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Saturday, Feb. 18, 2012

Search on for new coach after JBA drops Wisman


Staff writer

After less than two years in charge, Thomas Wisman's ouster on Wednesday by the Japan Basketball Association was expected by those who pay attention.

And so the Japan men's national team is back to where it was in May 2010, just before Wisman was hired to build the team into an Olympic-caliber program.

"Sorry to hear the news about Tom Wisman," a prominent proponent of major changes within Japan's basketball structure told The Japan Times on Thursday.

"He deserved more time. But it's a no-win situation. And he was only hired to try to qualify (Japan) for the 2012 Olympics, and since they failed to do that, the JBA probably wanted to save money and start on the plan for 2016."

Wisman, who led Link Tochigi Brex to the 2009-10 JBL title, had done solid work during his national team tenure, according to the well-connected source.

"Tom had them playing tougher and smarter, but there really isn't that much talent to work with," the source said. "Until they start sending the best young — at least high school age — players to the U.S. to play and gain experience in U.S. high schools and colleges, probably not much will ever change, no matter who the new coach is."

The hoop insider expects a new coach to be announced sometime in March or April, as national team workouts are usually held in April and May.

"I'm sure they already have people in mind," the source stated. "The sad thing is that if they want to have a four-year plan to get ready for 2016, then Tom Wisman is as good as anyone. There may be other good coaches out there who want the job, but none will be better than Tom.

"The problem isn't the coach but the dysfunctional basketball system in Japan and the lack of talent."

He added: "The talented players that are in the JBL would be better off playing against the many imports in the bj-league. But since everyone in the JBL/JBA rejects this simple solution, not much will change no matter who is hired."

So in a year when global competition will converge in London for the 2012 Summer Games, perhaps it's time to make an unconventional hire, the source suggested.

"The best short-term solution, for a tournament or maybe one summer season, would be to make (Akita Northern Happinets bench boss) Kazuo Nakamura the Japan national team head coach. He would burn everyone out over a long period. But for a short run, his 3-point heavy offense and matchup zone (defense) could be very effective.

"In the long term, well, no one in the JBA seems to think long term, so what's the point? Go with Kazuo for a year."

Global hoop expert Bruce O'Neil, president of the United States Basketball Academy, isn't shocked by the Japan national team's failures on the international level — zero Olympic appearances since 1976 — and thinks it's time to make a bold hire.

Regarding Wisman's dismissal, O'Neil wrote in an email that it's "not surprising."

"The expectations are always too high," wrote O'Neil, who has worked extensively with professional leagues, players and coaches on both sides of the Pacific Ocean for decades.

"In my opinion, they should hire the best younger Japanese coach as the head coach and someone like (Sendai 89ers coach and former JBL bench boss and national team assistant coach) Bob Pierce as the consultant or assistant coach. No one has a better feel for Japanese basketball than Bob and because he speaks the language only strengthens his value."

Since Zeljko Pavlicevic's contract expired at the end of the 2006 FIBA World Championship, the men's national team has brought in Kimikazu Suzuki, David Hobbs, Osamu Kuraishi and Wisman to run the show.

And the new search could involve a few big names. Potential candidates could include longtime NBA coach Bob Hill, the former Tokyo Apache mentor who is currently working in an advisory role for the Guangdong Tigers.

The Chinese Basketball Association season ends next month, meaning the timing might be right to hand the reins to Hill.



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