Toyama Grouses coach Bob Nash guided his team to its first winning season, and that’s something the franchise, which began play in the fall of 2006, can consider a major accomplishment.

Call it a big step in the right direction.

The Grouses, who went 35-17 in Nash’s first season at the helm, showed determination and poise by beating the Yokohama B-Corsairs in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference semifinals last Saturday to force a mini-game tiebreaker at Yokohama Cultural Gymnasium. Yokohama defeated 19-14 in the tiebreaker to wrap up the series.

“Their experienced showed over having been in a Final Four situation last year,” Nash said of the B-Corsairs, who’ll face the Niigata Albireix BB in the Eastern Conference final on Saturday. Tipoff is 6:10 p.m. at Ariake Colosseum.
The B-Corsairs have reached the Final Four for two straight seasons. The Grouses aim to achieve the same thing in the future.

“We got beat by a very good team … and we don’t drop our heads,” Nash told reporters. “We salute them for the effort that they put up and now our season is done, so we put the balls away for the year.”

But before summer vacation begins, Nash, a former NBA forward, provided some perspective on how his team grew before his eyes this season.

“We went 35-17, and there were things we haven’t done before,” he said. “We won a playoff game, won a playoff series and got the game into overtime (mini-tiebreaker) to go to Ariake. I thought it was just a great season all the way around.

“I thought our management and our staff and our fans are some of the best in the league. This is the Grouses’ first time in this kind of situation, so it’s something to continue to build on in the future.”

Toyama closed out the regular season with 13 victories in its last 17 games to secure the No. 3 playoff seed.

Did the Grouses exceed Nash’s expectations?

“Most definitely,” he said. “Starting the season, you never know based on the history of Toyama. Last season, they had a good season (25-27), but it wasn’t over the hump where it was a winning season. This year, our goal was to better that, and I thought our guys stayed together and worked extremely hard together, and we had great leadership from our captains, Ira (Brown) and (Ryuichi) Horikawa, and you have veterans in (Masashi) Joho and (Takeshi) Mito, and I believed in those guys, and we believed in each other so we had a great season. Unfortunately, it had to end in Yokohama five points short.”

Looking ahead to building the team for next season, Nash said it takes hard work to be successful. “You can’t just get on the elevator and ride on to the top,” he said. “To get to where you want to be, you’ve got to walk each step. This season, our guys took a big step of getting to where we want to be of being a successful program year in and year out.”

“Our guys took some major steps this season and hopefully next year there’ll be something bigger for us to achieve,” Nash said.


Around the league: The Chiba Jets, who are defecting to the NBL, are reportedly talking to coaching candidates, though an official announcement has not been made about current bench boss Shinji Tomiyama’s status for next season. …

Ryukyu Golden Kings president Tatsuro Kimura has admirers, people who are impressed with the success his team has had over the past five seasons, including four Final Four appearances and two championships, as well as a league-record 42 wins this season.

Others don’t hold him in high esteem, including a source who lashed out at Kimura less than 30 hours after the Kyoto Hannaryz eliminated the Golden Kings in the Western Conference semifinals on Sunday.

The outspoken critic said it was no surprise that David Palmer left the Golden Kings after their 2012-13 championship season, and he blames Kimura for not bringing Palmer, who signed with rival Kyoto, back.
“(Palmer) wanted to (return) and his family that included a new born was waiting, but Kimura would not only not meet with him, but waited to the last minute to let him know he was not coming back. Kimura operates that way,” the source told The Japan Times.

“He doesn’t give anyone any information because he tries to hold off so nobody else knows they are available. Dave did the smart move by moving forward. He had several offers.”

Elaborating on the topic, the source added, “Kimura totally did Dave Palmer’s family wrong. He left him waiting with a month-old baby not knowing what he is going to do. If a guy knew he was not coming back, do you think he would have his American wife give birth in Japan and have to wait here until the baby is old enough to fly? She could have been home in a comfortable environment. They stayed because they had hopes in living here (in Okinawa) a little longer. It’s horrible how they handled his situation. … Most GMs are former players or coaches in the NBA, but Kimura bought his position. He honestly thinks he is Red Auerbach.”

As for the current group of Ryukyu imports, “I am waiting to see who he lets go this season,” the source said of Kimura. “He does not care about his players’ quality of life. He has done this to David Palmer, Chris Ayer, Kevin Steenberge, George Leach, Carlos Dixon, Dillion Sneed, and Bryan Simpson, all of which can’t stand him. He did (ex-coach) Dai Oketani wrong, but he is the bigger guy and has been professional about this. The success of this season is not because of Kimura and (coach Koto) Toyama. It’s because of what Dai has done here and has carried over. Kimura thinks he is this great GM with smart basketball sense. He is nothing but a spoiled rich kid who was in the right place at the right time. Jun Yasunaga is the success of ticket sales and the success of how the Kings were marketed.

“Kimura is just a little Hitler-like tyrant who needs to be overthrown. If he knew anything about the game, he would not have brought Toyama here.”

Others may disagree, of course. But the critic stated, “Toyama is nothing more than a glamorized manager who needs to be in Akita working for (Kazuo) Nakamura…”

Oketani, whose departure from Okinawa disgusted many fans last spring, landed on his feet as the Iwate Big Bulls coach and led the Tohoku-based team to a 15-win improvement over their inaugural season and a playoff berth.

As reported in this space last May, two-time All-Star guard Narito Namizato joined the Golden Kings after circumventing the draft prior to the 2011-12 season and signing as a late entry, an exception to the league regulations that state Japanese players are required to attend league tryouts. Players can then be either drafted or picked up as a free agent after also attending individual team tryouts.

“(Kimura) also uses rules to his advantage to sneak Japanese players to his team. How does he have the best Japanese players and has not drafted any of them?” the source said. “He put bad info in the other GM’s ears, thinking his former foreign players are uncoachable so nobody would pick them up. Fortunately, Dai had enough sense to pick up (ex-Kings Dillion) Sneed and (Carlos) Dixon.”

Teams do not remain dynasties or powerhouse organizations forever.
Will the Golden Kings remain an elite organization for years to come?

Will Kimura continue to have success that all other teams seek to emulate?

Stay tuned.

Feedback: Got a story idea about the bj-league? Send an email to edward.odeven@japantimes.co.jp


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