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Friday, Feb. 10, 2012

Solid record not enough for Ogawa in Fukuoka

Staff writer

The euphoria of Sunday's series-ending road victory for the undermanned Rizing Fukuoka against the Kyoto Hannaryz, a rising power, didn't last very long.

News photo
Ousted: Despite a 19-11 record this season, the Rizing Fukuoka fired coach Tadaharu Ogawa on Wednesday. OITA HEATDEVILS

The Rizing (19-11) fired coach Tadaharu Ogawa on Wednesday.

Like lawyers citing irreconcilable differences between a just-divorced couple, the Rizing issued a statement saying "a difference of opinions" between the coach and management was the reason for Ogawa's ouster.

Former Takamatsu Five Arrows bench boss Atsushi Kanazawa was named Ogawa's replacement.

Kanazawa will guide Fukuoka, which only dressed seven players for the aforementioned win, this weekend on the road against the much-improved Toyama Grouses.

The Rizing have won six of their last 10 games, but are 0-4 this season against the Western Conference's first-place club, the Ryukyu Golden Kings. In the past 10 games, Fukuoka had gone 6-2 in games decided by single digits. Also, the four losses were by 23 points (on Saturday to Kyoto), three points (twice) and 10.

Fukuoka guard/forward Kevin Palmer, the league's third-leading scorer with 20.6 points per game and a rising star in the bj-league, didn't agree with the Rizing's decison to change coaches.

"I did not think that Coach Ogawa should have been fired," Palmer told The Japan Times on Wednesday. "I think that it was done at a bad time during the season as we continue our playoff run but the organization has made that decision and now we have to go forward from here as a team.

"I had faith in Coach Ogawa and believed that he deserves more credit than what he receives. I was in total shock when I heard about the news. I just met the new Coach Kanazawa but he seems like a nice guy who wants to win a championship."

Kanazawa was a former Rizing assistant under John Neumann and joined the latter at Takamatsu when he joined the Shikoku-based franchise in 2009. He becomes the fourth hired coach in team history.

Originally, the Kyushu club had named longtime American college coach Howie Landa as its first coach, but he resigned before ever coaching a game due to a family member's health issues in 2007.

That opened the door for Neumann to take the reins, and he led the club to a pair of playoff appearances, including a Final Four berth in the fast, fiery outfit's inaugural campaign.

After leading the cash-strapped Oita HeatDevils in 2008-09, when the team went 8-44, Ogawa moved on to Fukuoka. He led the team to back-to-back 30-win seasons and the Rizing advanced to the postseason both years. All told, Ogawa was 79-52 in regular-season games while in charge of the Rizing.

In a major shakeup of the team's nucleus, the Rizing added talented newcomers Gary Hamilton, Palmer and Carlos Dixon this season and stayed competitive despite the loss of franchise icon Michael Parker, who joined the Shimane Susanoo Magic in the offseason.

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