Basketball / BJ-League | BJ-LEAGUE NOTEBOOK

Nakamura takes reins in Niigata

by Ed Odeven

Staff Writer

Kazuo Nakamura on Tuesday was named the Niigata Albirex BB’s new head coach.

He last coached a bj-league team for the 2013-14 season, when his Akita Northern Happinets went 40-12 and earned a championship runnerup finish.

Nakamura ran the show in Akita for three seasons before stepping down last May. He takes over a Niigata team that won 15 of 17 games under Fujitaka Hiraoka to close out the regular season — and lost to Akita in the Eastern Conference semifinals.

The Japan Times broke the story last Thursday.

The 74-year-old Nakamura, who captured back-to-back titles with the Hamamatsu Higashimikawa Phoenix in 2009-10 and 2010-11, returns to the spotlight for a team seeking its first bj-league title.

As expected, it’s already been a super busy offseason in the coaching ranks. Here are some other new developments:

Parker out in Gunma: The Gunma Crane Thunders announced on Monday that Charlie Parker’s contract will not be renewed. So he won’t return for a second season at the helm.

After a 1-12 start, Parker, a longtime NBA assistant coach, steered the Crane Thunders to an 18-21 finish and a 19-33 overall record. The franchise made the playoffs for the first time in their three-year history.

New challenge in Shimane: Michael Katsuhisa led the Yokohama B-Corsairs for two seasons after original coach Reggie Geary’s departure in 2013, when the team captured the title. On Tuesday, Katsuhisa, 32, was appointed the Shimane coach.

He worked for the B-Corsairs since their inception in 2011.

Yokohama went 42-62 in Katsuhisa’s two seasons in charge, including 24-28 in the 2014-15 campaign, and missed the playoffs twice.

For Shimane, Tomohiro Moriyama engineered the team’s turnaround, taking over as coach after Reggie Hanson was fired due to the team’s 1-11 start. Moriyama’s club then won 21 of 40 games to qualify for the Western Conference playoffs. But he wasn’t retained.

Done in Aomori: After two seasons, Koju Munakata is no longer the Aomori Wat’s coach, the Tohoku-based club announced on Tuesday.

The Wat’s reached the playoffs in each of their two seasons under Munakata, a former Toyota Alvark mentor.

Aomori lost its final playoff game, a 111-57 thrashing, to the Iwate Big Bulls on May 10.

In those two seasons, Munakata said in a statement that he enjoyed the experience and that the team was able to accomplish a lot.

Coaching carousel: Dai Oketani is a leading candidate to become the Osaka Evessa’s next bench boss, according to a league source who requested anonymity. If hired by the Evessa, Oketani would work along with just-named advisory coach Bill Cartwright, the former Chicago Bulls and Evessa mentor, to lead the squad.

Oketani guided Iwate for the past three seasons, including their first Final Four berth last month. He steered the Ryukyu Golden Kings to a pair of championships (2009, 2012). He is a Kansai native; he hails from Kyoto.

Departed Evessa coach Shunsuke Todo, who was in charge for the past two seasons, is the WJBL’s Toyota Antelopes’ new sideline supervisor. …

The Saitama Broncos, coming off a 6-46 season, hired Ryutaro Onodera as their new coach, it was announced on Monday. He replaces Kazuaki Shimoji.

Onodera, 33, worked as an assistant under-then coach Takatoshi Ishibashi for Saitama’s 5-47 squad in 2013-14. He was the Bambitious Nara coach this past season, and the team went 12-40, the worst record in the 10-team Western Conference.