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Evessa stick with veteran bench boss Oketani for 2017-18 season

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As expected, Dai Oketani is staying put with the Osaka Evessa, plotting to lead the proud franchise’s rise to title contender once again.

The veteran bench boss, who turns 40 in December, has finalized an agreement with the Osaka front office to guide the team next season, it was announced on Wednesday.

The Evessa finished the 2016-17 campaign with a 28-32 record (third place in the West Division) in Oketani’s second season at the helm. Osaka didn’t advance to the playoffs.

The promotion of the Shimane Susanoo Magic, who captured the B2’s West Division regular-season title, further strengthens competition in the six-team top-flight West Division.

For Oketani, the challenge of qualifying for the playoffs will be priority No. 1 when the new season tips off in the fall.

With a season under his belt in the B. League, the two-time title-winning coach (2008-09 and 2011-12 with the Ryukyu Golden Kings in the now-disbanded bj-league) looks ahead to guiding the Evessa, a three-time bj-league champion, back to prominence.

“I do not forget the regret that I had (experienced) last season,” Oketani said in a statement. “I would like to make a ‘tough to beat’ (team), with players and staff who fight together this season.”

In 2015-16, Oketani’s first season in charge, the Evessa reached the playoffs, finishing with a 35-17 record and earning the No. 6 seed in the bj-league’s Western Conference.

Leaving the Hannaryz

Former Santa Cruz Warriors assistant-turned associate head coach James Andrisevic, who worked under then-sideline supervisor Casey Hill from 2013-16 for the NBA Development League squad, has departed the Kyoto Hannaryz, leaving his post as an assistant coach.

On Friday, he was hired as the new head coach of the Hiroshima Dragonflies, who compete in the second division. Hiroshima went 46-14 last season.

Andrisevic replaces Kenichi Sako, who led the team from 2014-17.

A former Arizona State big man, Andrisevic has also coached in Slovakia (BC Prievidza) and before that in Norway (Asker BC). He guided the latter club to the title round in 2011-12.

Andrisevic’s playing career included stops in England, Denmark and Germany.

Before coaching in Norway, Andrisevic, 35, served as a grad assistant and director of basketball operations at Missouri Valley Conference school Drake University, working in each role for one season.

Hannaryz head coach Honoo Hamaguchi, who has led the club since the start of the 2011-12 bj-league season, reunited with Andrisevic after serving as a member of Rob Evans’ coaching staff at ASU during the 2003-04 season.

The Hannaryz went 25-35 in 2016-17.

Hill was an assistant coach under his father Bob, a longtime NBA mentor, on the 2010-11 Tokyo Apache squad. He left Santa Cruz after the team was eliminated from the playoffs in April.

“It’s completely amicable,” Hill told the San Francisco Chronicle. “With the way (Golden State Warriors) Coach (Steve) Kerr has his staff structured, understandably so, there’s not much room for me to move in. I think we all kind of decided that the best thing for me was to pursue some other options outside of Golden State. That’s what the plan is.”

The D-League has been renamed the NBA G League for the 2017-18 campaign.

In an email interview this week with The Japan Times, Casey Hill offered keen insights about working with Andrisevic at Santa Cruz.

What do you think it says about his coaching chops that a team in Kyoto went out and hired him?

“James has a brilliant basketball mind,” Hill told The Japan Times. “Kyoto obviously recognizes that. He is a confident coach, there isn’t a lot of fluff with him. He knows what needs to be done and he focuses on those things. He’s fun to have around.”

What are his chief strengths as a basketball coach?

“James is very good at relating to players and recognizing their needs during the ups and downs of a season,” Hill stated. “He is also an extremely organized person, which makes him an extremely efficient worker.”

Did he mesh well with the Santa Cruz coaching staff and players to help the team achieve some special things, including a D-League title during the 2014-15 season?

“James was integral to the success we had in Santa Cruz,” Hill commented. “He helped us create the culture we needed to be successful both in competition and development.”

Does James’ coaching style remind you of anyone prominent?

“James’ style and his honest nature reminds me a bit of Rick Carlisle,” Hill told The Japan Times.

How well versed is he in Xs and Os and also in just having good instincts as a coach?

“James has great instincts for the game of basketball,” Hill said. “His X-and-O work is great and always improving. He was really fun to work with in Santa Cruz.”

What’s his personality like away from the gym, practice, scouting, prep time, film time and the 48 minutes of game time? Is he a real funny or quirky guy?

“James is a funny guy and very easy to be around,” Hill observed. “He is simple in his life outside of basketball.”

Summer challenge in Seattle

Ehime Orange Vikings point guard Kosei Ban will play for the Bellingham Slam in the 2017 Seattle Pro-Am league.

The Slam made the announcement on Thursday.

Ban, 23, suited up for Bellingham when the team competed in the International Basketball League in 2014.

The IBL folded in 2016.

Ban saw action in 38 games for the Orange Vikings, a B2 squad, in 2016-17. He also previously played for the IBL’s Nippon Tornadoes, in 2012 and 2013.

“I am personally very excited to have Kosei back with the Slam for the 2017 season,” Slam general manager and head coach Kip Leonetti said. “He was a fan favorite for us back in 2014 due to his positive demeanor and strong work ethic, and I’m sure our fans will be delighted to see him back in a Slam uniform this summer.”

Now in its 22nd season, the Seattle Pro-Am begins on July 1 at Royal Brougham Pavilion.

Los Angeles Clippers guard Jamal Crawford, a Seattle native, runs the league, which includes NBA players every summer.