In the rapidly changing bj-league, the Eastern Conference welcomes a pair of new franchise — the Gunma Crane Thunders and Tokyo Cinq Reves — to the fold this season, while the mighty Hamamatsu Higashimikawa Phoenix, a three-time finalist and two-time champion, shift to the Western Conference.

Only four teams have the same head coaches from opening day a year ago: Kazuo Nakamura (Akita Northern Happinets), Bob Pierce (Sendai 89ers), Reggie Geary (Yokohama B-Corsairs) and Matt Garrison (Niigata Albirex BB). Interestingly enough, all four men are entering year two with those teams. Of the four, Pierce and Nakamura the longest-tenured coaches in the East, with both entering the league in 2008, when the Shiga Lakestars, Pierce’s first bj-league bench boss gig, and Nakamura, who guided the OSG Phoenix before and after their defection from the JBL. Geary faces a tough challenge to make the playoffs or the Final Four again in the 11-team conference.

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