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Thursday, May 10, 2012

Japan selects Suzuki to lead men's basketball team


Staff writer

The Japan Basketball Association officially introduced Kimikazu Suzuki as the new head coach for the men's national team on Wednesday in Tokyo.

News photo
New attitude: Head coach Kimikazu Suzuki and associate head coach Torsten Loibl are tasked with turning the national team around. KAZ NAGATSUKA

The 52-year-old Suzuki, the head coach of Japan Basketball League club Aisin Sea Horses, will be serving in his second stint with the men's top team. He led Team Japan between 2006 and 2007, but the team finished sixth in the Asian Games and eighth in the FIBA Asia Championship. He was fired shortly after.

"I was 46 years old and was asked by the association to take over all of sudden, and I wasn't ready mentally," Suzuki said at a news conference. "Honestly speaking, I swore I would never do this again (when I was fired), but people around me understood my place at that time and asked me to take the chance one more time.

"Obviously, I have tons of things to reflect on from my last tenure, and I intend not let them happen this time."

Japan has already missed out on qualifying for the London Olympics, so Suzuki has no need to be in a hurry to come up with major results right away.

Having going through disastrous outcomes in international competition, including the FIBA Asia Championships, over the past several years, JBA national team development director Hideta Suzuki acknowledged that the men's national team had produced nothing but humiliating defeats, adding that it needs to have a bigger and longer vision.

"We would like to rebuild our program as quickly as possible," the executive said. "As far as our goal, it's to finish within the top three in the 2013 FIBA Asia Championships. But we're also looking at the Olympics of 2016 and 2020. We have got to raise the overall level by developing young talents."

Along with the new personnel and plans, the JBA has also started youth and junior programs to pick up elite talents from all the age categories, including elementary, junior high and high-schoolers from all over the nation.

The JBA also anointed German Torsten Loibl the team's associate head coach. While Loibl helps Suzuki at the top national team, he'll observe the Under-16 and Under-18 teams as a sports director.

Toibl, who had coached for the German Under-16 team between 1994 and 2004, led German top league club BV Chemnitz 99 to third place in the 2010-11 campaign and was chosen as the coach of the year.

"First of all, I want to say I'm very honored to take over such an important position as the sports director in a double function as the associate head coach for such a big organization, the Japan national team," said the 40-year-old Loibl, who guided Toyota Motors Alvark to the league championship in the 2006-07 season. "I've been working with the Japanese basketball players at all levels, from mini-basketball to the professional level, in almost every prefecture for the past 12 years.

"I've been impressed with the potential of the Japanese basketball. I always call Japanese basketball a sleeping giant. It's a giant, but it's sleeping because we haven't found a way to use the potential on the professional level yet."

Loibl was the head coach for Levanga Hokkaido and led the financially struggling club to a respectable fifth place finish this past season.

The JBA announced the 20-man provisional men's team, too. It focused on younger players, featuring five collegiate and two high school players, while only selecting two players above 30 years old.

The team will begin activities starting with series of training camps in June, and participate in a few international tournaments, such as September's FIBA Asia Champions Cup, which will be held in Tokyo this time.



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