After an up-and-down inaugural season, the Chiba Jets will have a new coach for the 2012-13 campaign.
Eric Gardow’s tenure with the team officially ended on Monday, when the team announced, as The Japan Times first reported, that Shinji Tomiyama will take over as bench boss. Gardow’s departure had been expected for several months.
“The goal of the team next season is to win a championship,” the 31-year-old Tomiyama said in a statement. “(As for the team), we want to fight with all our might.”
The Jets were 18-34 under Gardow, and dropped seven of their final 10 games. The team went through two presidents and a lack of continuity in the front office didn’t help matters. Nor did Gardow’s lack of input in the makeup of the team — he had asked the front office to pursue three Japanese stars — Cohey Aoki, Masashi Joho and Yu Okada — but the team stayed away from all three due to financial issues.
Chiba All-Star Maurice Hargrow led the team in scoring (21.6 points per game, tied for No.2 in the league) and Jamel Staten averaged 21.2 ppg, the fourth-best output among all players. Takaki Ishida emerged as a solid option as the season progressed, finishing with 8.2 ppg. The rest of the team struggled to provide consistent offensive production, but Staten was in the top 10 in points, steals, rebounds and assists.
Already, it’s known that nine squads will have first-year coaches next season in the 21-team league next season: Osaka Evessa (to be announced), Miyazaki Shining Suns (TBA), Ryukyu Golden Kings (Koto Toyama), Saitama Broncos (Tracy Williams), Shinshu Brave Warriors (Takatoshi “Big Bashi” Ishibashi), Iwate Big Bulls (Dai Oketani), expansion Tokyo Cinq Reves (Motofumi Aoki), expansion Gunma Crane Thunders (Tadashi Hayashi) and Chiba.
Tomiyama spent the 2011-12 season on the Iwate bench, first as Vlasios Vlaikidis’ assistant. Vlaikidis stepped down in January, when the first-year franchise had a 7-19 record. Tomiyama guided the Big Bulls to 12 wins in 26 games to close out the season. The Tokyo native was an assistant under then-Tokyo Apache coach Aoki in 2009-10, and worked as a coach for the bj-league academy in 2010-11 before joining Iwate.
Gardow, 43, coached in the professional ranks in Qatar before joining Chiba. He was given a two-year contract when he was hired in 2010.
“Jets management and I have mutually agreed to move on in different directions,” Gardow told The Japan Times. “I am very thankful for the opportunity and experiences coaching in Japan this past season. There are many great people there and the bj-league is an outstanding league. Professionally and personally, after coaching and living abroad since 2007, I’m looking forward to working and spending time back in the United States with my children and being closer to family. My family and I are very excited about our next move back home.
“I wish the Chiba Jets family and all the wonderful fans the very best in the future.”
As far as Gardow’s upcoming plans, he didn’t reveal too much in an email interview on Monday, saying, “I will continue to coach and I’m excited about the opportunity.” He said those details aren’t finalized yet.