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Saturday, June 26, 2010

BJ-LEAGUE

Apache hire veteran NBA coach Hill


Staff Writer

While the NBA Draft grabbed the spotlight in the Big Apple on Thursday, the Tokyo Apache made a major move of their own.

News photo
Major credentials: Bob Hill, the Tokyo Apache's new coach, has piloted four NBA teams during his long career. AP PHOTO

In fact, it could become a game-changer for the bj-league, giving the young league a major boost in recognition and respectability.

Veteran bench boss Bob Hill, who led the San Antonio Spurs to the NBA's best regular-season record in 1994-95, was named the team's new coach, confirming a story first reported by The Japan Times last week.

He is the first ex-NBA coach to take the same position with a bj-league club.

Hill, 61, received a one-year contract. The Apache did not disclose his salary.

"We are thrilled to bring in Coach Hill to join this team," said Conor Neu, who took over as the team's general manager earlier this month. "The signing of Coach Hill demonstrates this organization's commitment to our fans and players.

"Coach Hill and I expect the Apache to compete for the league championship this season. Coach Hill also shares our off-court vision, and he is excited to be an active member of the Apache community."

The rival Japan Basketball League brought in a big-name coach several years ago, when Paul Westhead, who guided the Los Angeles Lakers to an NBA champion in 1979-80, Magic Johnson's rookie season, was the pilot of the JBL's Panasonic Super Kangaroos in 2001-03.

Hill has served as the head coach of the New York Knicks (1986-87), Indiana Pacers (1990-93), San Antonio Spurs (1994-96) and Seattle SuperSonics (2006-07). His NBA record as a coach is 310-293. Hill's college career also includes stops at Fordham University (head coach, 1999-2003) and a lengthy stint as an assistant for the Kansas Jayhawks (1979-85). He played college ball at Bowling Green.

In recent years, Hill has also coached the Chinese Basketball Association's Shanxi club and worked as a member of the United States Basketball Academy's Advisory Board. Coaching legends John Wooden and Pete Newell and former standout players Rick Barry and Arvydas Sabonis have served on the board.

Last season, then-head coach Motofumi Aoki, whose team went 22-30 in the regular season, did not have an assistant. Now, it'll be interesting to see how Hill assembles his coaching staff. He has a wealth of contacts around the world and a reputation as an excellent teacher.

In a phone interview Friday, Neu said that Hill will "definitely have a say" in who the team brings in as assistant coaches. He added that the Apache will likely hire an American, as well as a bilingual assistant.

"We haven't finalized anything yet," Neu said.

While serving as the NBA Development League's coaching consultant in 2009, Hill's supervisory skills did not go unrecognized.

"The NBA Development League is all about developing coaches and players and to have a coach with decades of experience only accelerates that process," D-League president Dan Reed told NBA.com.

It has been a busy month for the Apache. The team's new ownership group, Evolution Capital Management purchased the team a few weeks ago. In addition to Neu's hire, the Apache named ex-NFL fullback Chris Hetherington the team's new president earlier this week.

The Apache's original coach, ex-NBA and Italian League player Joe "Jellybean" Bryant, father of Lakers star Kobe, is now the new coach of the JBL's Rera Kamuy Hokkaido after a one-year hiatus.

* * * * *

Did you know?: Hill probably has accumulated enough frequent flyer miles to earn a free trip to Jupiter — and back.

He began his coaching career at his alma mater, Bowling Green (1971-75). He then served an assistant at Pittsburgh (1975-77) before moving on to Kansas and serving on the coaching staffs of Ted Owens and Larry Brown. He was an assistant coach for the Knicks from 1985-86 before replacing Hubie Brown. . . .

He led Italy's Vitrus Knorr in 1988-89. The team captured the Italian Cup and reached the Final Four of the Italian League Championships. Then became the head man for the Pacers.

After being fired by Indiana, he took a job as an Orlando Magic assistant (1993-94). After heading coaching gigs with the Spurs and Fordham over the next decade, to accepted a job as an assistant with the Sonics (2005-06) before replacing Bob Weiss on Jan. 3, 2006. . . .

He wrote "Basketball: Coaching for Success and Beyond," a 108-page paperback in 1999. . .

A 195-cm right-handed pitcher, he played for the Single-A Northwest League's Tri-City Padres in 1971 before beginning a coaching career. He was drafted by the San Diego Padres.



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