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Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Veteran coach Pierce to take over in Sendai

Staff writer

Veteran bench boss Bob Pierce, who guided the Shiga Lakestars and Akita Northern Happinets during their inaugural seasons, will become the second head coach in Sendai 89ers history, The Japan Times has learned.

News photo
Back in business: Bob Pierce, coach of the Akita Northern Happinets last season, will become the new bench boss of the Sendai 89ers, sources say. YOSHIAKI MIURA

Two sources familiar with the situation said on Monday that Pierce has been hired to lead the 89ers, who are looking to rebuild after the devastating March 11 earthquake. The team was unable to complete the season after major damage to Tohoku, including their primary gymnasium.

Longtime coach Honoo Hamaguchi and the 89ers parted ways after the 2010-11 season. Hamaguchi is now the Kyoto Hannaryz's third coach in as many seasons. (The previous Kyoto coach, Kazuto Aono, has accepted a job as an assistant coach for the JBL's Link Tochigi Brex.)

The 89ers were a Final Four contender before the disaster struck.

Now, Pierce will have the task of keeping the team competitive in the new-look Eastern Conference, which will feature four new teams this season (Chiba Jets, Iwate Big Bulls, Shinshu Brave Warriors and Yokohama B-Corsairs), but not the Tokyo Apache, one of the league's original six teams who are currently on hiatus and are expected to re-enter the league for the 2012-13 season.

Pierce guided the Lakestars for two seasons, 2008-09 and 2009-10, taking the team to the playoffs in their second campaign. Overall, he has a 66-88 record as a bj-league coach. He is a former Asia-based scout for the Cleveland Cavaliers, as well as an ex-JBL head coach (Hitachi). He has also served as a Japan national team assistant coach.

In 2010-11, the Happinets went 18-32 in their first season. And then Pierce was forced out, making way for Akita Prefecture native Kazuo Nakamura, the two-time title-winning coach of the Hamamatsu Higashimikawa Phoenix to step down and take over as Akita's sideline supervisor.

Pierce will be the second Biola University alum to coach in the league in 2011-12 after Matt Garrison was named the Niigata Albirex BB's new head coach. Biola is a private Christian university in Southern California. Its athletic programs compete in the NAIA (National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics), which is below the NCAA in the American college sports structure.

In addition, Pierce is the second coach in bj-league history to be hired by three teams. Motofumi Aoki, previously, the head man for the Takamatsu Five Arrows (2006-09) and Tokyo (2009-10), became the first to hold that distinction after landing the Shinshu's coaching position.

Of the bj-league's nine Eastern Conference teams, only the Toyama Grouses, who have never finished above .500 in their five seasons of existence, have announced plans to bring back last season's head coach for the upcoming season.

Toyama coach Kazuaki Shimoji went 5-13 to close out the 2010-11 season after being appointed to replace Kohei Eto in the spring.

In other league news, new Chiba Jets coach Eric Gardow is expected to arrive in Japan from Qatar next week ahead of the team's tryout camp on July 17.

Also, sources say that both the Yokohama B-Corsairs and Saitama Broncos are poised to hire American coaches in the coming days.

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