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Geary named first coach of B-Corsairs

Ed Odeven

Former NBA guard Reggie Geary, known for his feisty defense as a collegiate and pro player, has been named the first coach in Yokohama B-Corsairs history.

The bj-league team made the announcement on Wednesday.

The B-Corsairs, an expansion team, will play their inaugural season in 2011-12. Yokohama’s regular-season opener is Oct. 8 against the two-time defending champion Hamamatsu Higashimikawa Phoenix.

Technically, the B-Corsairs are the last team to fill a coaching vacancy for the upcoming season, coming after the Saitama Broncos named American Dean Murray, whose contract was reneged by the Oita HeatDevils before the 2008-09 season after he was promised the job by then-owner Vince Rawl, as their fourth coach in as many seasons last week.

Murray, 47, has served as an assistant coach in the NBA’s Development League and in the Korean Basketball League, as well as head coaching stints in Lithuania and China.

(The Sendai 89ers will hand the reins to Bob Piece — a story The Japan Times broke last week — but an official announcement has not yet been made by the team.)

Geary, who turns 38 on Aug. 31, was an NBA guard from 1996-98, suiting up for the Cleveland Cavaliers and San Antonio Spurs before playing in the now-defunct CBA, as well as Israel, France, Ukraine and Portugal.
He was the 56th overall pick in the 1996 NBA Draft. He wrapped up his playing career in 2004 after one season with BC Kiev in Ukraine.

Geary began his coaching career in 2004 as an assistant coach at Tucson’s Flowing Wells High School. After a season there, he returned to Arizona and served on his college coach Lute Olson’s staff for one season as an assistant, then moved on to the NBA Development League for the 2006-07 season, first as an assistant for the Anaheim Arsenal, but was promoted to head man near the season’s midway point. He served as the Arsenal’s sideline supervisor for one-plus seasons and compiled a 36-39 overall record as the team’s coach.

He had a second coaching stint with the Arizona Wildcats in 2008-09 as an assistant, then headed east to Southern Methodist University for the 2009-10 for another assistant job. He was back in Tucson for the 2010-11 campaign as an assistant on the Salpointe Catholic High School varsity squad.

Eyewitness reported that Geary attended B-Corsairs workouts this month as he began the process of getting acquainted to his new surroundings, and now he’s about to embark on the biggest challenge of his coaching career: being the man in charge of a brand new club.

Geary cited ultra-successful winners Olson and Spurs coach Gregg Popovich as coaching influences. As far as building a successful team in Yokohama, he said in a statement that the team must develop its players in order to be competitive and put the pieces in place to contend for a championship.

In the 1990s, Geary was one of the better guards to play on Olson’s perennial Final Four-contending Arizona Wildcats squads. Known for his ability to make steals and his overall passing acumen, Geary helped the Wildcats advance to the NCAA Final Four in 1994.

Recent moves: The offseason changes in the league have been dramatic, what with 13 of 19 teams, including the four expansion clubs, hiring head coaches. In addition, there have been some significant player moves in July.

The biggest move? Three-time defending scoring champion Michael Parker left the Rizing Fukuoka to sign a contract to play for the Shimane Susanoo Magic, who are led by Zeljko Pavlicevic, the Croatian mentor who has won a pair of Euroleague titles in a distinguished coaching career.

Former Broncos forward Kazuya “J.” Hatano, whose solid defense, strong rebounding and versatility have won admirers around the league since 2005, has joined the Shiga Lakestars. The Brazilian-born Hatano also helped the Osaka Evessa win three titles in the league’s first four seasons before moving on to Saitama.

Elsewhere, versatile guard Satoshi Takeda, a major contributor for the Takamatsu Five Arrows since 2006, has moved back to Kansai to play for the Evessa, his employer in 2005-06. The 31-year-old Takeda is one of the league’s best all-around Japanese players.

The Kyoto Hannaryz, meanwhile, locked up veteran guards Haruyuki Ishibashi and Naoto Nakamura to contracts for the upcoming season. They will be among the league’s older players, with Ishibashi turning 38 in December and Nakamura having celebrated his 35th birthday on July 14.

In other player deals, guard Takanori Goya, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2007 draft, has moved on to the expansion Shinshu Brave Warriors. Goya has played for the Toyama Grouses, the Evessa, the Rizing and, most recently, for the Apache.

Also, guard Darin Satoshi Maki, who played for the Apache in all bu one season from 2005-11, has joined the Broncos.

Meanwhile, standout guards Cohey Aoki, the league’s lone five-time All-Star, and Masashi Joho, an energizer for the Evessa, Apache and Lakestars, remain unsigned. There’s speculation that Joho will join the Chiba Jets or reunite with former Shiga coach Bob Pierce at Sendai.

Aoki, who along with Nakama had played for the on-hiatus Apache since the league was established in 2005, would seem to be a good fit for the run-and-gun Rizing, who are in need of additional scoring punch after Parker’s departure.

Clearly, Shimane has improved its stock as a Final Four contender despite Takumi Ishizaki’s uncertain status for the coming season. The national team guard wants to play in Europe, but it’s unknown at press time if he’ll reach that goal or find his way back to Shimane or another bj-league club.

In addition to Parker’s offensive talents, Pavlicevic will have frontcourt standouts Jeral Davis and Reggie Golson at his disposal for the team’s second season along with newcomer and sharpshooter Jumpei Nakama, who’s coming off his career-best season with the Apache and entering his prime.

Coaching exodus: Departed head coaches Masaya Hirose and Kazuto Aono, who worked the sidelines last season for the Niigata Albirex BB and Kyoto Hannaryz, respectively, will work for the JBL’s Link Tochigi Brex in 2011-12. Hirose will serve in an advisory role, while Aono has been named an assistant coach.

In a related move, forward Lamar Rice, who suited up for the Lakestars last season, is returning to the JBL to play for Tochigi. Rice played for the Hitachi Sunrockers from 2008-10 before a one-year stint with Shiga.

Swift update:
Big man Robert Swift, who played for the on-hiatus Apache in 2010-11 could wind up with the Boston Celtics after the lockout or the New York Knicks, according to former Tokyo Apache coach Bob Hill.

Fan’s perspective: The following insight arrived in my email in-box earlier this week:

“If the NBA is off this season, it could be a great chance for the bj-league to get additional TV exposure by filling gaps in sports programming.”

The last word: “Yao was a very dominant player when he was healthy as, dominant as any big man in the NBA’s history. He simply had a tough time with injuries that obviously kept him from winning championships. He was a credit to the game.”

—Hill, reflecting on now-retired Yao Ming’s career.

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Do you have a story idea about the bj-league? Send an email to edward.odeven@japantimes.co.jp