Despite facing an expected suspension from FIBA, Japan Basketball Association acting president Mitsuru Maruo insisted that the country’s governing body would not stop trying to address and fix its problems, including the unification of the nation’s two men’s top leagues.
Such strong words. But many of Japan’s loyal hoop fans would have wanted to hear that long before, before it was too late — before Friday’s deadline issued by FIBA, basketball’s world governing body, to the JBA for a merger plan to be finalized.
Maruo confirmed that JBA executives had a meeting with Patrick Baumann, FIBA’s secretary general, in Sendai a few weeks ago during the FIBA 3×3 world final events. According to Maruo, although the deadline was approaching, Baumann told JBA leaders to not rush into making a new pro league, which the association is looking to launch in 2016, if it’s not good enough for Japan’s entire hoop landscape.
It’s unclear if the JBA actually rushed or not, but here are the concrete facts: The merger didn’t happen in time and the nation’s development of basketball will be affected.
In spite of the disappointing situation, Maruo said the JBA and pro league committee were still confident that the proposed new league would be established as planned.
“It hasn’t changed at all that all the entities (JBA, NBL and bj-league) are still maintaining their thoughts for the new league,” Maruo said at a Tokyo news conference on Wednesday. “That’s a relief.
“We started our talks to make a new pro league in 2010 (to start it in 2013, which is now played as the NBL), and we kept it going for three years. But our conversations now are completely different for sure. We are once again trying to get over the walls. Our intention of beginning the league in 2016 hasn’t changed.”
With the suspension looming, it’s fortunate for Japan national teams that there aren’t any international tournaments right away. Yet there will be Olympic qualifiers for both men and women for the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games next summer in China. So the JBA would need to meet requirements set by FIBA so it could have a ban lifted as soon as possible. (FIBA has also asked the JBA to work on the development of its national teams and to have proper governance outside of the NBL-bj-league merger.)
The JBA said it plans to to submit documents to FIBA via both mail and email, but claimed it doesn’t know how FIBA will ultimately determine if a suspension will be issued and how and when that message will be delivered.
Maruo said that the association would send messages to the players, presumably to apologize, if a suspension is handed down.
Last week, Yasuhiko Fukatsu resigned as JBA president to take responsibility for the failure of the parties to come to an agreement on unification talks for the new league before the FIBA deadline (although his resignation was before the deadline). Maruo hinted that they discussed that other board members should also quit. But they stayed because leaving their jobs wouldn’t resolve these issues.
The JBA will select its new president by the end of next month, according to Yoshiki Hoshi, JBA’s secretary general, who attended the news conference.
Meanwhile, bj-league commissioner Toshimitsu Kawachi, whose fledgling 22-team circuit had been in conflict with the JBA and NBL during past league unification talks, said that, as Maruo put it, the discussions on the new pro league committee involving the JBA, NBL and bj-league have been more serious than ever. He added that he felt positive on the unification talks.
“I think we’ve come to the ‘seventh station (of a mountain)’, ” said Kawachi, who’s a member of the JBA board and its new pro league committee. “But in the meantime, the remaining three stations could be real steep…”
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