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Coaching moves already underway

by

Staff Writer

The annual coaching carousel changes the landscape of who’s in charge.

With the conclusion of the bj-league’s 11th and final season on May 15, when the Ryukyu Golden Kings captured their record fourth title, a number of teams have switched — or plan to switch — their floor boss.

The changing of the guard will, of course, impact how teams adjust to the reality of playing in the new B. League, the three-division hoop circuit that combines the bj-league, NBL and NBDL starting this fall.

This was among the big changes in recent days: The Sendai 89ers have parted ways with coach Shuto Kawachi after his three seasons at the helm.

The team made the announcement on Monday.

One of the youngest mentors in Japan pro basketball, Kawachi, 30, guided Sendai to two straight trips to the Eastern Conference playoffs to close out his tenure with the Tohoku-based club, which will enter the B. League as a first-division squad.

The 89ers went 37-15 in each of the past two regular seasons, with guard Kejuan Johnson earning league MVP honors in the 2014-15 campaign and forward Wendell White repeating the feat this past season.

In Kawachi’s first season in charge, Sendai went 24-28, placing eighth in the East and missing out on the postseason. His father, Toshimitsu Kawachi, served as the bj-league commissioner for 11 seasons.

Done in Fukushima: After serving as the first coach in Fukushima Firebonds history, Hiroki Fujita won’t be back for a third season in charge, the club recently announced.

Fujita led the Firebonds to a 21-win season in their inaugural season, followed by a 30-22 mark this past season.

Fukushima advanced to the playoffs both times under Fujita, who turned 30 in April.

New hires: The Hamamatsu Higashimikawa Phoenix on Thursday handed the coaching reins to Fujita and named Kawachi his assistant.

Both men were Hamamatsu players under ex-coach Kazuo Nakamura, and Kawachi began his coaching career as a Phoenix assistant.

Fujita replaces Tomoya Higashino, who left the team last month for a new five-year position as the Japan Basketball Association’s technical director.

Higashino led the Phoenix to a title-winning campaign in 2014-15.

Changes in Nagano: The Shinshu Brave Warriors decided not to renew sideline supervisor Koju Munakata’s contract after his lone season in charge.

Instead, the Brave Warriors announced on Monday that Ryutaro Onodera, who coached the Saitama Broncos to a 5-47 campaign in 2015-16, will take over as the team’s new bench boss.

Munakata’s departure comes after he engineered the team’s improbable turnaround this past season.

Shinshu went 6-14 in its first 20 games, then closed out the season with a 21-11 finish to earn the East’s No. 7 playoff seed.

Staying put: Kyoto Hannaryz bench boss Honoo Hamaguchi will continue to guide the team as it builds a new foundation in the B. League as one of 18 first-division teams.

The Hannaryz reached the bj-league Final Four in four of Hamaguchi’s five seasons, doing so for the final time last month.

Raising the level of the team’s overall performance, Hamaguchi guided Kyoto to 44-8 and 41-11 regular-season records over the past two seasons.

Contract extension: The Aomori Wat’s have finalized a deal with coach Nobunaga Sato to return for a second season.

Aomori advanced to the playoffs in May as the East’s No. 8 seed after going 23-29 in the regular season.

New general manager: The Osaka Evessa have hired longtime coach Yoshinori Shimizu as their new GM.

Shimizu, 66, led the NBL’s Kumamoto Volters from 2014-16. During a long career on the sideline, he is a familiar name in Kansai basketball circles, having coached the Panasonic Trians from 2005-13, while also serving as the club’s mentor, assistant coach and technical advisers in stints dating back to the late 1970s, when the now-defunct team was known as Matsushita Denki (Electric).