Basketball / B. League

Levanga part ways with bench boss Jose Neto, promote Tomohide Utsumi

by Ed Odeven

Staff Writer

As the Levanga Hokkaido return to action after the B. League’s break due to FIBA World Cup Asia qualifying, a new bench boss will be calling the shots.

The Levanga on Wednesday named Tomohide Utsumi the team’s new head coach. He had previously served as advisory coach to Jose Neto, who was in his first season at the helm. The team parted ways with the 47-year-old Brazilian mentor just days before a two-game home series against the Toyama Grouses gets underway on Saturday.

Hokkaido (4-15), which has lost seven straight games, is tied for the worst record in the 18-team B. League first division. The Yokohama B-Corsairs, Shiga Lakestars and Rizing Zephyr Fukuoka own identical records.

Utsumi conducted practice on Thursday for the fist time as the new boss.

Utsumi, who turns 60 on Friday, had a successful run in his third stint as the Japan women’s national team head coach, including first-place finishes at the FIBA Asia Championship for Women in 2013 and 2015. The 2013 title in Bangkok was the first for the Japan women’s team at the continental event since 1970.

At the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics, the Aomori Prefecture native guided Japan to the quarterfinals, where the Akatsuki Five fell to the United States.

He led the Japan women’s national team from 2003-04, 2006-08 and 2012-16. He was also a longtime coach in the WJBL.