Bob Hill hasn’t coached a game in Japan since March 10, 2011. A lot has changed since then, but a lot hasn’t; for instance, Japan basketball’s systemic dysfunction.
And unbeknownst to the basketball world at the time, that night’s home contest against the Akita Northern Happinets at Yoyogi National Gymnasium No. 2 marked the final game in Tokyo Apache history. The team’s American ownership group pulled the plug on Hill’s team after the March 11 disasters, and the now-defunct team, citing financial issues, didn’t return for the next season.
Even so, Hill still tries to monitor developments within Japan basketball and, particularly, the bj-league, corresponding with his former Apache players, staff and others associate with the league.
Meanwhile, as the clock ticks toward the Oct. 31 deadline set by FIBA for the Japan Basketball Association to present a merger plan to FIBA for the bj-league and NBL, the former NBA bench boss believes a merger is exactly what’s needed for Japan, a catalyst to improve the game here. Which is why he supports FIBA’s ultimatum to the JBA.
“There is no question that having two leagues was holding back the talent development of the country,” Hill wrote in an email to The Japan Times on Wednesday.
“It was never fair to the talent pool of the country. The improvement of the Japanese players on our Apache team was evident that practicing against Americans daily helped them improve.”
When Hill guided the Apache during the 2010-11 season, there were 16 teams in the league, and now there are 22, with two more expansion clubs on the way for the 2014-15 campaign.
Those with marginal talent in a nation that has struggled mightily on the global stage in men’s basketball are thrust into prominent roles to fill roster spots they wouldn’t be able to get if the number of teams wasn’t so high — and rapidly growing this decade.
“If the two leagues come together and the number of teams is cut back, the Japanese talent pool will definitely improve,” Hill said. “I agree totally with FIBA.”
Hill served as an assistant on Ukraine coach Mike Fratello’s staff at the FIBA World Cup, which concluded on Sunday in Spain.
Ukraine went 2-3 and earned an 18th-place finish at the 24-nation tournament.
Tyler update: The Sacramento Kings waived ex-Apache big man Jeremy Tyler last week. Since his final game with Tokyo in 2011, Tyler, 23, has bounced around the NBA (Golden State Warriors, Atlanta Hawks, New York Knicks) and the NBA Development League (Dakota Wizards, Santa Cruz Warriors, Erie BayHawks).
Tyler has played in 104 regular-season NBA games, averaging 3.6 points and 2.6 rebounds.
New leadership: Hayato Suematsu was recently promoted to general manager, the Shimane Susanoo Magic announced on their website.
The 32-year-old served as the team’s assistant general manager from 2012-14, and was hired as team manager in 2011. Before he joined Shimane, the Oita native worked as a coach for the Oita HeatDevils’ basketball school from 2006-09. He played for the HeatDevils in 2005-06, the team’s inaugural season.
On the move: Center Chas McFarland, who helped the Akita Northern Happinets earn a championship runnerup finish last season, has joined Club Atletico Olimpia Montevideo, according to published reports.
The 213-cm McFarland, a Wake Forest product, also suited up for the Yokohama B-Corsairs in 2011-12, their first season in the bj-league.
The Shinshu Brave Warriors have added veteran point guard Jermaine Dixon to their roster, it was announced on Wednesday.
An explosive scorer who’s been among the league’s premier passers, Dixon, a University of Pittsburgh alum, played for the Hamamatsu Higashimikawa Phoenix last season. He starred for the Gunma Crane Thunders (2012-13) and Hamamatsu (2010-12), playing an instrumental role for the league champion Phoenix in the 2010-11 season.
Making history: The expansion Fukushima Firebonds played in their first preseason game last Saturday against the Iwate Big Bulls, losing 82-67. Iwate led 43-37 after one quarter and increased their lead in the second half. The Firebonds trailed 66-53 entering the final period.
The last word: “The desire for money ruins lots of things,” a former bj-league coach said, analyzing the league’s economic model and never-ending expansion.