash resides in Hawaii during the offseason. A former University of Hawaii forward and head coach, Nash also played in the NBA for the Detroit Pistons (1972-74) and Kansas City Kings (1977-79).

Hasegawa takes over: Makoto Hasegawa has formally taken over as the 73-year-old Kazuo Nakamura’s replacement as the latter was not issued a contract extension by the Akita Northern Happinets at the end of June. Both men are Akita Prefecture natives.

Hasegawa, 43, steps into the spotlight after Nakamura’s team came up short in the title game against the Ryukyu Golden Kings in May. He wrapped up his playing career in 2013 with Akita, and been on the team’s basketball operations staff since 2010 when the franchise entered the bj-league.

While admitting he “feels a lot of pressure to win,” in a news release issued by the team on Tuesday, Hasegawa said he aims to employ an aggressive offensive style for the upcoming season.

Staying put: The Tokyo Cinq Reves have retained sideline supervisor Motofumi Aoki for a third season. Tokyo went 13-39 in 2013-14, tied for the second-worst record in the East.

Preseason action: The NBL’s Link Tochigi Brex are scheduled to play host to the Niigata Albirex BB on Sept. 13 and Akita on Sept. 23. The Albirex, meanwhile, are slated to take on the visiting Brex on Sept. 6 and another NBL squad, the Mitsubishi Diamond Dolphins, on Sept. 14. (Last September, Kyoto was the only bj-league squad to schedule preseason games against NBL foes.)

More coaching updates: Well-traveled coach Takatoshi “Big Bashi” Ishibashi has been named a “PR ambassador” for the Wakayama Trians, the NBL club announced last week. Ishibashi lasted one season in charge of the Saitama Broncos, and his contract was not renewed in June after the team went 5-47. He has previously guided the Shinshu Brave Warriors, Shiga and Toyama.

Ex-Oita HeatDevils coach Brian Rowsom will serve as an assistant for the NBL defending champion Toshiba Brave Thunders in 2014-15. (He had coached in Qatar since 2010 after a one-year stint with the HeatDevils.) He also worked as a pro coach in the Gulf nation the season before taking over at Oita. Rowsom played for Toshiba from 1995-98).

On the move: Veteran guard Jun Nakanishi, who had spent the past four seasons with the Rizing Fukuoka, has joined the Iwate Big Bulls for the upcoming campaign. Last season, Nakanishi averaged 5.8 points in 51 regular-season games for the Rizing. The popular floor leader has played in the bj-league since its inception in 2005. He was one of the original Tokyo Apache players. . . . The Oita HeatDevils have added forward Kazuya “J.” Hatano, who had played for the Shimane Susanoo Magic since 2012. A three-time champion with the Osaka Evessa, Hatano suited up for Oita in 2012, before moving on to Shimane during the Kyushu club’s financial crisis early in that season. . . . Veteran guard Minoru Kimura is moving from the Iwate Big Bulls to the Rizing.

Going back home: Yu Okada, one of the top outside shooters in league history, has rejoined his hometown Shiga Lakestars after a two-year stint with the Kyoto Hannaryz. Okada suited up for Lakestars from 2010-12 after four seasons with the Takamatsu Five Arrows. He averaged a career-best 19.0 points per game in 2009-10.

Roster addition: The Bambitious Nara have finalized a deal with 188-cm guard Andre Murray, the team announced Monday. The 26-year-old Portland State product has played for the VFL Astro Stars Bochum in Germany’s ProB circuit.