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Saturday, July 25, 2009

BJ-LEAGUE

Lowly Grouses hire Johnson as head coach


Staff writer

As the summer heats up, bj-league teams continue to make preparations for the 2009-10 season.

The most noteworthy change in recent days is the announcement that Charles Johnson will coach the Toyama Grouses next season.

Call it a grand challenge. Johnson takes over as the floor boss for a team that went 11-41 last season and has failed to post a winning record or make the playoffs in any of its three seasons.

A former power forward, Johnson played for several seasons in Japan, starting in 1989 for Mazda's JBL team.

Johnson, 47, was the Saitama Broncos' first head coach in the league's inaugural 2005-06 season. But the former Texas Tech player was forced to step down after the team lost 15 of its first 17 games. He remained with the team, however, as a player/assistant coach for the remainder of the season.

Other coaching news will be reported in the weeks to come.

• The Tokyo Apache, the league's runnerup in each of the past two seasons, haven't announced if Joe Bryant will return as the team's head coach.

Bryant has received a coaching offer from Italian team Nuova AMG Sebastiani Basket Rieti, a team he played for in the mid-1980s.

• Coming off an 8-44 season, the Oita HeatDevils still have a coaching vacancy.

In other personnel news, former Texas State forward Brandon Thomas has put pen to paper for a one-year deal with the expansion Kyoto Hannaryz, the San Marcos Daily Record in Texas reported.

Thomas, whose college career ended two seasons ago, is considered a strong defender and a solid shot-blocker, the paper observed.

So how did Thomas make the quantum leap from a small Texas college to a new team in Kyoto?

"It all came about through networking," Thomas told the San Marcos Daily Record. "I knew some people who were connected internationally, so I just had to market myself. Luckily, someone knew a Japanese team that needed a forward."

Looking ahead: The 2009 bj-league/KBL Series will feature the Ryukyu Golden Kings against the Jeongju KCC Egis on Sept. 20 and 27.

In this annual showdown, the reigning champions in both leagues each host a home game. This year, the first game will be held in Okinawa, followed by a game in Jeongju, South Korea.

The Golden Kings earned their first title in May, defeating the Tokyo Apache in the championship game. The Jeongju KCC Egis have won four Korean Basketball League titles, including back-to-back titles in 1997-98 and 1998-99.

Ryukyu center Jeff Newton, the 2008-09 regular-season and playoff MVP, and forwards Bryan Simpson and Anthony McHenry will return to the team next season as it seeks to win another title.



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