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Friday, June 18, 2010

BJ-LEAGUE NOTEBOOK

Apache pursuing veteran coach Hill


Staff writer

The Tokyo Apache would give the fledgling bj-league a major boost in respectability by bringing in a former NBA head coach for the first time.

News photo
Getting serious: Bob Hill, who has coached four NBA teams, would bring major credibility to the Tokyo Apache and the five-year-old bj-league. AP PHOTO

The Apache, coming off a 22-30 season under now-fired bench boss Motofumi Aoki, have offered the job to veteran mentor Bob Hill, hoop insiders have told The Japan Times.

Call it a big, bold move by new Apache general manager Conor Neu, who is busy working the phones from Los Angeles as the team moves forward with its plans for next season.

Hill, who turns 62 in November, has previously coached the New York Knicks (1986-87), Indiana Pacers (1990-93), San Antonio Spurs (1994-96) and Seattle SuperSonics (2006-07).

Under Hill's tutelage, the Spurs had a league-high 62 wins and reached the Western Conference finals in 1995. Two seasons later, he was fired when the injury-plagued team (David Robinson and Sean Elliott) had a 3-15 record to open the campaign. (The Spurs were 121-43 in the previous two seasons.)

Then-general manager Gregg Popovich took over as the Spurs' head coach and remains in that position to this day.

Hill's overall NBA coaching record is 310-293.

He also coached Fordham University from 1999-2003, compiling a 36-78 record at the Atlantic-10 Conference school in New York City.

Hill, a native of Pittsburgh, played college ball at Bowling Green. He later served as an assistant coach at Kansas (1979-85) before accepting his first job in the pro ranks.

A member of the Oregon-based United States Basketball Academy's Advisory Board, Hill has remained an active participant in international basketball, working at camps in recent years. For instance, he ran the Chinese Basketball Association's 2005 international players draft.

In addition, he served as the NBA Development League's coaches consultant during the 2008-09 season.

"I love coaching," he said in a 2009 interview with NBA.com. "But I also enjoy helping younger coaches. That's part of the responsibility of having the experience I have."

Rowsom update: The Oita HeatDevils will not offer head coach Brian Rowsom a contract for the 2010-11 season. Therefore, his one-year stint as the team's court tactician is finished.

Oita went 25-27 under Rowsom, making a 17-game improvement over the previous season.

Rowsom, a former NBA forward (1987-90), said he has other coaching offers in the Middle East.

It now appears 11 of the bj-league's 16 teams will have coaches who are beginning their first full season with their respective teams, including the three expansion clubs (Shimane Susanoo Magic, Akita Northern Happinets and Miyazaki Shining Suns).

Only the Ryukyu Golden Kings (Dai Oketani), Niigata Albirex BB (Masaya Hirose), Rizing Fukuoka (Tadaharu Ogawa), Hamamatsu Higashimikawa Phoenix (Kazuo Nakamura) and Sendai 89ers (Honoo Hamaguchi) are expected to have the same pilots next next season.

Newest Lakestar: Shooting guard Yu Okada, The Japan Times' 2009-10 Japanese Player of the Year, is returning home.

He has reached an agreement to play for the Shiga Lakestars next season, the team announced on Wednesday.

Okada, who was born in Otsu, Shiga Prefecture, averaged 19.0 points per game last season.

A quality defender and a 3-point shooting specialist, he became the first Japanese to finish in the top 10 in scoring in the league's five-year history.

In a news release issued by the league, Okada said he was grateful for the support he received since he became a pro.

"Hello, all Takamatsu Five Arrows boosters," Okada said. "It is very tough to announce this in these very difficult situations to you and the team, but I'm leaving the Five Arrows for the Shiga Lakestars," he said. "I appreciate all of you for your support in the last four years. I was nervous when I started my career as a pro, but you supported and encouraged me and help me to grow up as a player.

"I also thank my teammates and the team staff. I wish I could've thanked every one of the team's sponsors and boosters face to face, but I have to announce my decision by this statement."

Now he'll team up with fellow All-Star guard Masashi Joho to form the league's most dynamic one-two native scoring punch in the league, giving new head coach Takatoshi Ishibashi a major boost in production.

Ishibashi described Okada, who turns 27 on July 4, as a "pure shooter" in a news release issued by the team.

Shinsuke Sakai, the Lakestars' GM and CEO said Okada has "the ability to score" and expects an increase in scoring next season with the former Kinki University player and Joho, a 15.0 ppg scorer, in the lineup together.

Overseas report: Former Ryukyu Golden Kings coach Hernando Planells worked at the NBA Development League national tryout last weekend in Chantilly, Va.

During the three-day camp, Planells watched Masashi Obuchi, who played for the Golden Kings this season.

It gave him the opportunity to pass along the following observations via e-mail:

"I saw Obuchi play several times and I can see why he is a key part of the Kings. My team actually faced him in our final game. He didn't shoot the ball as well as he would have liked, but he has a really smooth release and you can tell he is a good shooter. . . . He handled the ball well and with composure.

"He had his biggest problems on the defensive end where he wasn't able to match up speed and quickness with the other participants . . . several times he was just beat to the basket. Unfortunately, he didn't get as much positive feedback as Kaz (Kazuyuki Nakagawa, a former Takamatsu and Fukuoka player) received last year after going to the camp. . .

"The plus is that he was able to face good competition and was able to experience basketball at the American level. I think he will get better with time."

If Obuchi doesn't land a spot on an NBA Summer League team or sign with a team in the D-League, or other minor leagues (IBL or ABA, for starters), it's unclear if he'll return to the bj-league for the 2010-11 season.

But as a dependable scorer in the growing league, he would have no problem getting a contract (and a low salary) on one of the 16 teams next season, especially since three expansion teams will need proven players to provide leadership. Don't count out the Golden Kings reaching out to Obuchi and offering him a contract in the coming weeks.

Interestingly enough, Planells added, the D-League tryout camp teams didn't have names, but were simply assigned a number (one through 20). For instance, his team was No. 17.

In looking back at how Nakagawa, Planells recalled: "(He) was fantastic in last year's camp. He made all the right passes, shot the ball well."

Nakagawa played for the JBL's Mitsubishi Electric Diamond Dolphins this past season.



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