Basketball / B. League | B. LEAGUE NOTEBOOK

Kawachi takes role with new league

by Ed Odeven

Staff Writer

For 11 seasons, Toshimitsu Kawachi was the face of the bj-league. As the only commissioner in league history, he was the front man for the league’s growth from six teams in the 2005-06 season to 24 clubs this past season as well as its success stories and problems.

Players, coaches, fans and the media, among others, all wanted a moment with Kawachi for a variety of reasons at various times — often overlapping times — during that period. He mediated disputes and spoke to the press at All-Star Games, Final Fours and the annual draft.

Now, in his post-commissioner life, Kawachi, 62, has a less-demanding job. Last Friday, he was named technical adviser to the new B. League, which combines the bj-league, NBL and NBDL and tips off its first season on Sept. 22.

Past roles as a TV commentator, including NBA games, player, club and national team coach and Niigata Albirex BB front-office executive gave the Tokyo native a wide range of experiences to draw upon.

In a news release issued by the B. League, it was spelled out that Kawachi’s advisory role will include aspects of internet, TV and radio game broadcasts and overall competition.

Speaking after the final bj-league title game on May 15 at Ariake Colosseum, Kawachi reiterated that a chapter in Japan pro basketball history had ended. It also signaled a shift in his professional life, too.

“Japan’s basketball will enter a new chapter,” Kawachi told reporters that night. ” I want to make (basketball) sports entertainment and want to see Japanese players perform well at the international stage — the hopes will be relayed to the B. League.

“The bj-league ends today, but with the power of the boosters, I’m certain that the future of Japan’s basketball is bright.”

If Kawachi provides critical analysis of things that worked well plus problems the bj-league experienced, perhaps his role as an adviser will prove beneficial for the B. League.

If Kawachi was given a job as an adviser simply to keep him around in some capacity, and if he provides little critical analysis, his role will be quite limited.

Retirement news: Kyosuke Setoyama, a vital floor leader and backcourt mainstay since the Kyoto Hannaryz came into existence in 2009, announced his retirement last week.

Setoyama turns 34 on July 16.

In a team-issued statement, Setoyama expresses gratitude for support from teammates, team staff, sponsors and fans throughout his career

A native of Miyazaki, Setoyama began his career with the Aisin Seahorses in 2005. He was the No. 1 pick in the 2009 bj-league draft.

In a February 2012 interview with The Japan Times, Setoyama explained his mission every time he stepped on the basketball court.

“…The only thing I care about is to win a championship, so even though we are getting a better record, I’m only satisfied when we win the whole thing,” Setoyama said.

In the same interview, he offered his opinion of the contrasting styles of play in the bj-league and JBL (NBL’s successor).

“I think in comparing the JBL and bj-league, the bj-league is focusing more on individual players whereas the JBL is playing basketball more like team basketball,” Setoyama said. “The JBL is more team-oriented basketball, but in the bj-league it’s easier to show what each player can do individually.”

Setoyama never posted eye-popping statistics with the Hannaryz but he helped the team reached the bj-league Final Four in four of the past five seasons and set a league record with 44 regular-season wins during the 2014-15 campaign

Coaching moves: The Sunrockers Shibuya, formerly known as the Hitachi Sunrockers, have hired Canadian BT Toews, 50, as head coach, the first-division B. League squad recently announced.

Toews, a University of Winnipeg alum, led the WJBL’s Fujitsu Red Wave from 2014-16 and served as the team’s assistant coach during the 2013-14 season. Before joining Fujitsu, he coached the JBL2’s Hyogo Storks from 2011-13. The team is now called the Nishinomiya Storks.

Joining the Sunrockers as Toews’ assistant is Geoffrey Katsuhisa, who worked for the now-defunct Tokyo Apache (2010-11 as team manager/translator under Bob Hill) and Chiba Jets (2011-15 as assistant coach) before serving as the Iwate Big Bulls’ bench boss last season.

New Big Bulls boss: Iwate moved quickly to find Katsuhisa’s replacement, naming Yasunori Ueda the team’s new coach on Thursday.

Ueda, 29, worked as a Storks assistant and head coach from 2014-16 in the NBL. He worked as bench boss Danny Yoshikawa’s assistant before the latter was fired in December 2014.

Earlier in his career, Ueda worked as an assistant for German club BV Chemnitz.

Summer League update: Ex-Oita Heat Devils and Fukushima Firebonds guard Verdell Jones III will play for the D-League Select team at the Las Vegas Summer League, which begins on Friday.

The squad features players who are recognized as D-League prospects, and Jones fits the bill.

The Indiana University alum starred for the NBA Development League’s Santa Cruz Warriors last season. He appeared in 50 games for Santa Cruz and averaged 16.1 points, 3.8 assists, 3.2 rebounds and 1.3 steals.

Staying put: Shooting guard Masashi Joho has agreed to return to the Toyama Grouses for a sixth season, the team announced on Wednesday.

The Hokkaido native has played for the Grouses since 2011. He helped Toyama reach the bj-league Final Four in two of the past three seasons, including the team’s first title game appearance in May.

Feedback: edward.odeven@japantimes.co.jp