After leading the Tochigi Brex to their first B. League title — and a second league championship under his watchful eye — Tom Wisman was not offered a contract for the 2017-18 campaign.
Now, nearly two months after Tochigi’s 85-79 triumph over the Kawasaki Brave Thunders in the inaugural title game at Yoyogi National Gymnasium, a new era begins for the defending champions. Without Wisman.
In the afterglow of the Brex’s title, the drawn-out process to inform Wisman and the public of his departure earlier this week marks an end to his second stint in charge of the club, which lasted three years.
“It was my intention to continue as head coach,” the 68-year-old Wisman said in a Thursday morning phone interview with The Japan Times, “and they made the decision to not offer me a contract.
“I’ve been waiting,” he added, revealing team management never approached him to discuss an offer after the Brex’s sensational campaign ended with a title on May 27.
“As contracts go, they have their right to do that. (But) I did expect to have a contract extension.”
He described it as “disappointment” to not be given the chance to remain as coach in Tochigi, where he said he and his family have established strong ties with the local community.
During the phone interview, Wisman delivered a heartfelt message to the Brex fans.
“So I must leave Tochigi at this time,” Wisman said, “but hope that the many good people, friends and fans will understand. I will leave with my head held high and with pride in what we achieved together. Thank you for the friendships and the memories. They will last a lifetime.
“One day I would love to return and chase a third championship with them if that is possible.”
He also repeated the goal that he publicly stated during the team’s rally after winning the title in May: It was his goal to chase a third championship with the Brex in the upcoming season.
As of press time on Thursday, two days after Tochigi’s abrupt announcement, Wisman’s replacement had not been named.
And he’s once again looking for work.
“I’m a professional coach and right now I don’t have a job,” Wisman said, adding he’ll be actively seek another coaching opportunity in Japan or elsewhere.
He stated that he’s not ready to ride off into the sunset, with the Brex’s second title being the final act of his career.
“I feel I’ve earned the right to make the decision, and I’m not ready to retire,” Wisman said.
He added: “My pride will not let me accept being pushed into retirement.”
In his first stint with the club, Wisman took over 10 games into the 2008-09, and the Brex just missed advancing to the postseason. The next season, he steered the Brex, then known as the Link Tochigi Brex, to the 2009-10 JBL title. He then stepped down as coach to give his full attention to the Japan men’s national team as its new bench boss with one year remaining on his contract in 2010, and promised he would honor the final year of that contract. In 2012, he left the Japan national team and served as Qatar bench boss for two years before keeping his word and returning to Tochigi in 2014.
The American-born mentor has coached since the mid-1970s and has a hunger to continue to teach the game and a competitive drive to keep chasing victories. He has coached several national teams, including Malaysia, England and Hong Kong, and has had success leading pro teams in Europe, Asia and Australia.
In June, this newspaper reported that during Wisman’s 45-year coaching career he had collected 23 titles across the decades. According to his own count, Wisman broke it down this way: 12 league titles, eight cups and three international tournaments, with 15 of those titles as a head coach and eight as an associate head coach.
“I’ve always operated under the principles of honor, trust and pride,” Wisman said, explaining his coaching philosophy.
Reflecting on his five overall seasons with the Brex, he had this to say: “I believe in myself and I know that I did an honorable job for this club.”
Joho’s new home
Iconic shooting guard Masashi Joho has departed the Toyama Grouses after six seasons to play for the Niigata Albirex BB.
The Niigata Nippo newspaper broke the story on Wednesday.
The Albirex made the announcement official a day later.
Joho’s arrival in Toyama in 2011 helped transform the Grouses into perennial playoff participants.
During his distinguished run with the Grouses, he was a go-to scorer and leader. With Joho, now 35, putting points on the board in a hurry, Toyama advanced to the final bj-league title game in May 2016. (He received the league’s 2013-14 regular-season MVP award, the lone Japanese to do so in the 11-season history of the circuit.)
Before playing for the Grouses, Joho won a pair of bj-league title with the Osaka Evessa in 2005-06 and ’06-07, then helped the Tokyo Apache finish as the title runner-up squad the next two seasons, followed by two more playoff appearances with the Shiga Lakestars in 2009-10 and 2010-11. He has averaged in double figures in points for nine straight seasons.
In 45 games last season, Joho averaged 13.3 points per game.
McHenry’s next challenge
Do-it-all floor leader Anthony McHenry, a driving force of sustained excellence for the Ryukyu Golden Kings during nine seasons, including four bj-league championships, begins the next chapter of his basketball career with the Shinshu Brave Warriors.
The Japan hoop legend’s move to Nagano became official on Monday.
The B2 club went 14-46 last season, and Shinshu now aims to rebuild and became a formidable force in the Central Division.
The 2012-cm McHenry, a Georgia Tech product, is a major acquisition by the Brave Warriors. He was the 2011-12 bj-league Finals MVP and the league’s 2012-13 regular-season MVP. He was a three-time Best Five selection (2010-11, 2012-13, 2013-14).
During his time with the Golden Kings, McHenry, now 34, wore the No. 5 jersey. He’ll switch to No. 55 with the Brave Warriors.
“I’m very excited to join the club in Nagano,” McHenry said in a statement. And I’m looking forward to making a brilliant future with the Shinshu boosters.”
McHenry’s departure signals a revamping of the Ryukyu roster, now led by new coach Norio Sassa (Tsutomu Isa’s replacement; Isa led the Golden Kings to bj-league titles in 2013-14 and 2015-16 and was an assistant from 2007-13 before taking the top position). Among the roster changes: the offseason addition of ex-Sunrockers Shibuya forward Ira Brown, a naturalized Japanese; former NBA big man Hilton Armstrong, who starred for the Chiba Jets in 2016-17; and Takatoshi Furukawa, the veteran perimeter marksman who received the MVP accolade at the B. League title game, helping the Brex beat the Brave Thunders.
Since 2011, former University of Arizona and NBA guard Reggie Geary piloted a trio of teams in Japan.
Now, after six years he’s ready for a break from overseas hoops.
Geary said he informed the Nagoya Diamond Dolphins he wanted to return to the United States after this past season ended.
Geary took a few minutes out of his summer routine to look back on the past six seasons, including 2015-16 and 2016-17 at the helm for the Diamond Dolphins.
“My six years in Japan were very special for my family and myself,” Geary told The Japan Times. “We had the opportunity to meet and develop relationships with so many incredible people in and around the game of basketball, and I had the opportunity to lead three organizations in different stages of transition successfully with on-court success and player and staff development.”
Before leading the Diamond Dolphins, Geary guided the Yokohama B-Corsairs for their first two seasons, leading them to the bj-league Final Four in 2012 and a title the next spring. He then coached the Chiba Jets during the 2013-14 and 2014-15 NBL seasons. Geary was the 2011-12 bj-league Coach of the Year.
“Growing the game I love was my main goal in coming to Japan and I take great pride in the fact I believe I did that,” Geary said.
Up next: Geary will serve as a camp instructor at the inaugural Lute Olson Fantasy Basketball Camp in Tucson from Sept. 7-10, allsportstucson.com reported. Former NBA stars Damon Stoudamire and Mike Bibby, also former Arizona Wildcats, are among the other scheduled instructors.
Basketball Hall of Fame coach Olson was Geary’s college mentor.
Getting to know … Joe Cook
Named the second-division Yamagata Wyverns’ new bench boss last week, Cook brings a well-rounded background to the club. He’ll work alongside Ryan Yuta Koseki, another new addition to the team’s coaching staff.
Last season, Koju Munakata coached the Wyverns to a 26-34 record. His contract expired in May
Koseki, 28, served as the second-division Kagoshima Rebnise team manager and was promoted to assistant coach from February until the end of the 2016-17 season. The Rebnise have been demoted to the third division.
Cook, 32, worked for the Sacramento Kings from 2010-13 as assistant video coordinator followed by a promotion to head video coordinator for the latter two seasons.
After a one-season stint as an assistant for the NBL Canada’s Brampton A’s in Ontario, Cook joined the Akita Northern Happinets staff in 2014 and spent three years with the club before this new opportunity for another Tohoku-based club.
In a recent interview, Cook, whose current title is executive coach, provided some insights about this next phase of his coaching career.
“I am extremely excited to guide the Yamagata Wyverns for the upcoming season.,” Cook told this newspaper. “They are a young organization, so there is a chance to create a new, winning culture here. We want to build an environment based around everyone fighting for the purpose of the team and its goals. I use the slogan ‘we is greater than me,’ and I want everyone to buy into that. This requires people to be accountable for their actions, unselfish, and committed to something bigger than themselves.”
Specifically, he added, “two goals that I want to achieve are to be a top-five rebounding team, and to have the team’s first winning record. We will set other goals this month, but those are two I have in mind.”
Cook believes being a genuine leader is all about character.
“Coach David Magley, from my year in the NBL Canada is still someone I am close with,” Cook noted. “He taught me to not settle morals to gain something quickly. Build something the right way and things turn out for the best. Other than that I kind of take philosophies, plays, drills from things I see and mold them to my personality. Being yourself is the key to getting guys to follow your lead.”
Asked to shed some light on his coaching philosophy, Cook spelled it out quite clearly.
“My coaching philosophy is simple,” he said. “Set your standards from Day One, hold everyone, including myself, to the same standards, and maintain that level of excellence for the entire season.”
Looking back on his time with Sacramento, Cook revealed that the experience was priceless.
“The NBA taught me the amount of work it takes to be successful,” he said. “Those coaches work so hard for 82 games, and there is no rest. It’s amazing to witness and be a part of.”
Osaka this week added 211-cm center Trent Plaisted, a Brigham Young University alum, to its roster for the upcoming season.
The 30-year-old Plaisted appeared in 22 regular-season games for the Alvark Tokyo after joining the squad in February. He was a second-round draft pick of the Seattle SuperSonics in the 2008 NBA Draft.
New Hannaryz addition
Veteran power forward Julian Mavunga finalized a deal to play for the Kyoto Hannaryz after two solid seasons with the Lakestars.
Mavunga’s move to the Hannaryz was announced on Wednesday.
The 203-cm frontcourt leader, a Miami (Ohio) alum, was a key contributor during his time with Shiga. A strong rebounder and playmaker, Mavunga averaged 19.5 points and 8.1 rebounds for the Lakestars last season.
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