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Northern Happinets coach Josep ‘Pep’ Claros returning for second season in charge

by Ed Odeven

Staff Writer

Continuity is the plan.

The Akita Northern Happinets aim to build off their remarkable success this past season with a winning formula — by having Joseph “Pep” Claros continue to call the shots.

The well-traveled Spaniard guided Akita to a league-record 54 victories in 60 regular-season games this past season, with the Tohoku-based team capturing the East Division title. Although the Happinets fell to the Rizing Zephyr Fukuoka in the B2 championship series, they secured a spot in the 18-team top flight for the upcoming season.

Claros isn’t going anywhere, the team announced on Thursday.

“After an unforgettable season, I want to announce to you that I will be back,” Claros said in a statement posted on the team website.

“First, I want to thank all the players, staff, (team) president and board members and (fans) from our organization that allowed me to live that wonderful season.

“Last year, I told you our goal was to be in B1. And all together we made it.”

He continued: “I also said our ultimate goal was to be the best in Japan in the future. Now is the time to build a new team and compete with the best to see our level.”

Claros, who has coached teams on five continents, is confident the Happinets will succeed in reaching that goal.

“I’m sure we will be the surprise of the league,” the 49-year-old mentor said. “And as we always did, we will do it game by game trying to give our maximum. We all know it’s not going to be easy.

“But we are not afraid and again with all of you we will show our style and character from the first day.”

In other team news, the Happinets confirmed that veteran big man Kadeem Coleby has agreed to a deal for the 2018-19 campaign.

The 206-cm Coleby, a native of the Bahamas, averaged 11.9 points, 6.7 rebounds and a second division-best 1.7 blocks in 51 games.

“I am excited to be a part of the Akita Northern Happinets team for another season,” said Coleby, a Wichita State product. “I hope that we can build off of last season’s success and continue to grow as a team.”