Basketball

Suns assistant Gaines to guest-coach Japan

by Kaz Nagatsuka

Staff Writer

Corey Gaines, a Phoenix Suns assistant who formerly played in Japan, will be invited to coach the Japanese women’s national team, team assistant Tom Hovasse revealed on Tuesday.

Gaines will join the women’s team, which has already secured a spot at this summer’s Rio de Janeiro Olympics, as a guest coach during its April 25-May 11 training camp in Tokyo.

The 50-year-old is expected to teach the team some fast-tempo offensive plays, which he has learned under Paul Westhead, both as a player and assistant. Gaines played as a point guard for Westhead at Loyola Marymount University and was an assistant to the distinguished coach with the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury for two years from the 2006-07 season.

Gaines, who became a full-time assistant coach this season, inherited knowledge of Westhead’s signature fast-tempo offense. With it, Westhead and the Los Angeles Lakers won the NBA championship in the 1979-80 season. After Westhead left the Mercury, Gaines was promoted to the head coaching position and led the club to a pair of titles in 2007 and 2009. Japan’s Yuko Oga played for Gaines’ Mercury during the 2008 season as well.

Hovasse said that Gaines, who is a quarter Japanese and who played for a year for the now-defunct Japan Energy Griffins in Tokyo in the 1997-98 Japan Basketball League season, has a lot of fast-break options that he learned from Westhead, who coached for two seasons with Japan’s Panasonic Super Kangaroos in the early 2000s.

Hovasse added that Gaines also accumulated his knowledge by scouting marquee offensive NBA teams like the Golden State Warriors and San Antonio Spurs for the Suns over the last few years.

“We’re going to go through a lot of stuff that he’s learned and we’re going to try to figure out what fits this team the best,” Hovasse said during Tuesday’s practice with the women’s national team, which is in its first training camp toward the Olympics at the National Training Center.

“We’re going to pick his brain and try to get as much out of him as we can in terms of different sets and different fast-break stuff.”

Inferior in size, the Japan women’s team is going to be one of the smallest teams at the Olympics, but Hovasse thinks that the fast-tempo offense Gaines plays will help compensate.

“I think there’s a lot of stuff in the NBA now like the Golden State Warriors, who are a small team, shoot a lot of 3s, run fast-break, that I think we can kind of emulate and copy, because we’re going to be a small team in the Olympics,” Hovasse said. “So we just need to learn to spread the floor and hopefully utilize some of the plays (Gaines) brings in.”

Before he transferred to Loyola Marymount, Gaines played for UCLA for three seasons alongside Reggie Miller, who later became a star shooter in the NBA. Gaines played for five different NBA teams, including the Seattle Supersonics and New York Knicks.

The Tomohide Utsumi-led women’s national squad had former Knicks assistant Jerry Dunn as a guest coach to teach it some defense last spring before the FIBA Asian Championship, in which the team earned its second consecutive gold medal.

“We want to play fast and then make some outside shots,” Utsumi said of his team’s style of play for the Olympics. “We want to get a boost from our outside players.”