Basketball

JBIC delivers blunt critique of Japan men’s basketball issues, demands talks with JBA

by Kaz Nagatsuka

Staff Writer

Observing the dismal results of their men’s national team in the ongoing FIBA World Cup qualifiers, former Olympic basketball players and coaches are deepening their worries.

The Japan Basketball Improvement Conference, which consists of former Olympic players and coaches and ex-Japan Basketball Association officials, insists that the JBA needs to have more basketball-related people involved in developing the national squad.

The Akatsuki Five men’s squad is dead last (among four nations) in Group B in the first round of the Asian qualifiers with an 0-4 record to date, putting its chance of competing at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics in peril.

Japan has two games remaining in the first round in the summer.

FIBA, basketball’s global governing body, has not guaranteed a spot for the host team at the Summer Games, allegedly telling Japan it needs to qualify for the World Cup in China next year.

The JBIC, which was formed in 2013 and developed into a more legitimate organization after becoming a general incorporated association in 2016, has expressed its anxieties about the JBA being run by non-basketball-related people, including former JBA chairman Saburo Kawabuchi, JBA chairman Yuko Mitsuya and JBA vice chairman Masaaki Okawa, at the executive level.

Kawabuchi and Okawa have served as key individuals in restructuring and reforming the JBA, which was banned by FIBA for its lack of governance between 2014 and 2015.

Kawabuchi is widely known as the J. League founder and Okawa was a right-hand man for Kawabuchi as a director in the domestic professional soccer circuit. Okawa now serves as the chairman of the B. League as well. Mitsuya is a former Olympic volleyball player, and she succeeded Kawabuchi as JBA chief in June 2016.

Recently, the JBIC sent mail to Mitsuya to request a meeting and make proposals and revamp the men’s national team.

However, the JBIC has not been granted a chance to have a discussion with the JBA. According to the JBIC, it has made seven requests so far and hasn’t received a single response. has not responded to its seven requests it has made.

Some of the proposals the JBIC state:

• Dismiss Julio Lamas, the present national team head coach, replacing him with someone from the United States, which is the most advanced country for the sport in the world.

• Increase the annual budget for developing the men’s national team to ¥500 million (from ¥264 million from 2017, according to the JBIC).

• Allocate more time to develop the national team, spending 120 days a year in training camps.

• Reduce the number of first-division clubs in the B. League from 18 to 10 to bring more quality to the game.

“We’ve actually said these since three years ago,” said Masahiko Yoshida, a vice secretary general of the JBIC who led the men’s national team as head coach at the 1976 Montreal Olympics, the last Summer Games that Japan at, during a news conference in Tokyo on Tuesday.

Yoshida added that it is not too late for the national team to make it to the Tokyo Olympics.

The 76-year-old Yoshida actually showed a little sympathy for Lamas, because the Argentine has not been given enough time to fully implement his strategies and train his players since he arrived in Japan last summer.

Yoshida, a former JBA official, said that Lamas had accomplished some things with the Argentine national team, but added that you have to recognize that he had some NBA players on his squad.

“We don’t have players like that in Japan,” Yoshida said. “We have to play more collectively.”

Yoshida also stated that Japan needs to find taller players for the national team because it would bring more defensive stability. He gave an example, stating that the national team should replace 167-cm guard Yuki Togashi with a taller backcourt player.

The JBIC has asked the JBA for more transparency, including its personnel selections including of the chairman, claiming the governing body should not do it “behind closed doors.” Mitsuya’s term will expire in June.

Meanwhile, it is not just the JBIC that has had doubts about the JBA’s management.

Several council members of local basketball associations in the Kansai area sent a written inquiry to Mitsuya late last month.

Some of the questions the council members raised in the inquiry are:

• Whether FIBA has already given the JBA any specific conditions for the men’s national team to play at the Tokyo Olympics.

• What the annual salaries for Mitsuya, Okawa and JBA secretary general Michihiro Tanaka are.

• Disclose the selection process for the new JBA chairman, which has not been given to the council members.

• According to the JBIC, the Kansai council members have received a response from the JBA.

Yoshida said that it was the first time that council members, who work under the umbrella of the JBA, have raise voices like that and that he was “certain” that other council members and officials in other regions across the nation want clearer explanations about those issues from the JBA.