Coaching longevity with one team isn’t a trademark in pro basketball.
Here today, gone tomorrow. That’s the reality of the business.
And the current crop of B. League bench bosses illustrates this point as the league gears up for its fourth season. Of the 18 head coaches in the circuit’s first division, 14 of them have less than three seasons of tenure with their respective teams.
Chiba Jets Funabashi mentor Atsushi Ono and Niigata Albirex BB X’s and O’s man Kazuhiro Shoji are both preparing for their fourth seasons at the helm.
Kyoto Hannaryz sideline supervisor Honoo Hamaguchi is entering season No. 9 running the show for the Kansai club.
And then there’s Kimikazu Suzuki, the dean of head coaches in Japan pro basketball. He’s literally the on-court emperor for the SeaHorses Mikawa. He’s plotting his 25th season as the boss. It began with a 4-12 campaign in 1995. Since then, the graduate of basketball powerhouse Noshiro Technical High School in Akita Prefecture has compiled 19 winning seasons along the way, with the length of the season and the opponents changing numerous times in the JBL, NBL and B. League eras.
So who are the newcomers who will match wits with Suzuki this season?
Kenzo Maeda is the new leader of the Akita Northern Happinets after previously serving as Spaniard Josep Pep Claros’ assistant over the past two seasons, and four seasons in total. Claros’ next coaching challenge: guiding the Bahrain men’s national team.
Kawasaki Brave Thunders assistant Kenji Sato was promoted after longtime head coach Takuya Kita stepped aside and became the team’s new general manager.
Former NBA forward Brian Rowsom joins the San-en NeoPhoenix as their new mentor after leading the CLS Knights Indonesia to the ASEAN Basketball League title in May.
Meanwhile, the Osaka Evessa are attempting to resurrect their glorious past. The former bj-league championship dynasty club appointed Kensaku Tennichi, who was the title-winning bench boss in each of the now-disbanded circuit’s first three seasons, as coach. Tennichi left the club in 2010, and served stints at Ashiya University and with the Nishinomiya Storks (in B2, then B1) and Aisin AW Areions Anjo (B. League third division).
Here’s a rundown on the top-flight head coaches (note: regular-season records are included in parentheses):
Alvark Tokyo: Luka Pavicevic, entering third season (88-32, back-to-back B. League titles)
Levanga Hokkaido: Tomohide Utsumi, first full (6-35)
Akita Northern Happinets: Kenzo Maeda, first
Utsunomiya Brex: Ryuzo Anzai, second full season (79-28)
Chiba Jets Funabashi: Atsushi Ono, fourth (142-38; consecutive championship runner-up finishes)
Sunrockers Shibuya: Tsutomu Isa, first full season (26-26)
Kawasaki Brave Thunders: Kenji Sato, first
Yokohama B-Corsairs: Tom Wisman, second (14-46; steered the Brex to the inaugural B. League crown)
Niigata Albirex BB: Kazuhiro Shoji, fourth (100-80)
Toyama Grouses: Don Beck, second (32-28)
San-en NeoPhoenix: Brian Rowsom, first
SeaHorses Mikawa: Kimikazu Suzuki, 25th (560-262)
Nagoya Diamond Dolphins: Shingo Kajiyama, third (64-56 overall record)
Sihga Lakestars: Shawn Dennis, third (42-78)
Kyoto Hannaryz: Honoo Hamaguchi, ninth (273-167)
Osaka Evessa: Kensaku Tennichi, first (second stint with Evessa; in first, 2005-10, three bj-league titles, four title-game appearances, five Final Fours)
Shimane Susanoo Magic: Yukinori Suzuki, third (54-66)
Ryukyu Golden Kings: Norio Sassa, third (82-38)
Okada’s next opportunity
Retired sharpshooter Yu Okada, one of Japan’s premier perimeter marksmen in the 21st century, has joined the Kyoto Hannaryz’s basketball school as a coach, the team announced on Tuesday.
Okada, 36, retired after suiting up for the B2’s Hachioji Bee Trains this past season.
In a career that began with the expansion Takamatsu Five Arrows in 2006, the Shiga Prefecture native also suited up for the Lakestars, Hannaryz, Grouses and Storks.
Looking ahead to the next chapter of his basketball career, Okada aims to be a role model, starting with his own family.
“I would like to convey to my children the fun of competing in my own language, such as what I learned in professional life, shooting skills, and (competing) with the opponent,” Okada said in a statement.
FIBA World Cup
Former Alvark forward Milko Bjelica is playing for Montenegro at the FIBA World Cup in China. In both of Montenegro’s first two games (losses to Greece and New Zealand), he scored nine points.
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