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Friday, June 11, 2010

BJ-LEAGUE NOTEBOOK

Pierce, Tennichi still on outside looking in


Staff writer

In the hours after Tuesday's bj-league draft, former Shiga Lakestars coach Bob Pierce spoke to Akita Northern Happinets officials about the expansion team's coaching vacancy, The Japan Times has learned.

Neither Happinets director of operations Jun Kuwabara nor other team officials have stated if the team has made a short list of candidates.

Pierce, meanwhile, plans to coach at some summer camps in China while continuing his job search.

Ex-Osaka Evessa mentor Kensaku Tennichi is actively seeking a new coaching position as well.

The Tokyo Apache and Takamatsu Five Arrows also have openings.

In related news, the Oita HeatDevils' plans are unclear, though a league source said the team is re-structuring its front office now.

Ex-NBA player Brian Rowsom, who led the HeatDevils to a 25-27 record, a 17-win improvement over the team's disastrous 2008-09 season, is another coach without a job for the 2010-11 season.

"I still don't know exactly what's going on," Rowsom told The Japan Times on Monday.

Rowsom, who doesn't have a contract offer for a second season with the Kyushu team, said he'll weigh options from other teams, but can't wait until late this summer to finalize his plans.

(This drawn-out process reminds one of the fiasco in the Apache's front office last summer between Joe Bryant and top brass.)

So what's the holdup?

Why hasn't Oita stated publicly if it wants Rowsom to return for a second season?

Well, Oita Heat Co. is "almost bankrupt," another source said.

Attempts to reach the HeatDevils media relations staff for comment were unsuccessful.

Wacky rule: Next season, foreign players will be limited to two per team during the second quarter — and only in the second quarter — of games.

What does this mean?

In the first, third and fourth quarters and overtime, a team can have three foreigner players on the court, or four if one is Asian.

Introducing a mini-game within the game is the basic perception this reporter has of the new rule.

It's the notion here that it's a forced change, an unnatural change, to have only a 10-minute period where an extra Japanese player is guaranteed court time.

Nearly a week has passed since league spokesman Akihiro Ejima was asked why the league instituted this rule. He has not responded to a lengthy e-mail inquiry seeking to find out what's the rationale for making the rule change.

He has not clarified if there was outside pressure — perhaps from the Japan Basketball Association — to make a change. And he has not stated if team officials, especially coaches, were given a voice in the matter.

It's doubtful any coach would want to have forced substitution patterns in place. After all, one of the great challenges of coaching is finding the right combination of players to use based on the natural flow of a game, which is augmented by a coach's acquired knowledge of individual players' strengths and weaknesses on all teams in the league.

Case in point: Suppose one player scores 20 points in the first quarter and his team is clicking on both ends of the floor, making steals, controlling the boards, shutting down the passing lanes.

Why should the coach then be forced to change his lineup?

It doesn't make sense.

This is an ill-conceived concept, plain and simple.

Closing commentary: Every other e-mail or conversation regarding the bj-league includes at least a few words about the league's financial woes.

And yet there's a mad rush to keep expanding — three new teams for the 2010-11 season and more on the way the year after that.

Sure, the league needs the infusion of cash that new teams bring, but is the current business model really sustainable?

It appears 11 of the 16 teams will have new head coaches in 2010-11. Yes, sometimes change is good, but wholesale changes reflect badly on the league.

The circuit's basic structure screams for some semblance of stability. Commissioner Toshimitsu Kawachi and others in charge have not provided it.

And it starts with player development, and not enough of that is taking place in college.

By expanding so often and so quickly, the talent level, especially among the league's Japanese players, is getting watered down.

As one coach said in a recent interview, "The players at the tryout camp were by far the lowest level in the three years I've been going, maybe the worst ever."

In other words, the league is expanding too quickly.

And its long-term survival is becoming doubtful at this point.



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