Veteran forward Dionisio Gomez announced his retirement last week, ending a pro basketball career that began in 2003 in the USBL.
For the past three seasons, the 203-cm Gomez competed with fierce determination and energy for the Shiga Lakestars.
In between, he also played for pro teams in his native Panama, Argentina, Mexico, Chile and Spain.
The 34-year-old University of Arkansas graduate is now embarking on a new career. He’s been hired as an assistant coach for the Southern Utah University women’s basketball team, which is led by new coach Chris Boettcher, who guided the Lakestars this past season.
“Nichy is one of the hardest-working players I have ever coached and I am excited for him to join our staff,” Boettcher said of Gomez in a statement. “I know his work ethic and enthusiasm for the game will have an impact on our program. I am excited for him to work with our post players and help in strength and conditioning.”
“He understands my coaching philosophy and is passionate about winning,” Boettcher said. “I know he will bring a positive feel to our team and the community.”
Gomez averaged 14.3 points and 8.9 rebounds in 51 regular-season games for Shiga in 2013-14, helping the Lakestars advance to the postseason for the third time in as many seasons during his tenure with the Kansai club.
“I have always asked myself what would be worst: letting the sport push you out or walking away on your own terms? I got to tell you neither one is easy,” Gomez said in a statement issued by the Lakestars.
“After 11 years, four continents and roughly 600-plus games, I have decided to walk away from the game of basketball and take my experience with me into the next chapter of my life. I will always be thankful for all the memories and great people I met along the way…”
Asked to reflect a bit more on his experience playing in Japan, Gomez had this to say in an interview with The Japan Times: “The bj-league was a great experience. Greatest memories I have are of my teammates. I was blessed to land in such a great place like Shiga and to play with a great group of guys. Also having the opportunity to be coached by great people such as Chris Boettcher and Alan Westover (from 2011-13).
“Lastly, the boosters in Shiga were amazing. Unconditional support at all times. I will always remember the city, the team and the boosters. Shiga will always have a special place in my heart.”
Gomez’s retirement from pro basketball came less than a year after fellow Panamanian Mariano Rivera, the inimitable New York Yankees closer, threw his final pitch in the major leagues.
For Gomez, Rivera provided special inspiration.
“Mariano is an icon of greatness and hard work,” Gomez told this newspaper. “He should be an example for anyone in any sport — humble and a hard worker. I am always excited to see anyone from my country succeed.”