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Coaching changes spawn diverse mix in leadership ranks

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With the movement of coaches this offseason in the first and second divisions, a new-look leadership melting pot is forming for the 2017-18 season.

Coaches from Croatia, the United States, Australia, Spain and Montenegro join the mix for the 36 combined clubs in B1 and B2.

With these moves, the B. League expands its global reach as a coaching destination at a time when Japan’s new men’s national team mentor Julio Lamas comes from a country (Argentina) that has been at the forefront of sweeping changes in global basketball in recent decades.

It’ll be interesting to observe the rapport that develops between Lamas and his coaching colleagues from Japan and overseas nations as they work together to develop strategies to raise the level of play in the pro game here.

And that includes world-renown sideline supervisor Zeljko Pavlicevic, who returns to the spotlight as the second-division Bambitious Nara’s new coach in a move announced last week.

The Croatian mentor served as Japan’s national team coach from 2003-06 until the conclusion of the 2006 FIBA World Championship in Japan. Pavlicevic was instrumental in developing the older generation of current players in Japan, with many of the nation’s elite players growing in prominence since then.

Pavlicevic, 66, who was let go by the Chiba Jets late in the 2015-16 season, is a two-time Euroleague-winning coach with stints in Croatia, Spain and Greece.

He led the Shimane Susanoo Magic during their first three seasons of their existence in the bj-league (2010-13), followed by a season with the now-defunct Wakayama Trians (2013-14) in the NBL before being hired by Chiba.

“First of all, thank you for the opportunity to work at the club Bambitious Nara. As it is well known, I love sports challenges, and it is my goal to achieve with the help of the boosters, players and coaching staff the best possible result we can,” Pavlicevic said in a statement.

“The efforts of the club’s president, Mr. (Shinji) Kato, and the GM, Mr. (Yuki) Kanda, along with the sponsors and everyone else who loves the club, show the desire to make the club the pride of one of the most historic and most beautiful cities of Japan, Nara.

“I am looking forward to my arrival and beginning of work . . . and last but not least, it is my desire that we have at home the biggest support of our boosters, where we will together celebrate the victories and learn lessons from our defeats, and improve for the next games.”

Pavlicevic is a big-name hire for the Bambitious, who went 24-36 under Kohei Eto last season.

To review the changing head coaching landscape, recent hires include Australian Shawn Dennis (Shiga Lakestars), Spaniard Josep “Pep” Claros (Akita Northern Happinets) and Montenegrin Luka Pavicevic (Alvark Tokyo), who played under Pavlicevic who played under Pavlicevic (POP 84 Split in the 1990-91 season along with Toni Kukoc) in the Yugoslav League.

As of press time, the American head coaching contingent in place also includes Tom Wisman (Tochigi Brex), ex-NBA forward Bob Nash (Toyama Grouses), Joe Navarro (Kagawa Five Arrows) and Jamie Andrisevic (Hiroshima Dragonflies).

Calvin Oldham, a former Virginia Tech forward and University of Maine assistant, is an assistant for the Jets. Bobby Nash, who played college ball at the University of Hawaii, works on his father’s Toyama staff. Keith Richardson, a North Carolina native has served as a Ryukyu Golden Kings assistant since 2008, helping lead them to four bj-league championships.

On the move

Veteran forward Ira Brown has joined the Golden Kings after playing for the Sunrockers for three seasons, both in the now-disbanded NBL and the B. League.

Ryukyu announced the move recently, signing a talented frontcourt leader with versatility and toughness.

A naturalized Japanese citizen, Brown brings a strong all-around game to Okinawa. The Gonzaga University product is a double-double threat whenever he steps onto the court.

The 193-cm Brown turns 35 on Aug. 3. He averaged 13.7 points and 8.3 rebounds in 57 games (44 starts) last season. He also contributed 2.5 assists and 1.3 steals for Shibuya and shot 51.8 percent from the field.

“I want to thank the Golden Kings organization for an amazing opportunity to play in front of an amazing sellout crowd on a nightly basis,” Brown, a former minor league pitcher, said in a statement. “I look forward to working hard and giving my all to the wonderful Okinawan people.

“Let’s do our best at being as successful as we can. We can’t do it without you all. Looking forward to meeting all the boosters and fans and sharing in your wonderful culture and community.”

Toyama moves to Nagoya

Well-traveled coach Koto Toyama was appointed as the Nagoya’s new associate head coach earlier this month. He’ll work under Shingo Kajiyama, who was promoted from assistant to head coach after Reggie Geary’s departure following two seasons at the helm.

Nearly six months shy of his 35th birthday, Toyama has already been a head coach for the now-defunct Miyazaki Shining Suns, the Golden Kings, the Bambitious and, most recently, the Lakestars (2014-17).

Brex talk

Ryan Rossiter, a standout forward for the champion Tochigi Brex, was the subject of an interesting Sunday column (“Ryan Rossiter finds sweet spot in overseas game”) in the Staten Island Advance, a New York City newspaper.

Rossiter, who hails from State Island, has grown in stature as a go-to star on both ends of the floor for the Brex. He’s suited up for Tochigi for four seasons. Before that, he left Siena College in 2011 as the school’s all-time leading rebounder (1,151).

In the column, written by Cormac Gordon, Rossiter noted that Japan basketball is heading in the right direction.

“The competition is better than when I first got here, and the Japanese players have really improved tremendously,” Rossiter was quoted as saying. “There are plenty of light’s-out shooters in the league now.”

After sustaining a calf injury during the NBL playoffs in 2016, Rossiter revealed that last offseason’s physical rehabilitation with his older brother Steve, a former power forward who played with Stephen Curry at Davidson College, paid off.

“I worked out with Steve all summer last year,” Rossiter told the Advance. “Coming back, it took me a while to get back into the rhythm of the game. But once I got comfortable, I was good to go.”

Big 3 debut

The new 3-on-3 summer circuit in the United States tipped off last weekend at Barclays Center, the home of the Brooklyn Nets.

On Sunday, the Gary Payton-coached 3-Head Monsters edged the Ghost Ballers, who are guided by fellow Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer George “Ice Man” Gervin, 62-60.

Former NBA and Kyoto Hannaryz guard Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf, now 48, scored eight points and dished out two assists for the 3-Headed Monsters, whose roster includes Rashard Lewis, Kwame Brown and Jason Williams.

In another opening week contest, 3’s Company defeated the Ball Hogs 61-51. Player-coach Allen Iverson had two points for 3’s Company.

NBA legend Rick Barry is the Ball Hogs bench boss. Josh Childress, who starred for the San-en NeoPhoenix this past season, finished with four points, five rebounds and four assists for Barry’s club.

The eight-week, eight-team traveling summer league shifts to Charlotte, North Carolina, for Saturday’s action.

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Send email to: edward.odeven@japantimes.co.jp