Basketball / B. League | B. LEAGUE NOTEBOOK

Brian Rowsom out as NeoPhoenix coach

by Ed Odeven

After an 0-10 start under new coach Brian Rowsom, the San-en NeoPhoenix have parted ways with the American mentor.

Rowsom’s contract was terminated on Monday, he confirmed in an email to The Japan Times. The former NBA forward told this newspaper it was a “mutual agreement.”

On Wednesday, the NeoPhoenix made the announcement on their website.

Rowsom is the first head coach in the B. League 18-team first division to be fired this season.

The Central Division team, coming off a 22-38 season under former bench boss Hiroki Fujita, now faces the daunting task of trying to position itself to stave off demotion at the end of the 60-game campaign.

Former Sendai 89ers head coach Shuto Kawachi, who played and served as an assistant coach for the franchise when it was known as the Hamamatsu Higashimikawa Phoenix during the bj-league era, worked under Fujita as associate head coach the past three seasons. Now, Kawachi, 34, is tasked with running the show, the team announced on Wednesday.

First up: a weekend series against the visiting Osaka Evessa (5-4) on Saturday and Sunday in Toyohashi, Aichi Prefecture.

General manager Seiichiro Kage, whose association with the organization dates to 2001 as an OSG Phoenix player, will work alongside Kawachi on a revamped coaching staff.

“There are many injured (players), and the fight in a difficult situation of 10 consecutive losses will be fierce,” Kage said in a statement. “But we will continue to support head coach Kawachi as a club. I will also serve as an assistant coach, fighting with Kawachi with all my strength to (earn) even one win.”

Said Kawachi: “Although we are in a difficult situation, we will be able to reinforce our players’ results so that we can regain the pride of this (franchise’s) history. . . . I will fight with responsibility and preparedness.”

Captain Tatsuya Suzuki, the team’s veteran point guard with a dynamic influence on the offense, hasn’t played a game yet this season due to an injury. He averaged 4.8 assists in 52 games in 2018-19, when he directed the offense effectively, as evidenced by his 249 assists against 78 turnovers.

Without Suzuki in the lineup, the NeoPhoenix have been plagued by an abundance of turnovers. Through Sunday, they’re averaging a league-high 15.5 per game.

Rowsom, 54, joined a team whose victory total had decreased in each of the three previoius seasons of the B. League era. Two season ago, San-en went 25-35 in 2017-18, an eight-win decline from the 2016-17 campaign.

Before joining San-en, Rowsom had led Indonesia’s CLS Knights to the ASEAN Basketball League crown in May. In recent years, his coaching career had also included stops in Vietnam, Bahrain and Qatar, as well as a stint as an assistant coach for the Toshiba Brave Thunders from 2014 to 2016 in the now-disbanded NBL.

In Sunday’s 98-87 defeat to the Ryukyu Golden Kings in Okinawa City, the hosts shot 14 of 29 from 3-point range.

Only three of the NeoPhoenix’s defeats have been by 10 or less points.

Among the NeoPhoenix newcomers, rookie center Jessie Govan, who completed his college career earlier this year at Georgetown University, is contributing 20.6 points, 9.6 rebounds and 3.9 assists through Sunday, while forward Devin Ebanks is averaging 25.3 points and 7.3 rebounds.

The NeoPhoenix did not re-sign their best all-around player, Josh Childress, after last season.

Midseason showcase

The 2019-20 All-Star Game will be held on Jan. 18 in Sapporo. The fourth annual contest, featuring players divided into B. Black and B. White, will tip off at 7 p.m.

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