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Friday, May 28, 2010

BJ-LEAGUE NOTEBOOK

Sources say Tennichi set to part with Evessa


Staff writer

It won't take long for the bj-league's offseason coaching carousel to begin.

Behind closed doors, men in suits are already plotting their next moves, putting the finishing touches on what will be a domino effect.

In other words, let the chaos begin. (And sometimes that's a good thing; fresh voices can produce immediate results for sports teams.)

Sources have told The Japan Times that Osaka Evessa coach Kensaku Tennichi, who has three championships and five Final Four appearances in five seasons on his resume, has coached his final game with the team. He is expected to be hired as the next bench boss of the Kyoto Hannaryz, who went 17-35 in their inaugural season.

Kazuto Aono will probably remain on Kyoto's staff as an assistant coach, thus relinquishing his acting head coach duties. He left the Saitama Broncos with David Benoit after the 2008-09 season to serve in the same role on Benoit's Hannaryz staff. With Benoit out of the Hannaryz's plans, Aono appears ready to move back into a supporting role.

Tennichi isn't the only accomplished coach expected to be on the move.

Several sources have told this newspaper the Saitama Broncos are interested in naming Brian Rowsom, who led the Oita HeatDevils to a 17-win turnaround this season after a disastrous 2008-09 campaign, as their next coach.

In a Tuesday e-mail, however, Rowsom, said he would like to return to Oita for a second season.

Masato Fukushima's future with the Broncos is unclear, but in his time as the Toyama Grouses' head coach (2006 until early in the 2008-09 season) and one season with Saitama he has never led a bj-league team to a .500 or better record. Indeed, it may be time for a change.

Charles Johnson isn't expected to return for a second season as Toyama's head coach. Sources indicate assistant Hirokazu Nema will take over as the new head coach, hoping to lead the Grouses to the playoffs for the first time in their mediocre history (five straight losing seasons).

There's also talk that despite reaching the Final Four as the third-place team in the Eastern Conference the Niigata Albirex BB and head coach Masaya Hirose may part ways. He's been the team's only coach during its five seasons in the league.

The Tokyo Apache, meanwhile, are finalizing a deal for a new ownership group, which could affect Motofumi Aoki's status as coach, and he may also join the list of ex-coaches during the offseason.

If reports are accurate, the Apache's new owner will be an American with ties to the financial services industry. Word has reached The Japan Times that he also has front-row tickets to Los Angeles Lakers games.

So who will coach the Evessa next season?

Former NBA player and University of Hawaii coach Bob Nash has been offered the job, according to sources.

Nash was an assistant coach at Hawaii for 23 seasons. Starting in 2007, he had a 34-56 record as the Rainbows' head coach. He was fired in March after three seasons at the helm.

The Shiga Lakestars and Takamatsu Five Arrows also have coaching vacancies, with the departures of Bob Pierce and John Neumann, respectively.

In the news: The Tokyo Shimbun and other publications have reported that Chiba Prefecture is taking steps to bid for an expansion team in the near future.

Hidemitsu Nakano, the bj-league president and chief operating officer, has met with Chiba government officials to speak about the issue.

Around the league: Final Four MVP Masahiro Oguchi had a career-best 35 points in the Eastern Conference final last Saturday against the Niigata Albirex BB. The veteran's 10-for-14 effort from 3-point range might have shocked the casual fan, but it didn't come as a complete shock to Phoenix coach Kazuo Nakamura.

In a post-game interview after the team's title triumph on Sunday, Nakamura said Oguchi routinely makes 70 percent of his 3-point shots during practice. . .

Former bj-league referee Tim Greene, who served as a replacement ref during the NBA's brief lockout in the fall, had a busy season in the NBA Development League.

Speaking to The Japan Times at Ariake Colosseum on Saturday, he said it was a good experience.

After one season in the D-League, Greene is ready for a new challenge. He'll work in the WNBA this season. . .

Jun Kuwabara, the bj-league's former public relations director, will serve as Akita's director of operations, The Japan Times has learned.

Kinjo speaks out: Ryukyu Golden Kings shooting guard Shigeyuki Kinjo, who missed the final 40 games of the season with a major knee injury, attended the Final Four and supported his teammates throughout the playoffs.

The defending champions beat Niigata in the third-place game.

After the game, Kinjo, one of the league's most electrifying players, discussed his rehab and his upcoming plans.

"I want to heal my knee and come back here," Kinjo said. "It was such a tough season but the fans supported the Kings. There was such strong support for us.

"I feel vexed that we weren't in the final, but more disappointed that I couldn't play."

Parting thoughts: During their final post-game interviews of the season on Sunday — Ryukyu defeated Niigata 82-75 — Golden Kings sideline supervisor Dai Oketani and Hirose, the Niigata coach, spoke about a number of topics before a throng of reporters.

"This final game for us symbolized our season," Oketani said. "We were able to win as a team. Our players switched their minds well after yesterday's loss. We always tried to become tougher after a loss this year and in today's game we were able to step up again.

"It wasn't the final but we all appreciate the boosters that gave us strong cheering. We would like to be back here next year and give a present back to them."

Oketani challenged his players before the third-place game.

This was his message: "I told them that unless you do good, you are going to be losers in life."

After a solid victory, the Golden Kings entered the postseason in a better mood than they had the day before.

"We want to make a team that can compete for a championship again," Oketani declared. "We can now leave with a win. It would've been a big difference had we finished with a loss.

"We were No. 1 and if were No. 4 this year, we would've been used to losing."

Hirose was disappointed the Albirex's season ended in defeat.

"It was a game that we could've won," he said. "We had a chance to win the game. Our players did their best until the end, but I couldn't give them a win. It is my responsibility. I'm so tired.

"We didn't have enough time to prepare (since last night), so we tried to play with our good points, and that's why we used the zone (defense)."

Overall, Niigata struggled with its identity this season, according to Hirose.

"We didn't once know what we would be," he said, "and we had a lot of issues. There were periods where we couldn't communicate with each other well. But in the end, each and every player did his own role for the team.

"We ended up in fourth place, but it was a good experience for our young Japanese players."

A captain's thoughts: Evessa forward Ryan Blackwell demonstrated his leadership this season by encouraging his teammates to stay focused and put forth their best efforts despite the team's early struggles.

"We stuck together, we worked hard," he said on Sunday. "We were in fifth place at one point. As a captain, I said, 'We'll be fine.' "

In speaking to his teammates, he drew parallels to the New York Yankees' slow start in 2009, which ended with a World Series title.

Blackwell reminded his teammates they had talent, and that they just had to do a better all-around job each game.

The message helped.

"We lost only five of the last (30 games)," Blackwell noted.

Staff writer Kaz Nagatsuka contributed to this report.



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