Coaching changes are quickly shaking up the leadership foundation of the B. League.
A new wave of hires adds intrigue and uncertainty to the summer break.
The Alvark Tokyo this week formally announced that Takuma Ito would not continue as head coach for the 2017-18 season. He guided the Alvark to a 44-16 record this past season, and Tokyo represented the East Division in the playoffs, falling to the Kawasaki Brave Thunders in the semifinals.
Ito, 34, patrolled the sideline for the past two seasons, bridging the NBL and B. League eras. Before that, he served for six seasons as an Alvark assistant coach.
With Ito at the helm, the Alvark went 46-8 and grabbed the top seed for the playoffs during the final NBL season.
Now he’s out of the hot seat.
The Alvark decided to hire a more seasoned sidelined supervisor for the upcoming campaign.
Luka Pavicevic, who turns 49 on Saturday, worked as the Japan men’s national team head coach and technical adviser over the past several months. Argentine Julio Lamas replaces Pavicevic is the new national team boss.
After a playing career that lasted from 1984 to 2003 in Europe, the mentor’s long coaching odyssey has includes stops in Serbia, Montenegro, Germany and Greece.
“I am grateful to the Alvark Tokyo for the opportunity to remain in the Japanese basketball world,” Pavicevic, who was born in Podgorica, Montenegro, said in a statement.
He added: “I am going to take office as head coach of the prestigious club in Japan and Asia, (and) I am very excited to have high motivation.”
Hasegawa done in Akita
Makoto Hasegawa, who guided the Akita Northern Happinets from 2014-17 after wrapping up his playing career with his hometown team, will not return for a fourth season at the helm, the club has decided.
On Tuesday, Josep “Pep” Claros was named the new coach, hired to guide the Happinets back into the first division.
Akita went 18-42 this past season, receiving a demotion to B2. The club had a 35-17 record in 2015-16 in the bj-league, and earned back-to-back title runner-up finishes in the 2013-14 and 2014-15.
Now Claros, 47, steps into the spotlight to revive the club’s fortunes. Over the past two-plus decades the Spaniard has traveled the globe, including time as an assistant for the Continental Basketball Association’s Fort Wayne Fury (1999-2000). Along the way, he’s worked in El Salvador, Venezuela, Mexico, Portugal, Canada, France and, most recently, Bahrain.
He also steered the Rizing Fukuoka into the bj-league playoffs in 2016, taking over in March and leading them to six wins in 12 games, including two three-game win streaks, to close out the season. The Rizing grabbed the West’s eighth and final playoff spot.
“I’m very excited about coming to Japan, to Akita and this great organization,” Claros said in a news release. “I will give my best to help our team to reach all our goals. I know it will be a long and interesting season and we are all working hard to get the best players we can. After, we will focus to develop them and give our max every game together with our crowd.”
Shakeup in Sendai
After a B1-worst 14-46 campaign and demotion to the second division for next season, the Sendai 89ers have appointed a new bench boss.
Toshihiro Goto takes over as coach, replacing Takeo Mabashi, who handled double duty as the team’s GM this past season, too.
Goto, 50, has primarily coached in the WJBL since 2000. He also led the now-defunct Fukuoka Red Falcons from 2005-06 in the JBL.
The 46-year-old Mabashi has been a part of the Sendai staff since the team joined the bj-league in 2005.
Fukushima retains Moriyama
Coach Tomohiro Moriyama is returning to lead the B2’s Fukushima Firebonds for a second season, it was announced on Tuesday.
Moriyama led the Tohoku-based club to a 30-30 record in the first B. League season. The 33-year-old has previously been a head coach for the Shimane Susanoo Magic and the Rizing Fukuoka.
Kataoka back to Kyoto
Veteran shooting guard Masaharu Kataoka is returning to the Kyoto Hannaryz, the team he played for during the 2012-13 season.
Kataoka spent the past two seasons with the 89ers. He appeared in 60 games (54 starts) in 2016-17 and averaged 9.2 points per game.
After leaving Kyoto in 2013, Kataoka moved on to the Levanga Hokkaido for two seasons before joining Sendai.
In related news, well-traveled forward Kazuya “J.” Hatano is heading back to Shimane for a second stint.
Hatano, a starter during the Osaka Evessa championship three-peat (2005-08), has bounced around the nation since then, also suiting up for the Saitama Broncos, Oita HeatDevils, Shiga Lakestars and, most recently, Ryukyu Golden Kings.
He joined Shimane in December 2012 after the financial implosion of Oita under the team’s then-ownership, which triggered a mass exodus of veteran standouts, and played for the Susanoo Magic until the end of the 2013-14 campaign.
In his lone season with the Golden Kings, he averaged 2.7 points and 2.5 rebounds in 58 appearances.
Social media analytics
In the league’s latest monthly marketing report issued last week, the Chiba Jets’ social media outreach is No. 1 by a wide margin over the rest of the top division.
Through May, the Jets had 79,898 Facebook followers and 83,696 more on Twitter, according to the report.
Adding Facebook and Twitter, the twin titans of social media, the champion Tochigi Brex took the second spot with 29,713 and 81,854, respectively.
The Golden Kings claimed the third spot, connecting with 36,185 on Facebook, 54,661 on Twitter, as well as 12,545 on Instagram, far and away tops among teams in that department.
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