Foreign coaches in the bj-league, in chronological order, updated on Oct. 8, 2015
A quick rundown on the growing fraternity, with updated comments and insight to come.
*Joe Bryant (Tokyo Apache, 2005-09, two trips to championship game, two losses; Kobe’s father, a strong player in his own right, too, as “Jellybean” in the NBA and as a star in Italy. Joe B. has served two stints as the head coach of the WNBA’s L.A. Sparks.) UPDATED on July 6, 2013: Bryant is now coaching in Thailand in the fledgling ASEAN Basketball League: **UPDATED on Jan. 2, 2015**: Joe B. was named the head coach of the Rizing Fukuoka last week, and he’ll take over for Ken Hamanaka, 25-year-old who filled the top spot temporarily after James Duncan was fired.** UPDATED summer of 2015: Bryant was not retained as head coach after the team’s 13-39 campaign.)
*Jawann Oldham (Oita HeatDevils, 2005-06, 16 games in charge, 4-12 record for the former NBA big man, and the first of two ex-Chicago Bulls big men to land a job in the bj-league; see Bill Cartwright below.)
*Charles Johnson (Saitama Broncos, 2005-06, 2-15 to begin season before stepping down from his head-coaching duties and becoming a player for the injury-depleted squad; Toyama Grouses, 2009-10, 17-35.)
*David Benoit (Saitama Broncos, 2007-09; Kyoto Hannaryz (2009-10, fired with a few weeks left in the season; the ex-NBA forward next coached in Qatar.)
*John Neumann (Rizing Fukuoka, 2007-09, two playoff appearances; Takamatsu Five Arrows, 2009-10; Longtime college coach Howie Landa, then 75, was to be Fukuoka’s original coach but stepped down before coaching a game due to a family member’s health issues. Neumann, you may recall, was a scoring machine in college, averaging 40.1 ppg for Ole Miss in 1970-71. He was named Coach of the Year in 2007-08.)
*Hernando Planells (Ryukyu Golden Kings (2007-08; worked in the NBA D-League for the Maine franchise last season, scouted for the NBA, work as a basketball choreographer in Hollywood; now a part of the Duke women’s basketball staff for 2012-13 season.)
*Brian Rowsom (Oita HeatDevils, 2009-10, the ex-NBA forward had a 25-27 record in charge; then took a job in Qatar.)
*Bob Pierce (Shiga Lakestars, 2008-10; Akita Northern Happinets, 2010-11; Sendai 89ers, 2011-to Feb. 23, 2013); fluent in Japanese, he’s an astute student of the game in Japan, a great advocate for progress that is decades behind where it should be, unfortunately, for the great sport here in Japan. A voice of reason, when few are heard in Japanese hoops. UPDATE: Pierce was fired on Feb. 23 after his team was swept by the East’s cellar-dwelling Sendai 89ers the day before. The 89ers were 13-21 at the time of his dismissal, and split their next series, also at home, against Gunma under GM/acting head coach Takeo Mabashi)
*Bob Nash (Saitama Broncos, 2010-11; Toyama Grouses, 2012 – present): Saitama suspended operations after the Great East Japan Earthquake en route to its sixth consecutive losing season; the ex-NBA forward deserved better. Updated on May 23, 2013 — He led the Toyama Grouses to a 35-17 record in the 2012-13 season and the third overall seed for the East in the playoffs. Toyama advanced to the second round and forced a Game 3, the mini-tiebreaker against the eventual champion Yokohama B-Corsairs. … led Toyama to a 40-12 record in 2013-14 and its first trip to the Final Four)
*Bob Hill (Tokyo Apache (2010-11, team also suspended operations after the earthquake, though Hill, the first ex-NBA head coach to lead a bj-league team, had the Apache in position for a run at the Final Four. Great teacher, tactician and all-around good guy to deal with for the media; now working in a consulting role for the Taiwan men’s team. Don’t rule out a return to the bench for him somewhere in the next few years.)
*Zeljko Pavlicevic (Shimane Susanoo Magic, 2010- to end of 2012-13 season): the two-time Euroleague-winning sideline supervisor and former Japan national team manager built the foundation for the team’s future during its inaugural season, a well-regarded mentor from Croatia.) Updated 6/30/2012: By agreeing to coach the Magic for the upcoming season, he’ll become only the second foreign coach in league history to remain with one team beyond two seasons; Joe Bryant was the first. … UPDATED on 5/24/2013: Last week, it became official that Pavlicevic has left the team; he’ll coach in the NBL (formerly called the JBL), taking over as Wakayama Trians boss next season.
*Ryan Blackwell (Osaka Evessa, 2010- to May 2012); the former Syracuse University forward guided the club to the Final Four in his first season at the helm.) UPDATED on 6/4/2012: His contract was not renewed after the 2011-12 season despite leading the team to a second-place finish amid the loss of great leader and two-time MVP Lynn Washington. Team officials told Blackwell, he said, that his relationship – friends — with Washington was the reason to not bring him back. The Evessa reached the playoffs twice under Blackwell, and went 67-35 in the regular season. ***UPDATED on 11/1/2012: Blackwell named coach of the 0-8 Gunma Crane Thunders.**UPDATED in December 2013: Gunma, in its second season, was 3-16 when he coached his final game, getting fired before the All-Star break.
*L.J. Hepp (Oita HeatDevils, 2010-11): who was fired in mid-march after three key American players left the team following the March 11 earthquake. Yep, Hepp became the scapegoat and the team severed ties with him; a disgraceful cost-cutting mode. The upbeat, hard-working coach was 16-22 for Oita).
*Tony Hanson (Hepp’s assistant, who finished the 2010-11 season in charge, compiling a demoralizing 0-10 record at the helm.)
*Dean Murray (Saitama Broncos, 2011-to November 23, 2011); new coach in Saitama’s revolving door; he’s worked in South Korea, China, the NBA D-League. The Broncos went 5-7 during his time on the team, 4-7 with Murray on the bench. He was fired due to a violation of team rules, the team said without going into specifics.)
*Alan Westover (Shiga Lakestars, 2011-to July 1, 2013); longtime player, asst. coach and then head man in Australia, starts over again in Japan.) UPDATED on July 6, 2013: Westover announced he would return to Australia to work as a basketball instructor after two seasons with the Lakestars, including a pair of playoff appearances. The Lakestars went 65-39 in the regular season in that time.
*Reggie Geary (Yokohama B-Corsairs, 2011-to 2013): former NBA guard gets the nod as the first coach in the expansion team’s history; he’s also worked in the NBADL … Named the 2011-12 bj-league Coach of the Year. UPDATED on 5/24/13: Of the 24 foreign-born head coaches in the league’s first eight seasons, Geary is the only on with a championship. He guided the B-Corsairs to a 101-90 triumph over the Rizing Fukuoka in the May 19 title game. He has led Yokohama to back-to-back Final Fours. Regular-season record to date: 66-38. ) UPDATED on July 6, 2013: Geary announced he won’t be back for a third season with the B-Corsairs, who were going through a transition with the sale of the team, a roster overhaul and an expected plan to cut costs drastically. He took over as coach of the NBL’s Chiba Jets for the start of the 2013-14 campaign. The Jets defected from the bj-league after 2 seasons.
*Eric Gardow (Chiba Jets, 2011-to June 2012, Wisconsin native, cancer survivor, former Qatar League and Qatar men’s national coach, was the man in charge for the expansion team. UPDATE: June 31, 2012: The Jets went 18-34 in Gardow’s one season at the helm. His replacement is Shinji Tomiyama.
*Vlasios Vlaikidis (Iwate Big Bulls, 2011-to Jan. 18, 2012; the Greek mentor stepped into the spotlight to run the expansion squad; he worked under Pavlicevic in Europe, specifically , having served as an assistant coach under the highly regarded mentor for three seasons at Panathinaikos Athens in the early 1990s. In that time, Vlaikidis helped coach the squad to a Greek Cup title in 1993. Vlaikidis also worked as an assistant coach for Greek club Aris Thessaloniki and as a head coach in Macedonia. UPDATE 1/18/12: Vlaikidis stepped down to return to Greece, where his father is seriously ill. UPDATED on 5/24/13: He was named Pavlicevic’s replacement at Shimane yesterday.) UPDATED on 1/17/14: After Shimane’s 5-21 start, the worst record in the West, he was fired and replaced on 1/12/14 by American Reggie Hanson (see below).
*Matt Garrison (Niigata Albirex BB, 2011-to May 27, 2013): the former Niigata and Takamatsu Five Arrows forward, and two-time All-Star 3-Point Shootout winner, is beginning his first season as a pro head coach. He’s worked in the prep ranks, in various camps and also as a talent evaluator in the United States. He replaces Masaya Hirose, the only coach in Albirex history.) UPDATED on June 1, 2013: Garrison was not given a contract extension after leading the team to the Final Four and a 36-16 regular-season record and an Eastern Conference regular-season title in 2012-13. Overall, he posted a 64-40 record in the regular season and guided the Albirex to two postseason appearances.
*Natalie Nakase (Nov. 24, 2011 to May 2012): The former UCLA point guard was named the team’s coach in a press release posted online at 2:36 a.m., or two minutes after Murray’s ouster was announced. The Japan Times received a fax after 3 a.m. with the news. Wonderful timing. Nakase served as an assistant coach under Bob Hill on the Tokyo Apache squad last season and has also coached in the German women’s pro league. She began the season as an assistant under Murray. She was 12-29 at the helm, after Murray was forced out with a 4-7 record to begin the season. Now working in the video production intern for the L.A. Clippers for the 2012-13 season.
*Tracy Williams (June 2012 to May 31, 2013): The former Harlem Globetrotter, pro player overseas and motivational speaker was tabbed to replace Nakase. His personal bio lists zero head coaching jobs at the pro level, but he’s worked running youth camps and served as an AAU coach for many years in the U.S.) UPDATED on June 1, 2013: Murray was fired after a 15-37 season.
*Zoran Kreckovic (June 30, 2012 to Oct. 22, 2012): The Serbian mentor was named as Blackwell’s replacement. The 53-year-old’s coaching career has included stops in Serbia, Bulgaria, Kuwait and Qatar. He was fired after four games (all losses) in charge, the shortest stint of any head coach in league history.
*Bill Cartwright (Jan. 21, 2013 to end of season) yes that Bill Cartwright, was named the fifth coach in Osaka Evessa history this week, taking over the 5-19 Western Conference squad, which is two seasons removed from its sixth consecutive Final Four appearance. Cartwright owns five NBA championship rings, three as a Chicago Bulls starting center (1991-93) and two as an assistant coach for the Phil Jackson- and MIchael Jordan-led second Bulls three-peat (1996-97 and 1997-98). Big Bill is the second former NBA coach (he led the Bulls for parts of three seasons, 2001-03), following Bob Hill, to be appointed to the same post in the bj-league. The No.3 pick in the 1979 NBA Draft (Knicks), the 7-foot-1 Cartwright played in the NBA until 1995 and served as an assistant coach for the Bulls, New Jersey Nets (2004-08) and Phoenix Suns (2008-12). UPDATED on July 6, 2013: Cartwright officially announced last weekend that he would not return to the team, though some players knew about it just days after the regular season ended in late April. He guided the Evessa to a 17-11 record. He said the distance from Japan to the United States was a major factor. UPDATED Oct. 8, 2015: Cartwright returned to the Evessa this season as an advisory coach.
*Chris Boettcher (July 12, 2013 to May 26,2014): The Shiga Lakestars named Boettcher the team’s new coach, replacing Al Westover. Boettcher has been a longtime women’s college basketball assistant coach at Utah Valley State and BYU. He has also served on the Metro State (Colorado) men’s staff during his coaching career from 1994-97. UPDATED on May 29, 2014: Boettcher accepted a job as the Southern Utah women’s head coach. He went 27-25 in his one season at Shiga and guided the team into the second round of the playoffs.
*Mack Tuck (Aug. 1, 2013 to October 2013): The new Rizing Fukuoka coach played several years overseas as a high-scoring swingman, including in the Chinese Basketball Association, where he also got spent time coaching. He attended Central Oklahoma before embarking on a pro career. UPDATED on Nov. 27, 2013: Tuck was officially replaced as head coach by Kimitoshi Sano last week. … He was on the sideline ONLY during the preseason, and the assumption was he’d return, but that’s not the case now. He never coached a regular-season game for Fukuoka, leaving Japan due to family concerns that required his attention overseas. And so, his short-lived tenure will always have a what-if attached to it.
*Reggie Hanson (January 12, 2014 to Nov. 9, 2014): The Shimane Susanoo Magic head coach is a former University of Kentucky player and UK assistant coach (2000-07). Hanson, 45, had two 10-day contracts with the Boston Celtics to close out the 1997-98 NBA season. He also worked for the University of South Florida basketball program from 2007-13 as both an assistant coach and director of basketball operations, the latter role for his final two seasons there. Hanson was a longtime standout in Japanese basketball, playing for Isuzu, Denso and Aichi Kikai in the JBL. Based on stats posted on his online bio on the UK athletics website, Hanson averaged 20.6 points, 8.7 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 2.6 steals and 1.6 blocks during his JBL career (1992-2000). He took over the 5-21 Magic and led them to an 11-41 record to finish the 2013-14 season. The Magic went 1-11 to open the 2014-15 season, picking up their first win on Nov. 9, the same day it was announced Hanson was fired.
*James Duncan (Jan. 25, 2014, to -Dec. 22, 2014): Rizing Fukuoka’s bench boss. The Canadian native played pro ball for the Artland Dragons and Dusseldorf Magic in Germany before beginning a coaching career that has included stops in Germany and Belgium. He took over the 11-17 Rizing and led the club to a playoff appearance in the 2013-14 season, keeping team’s postseason streak alive to seven seasons, as they went 15-9 to close out the season. **UPDATED on Jan. 2, 2015** Before being axed, Duncan’s Rizing were 6-16 to open the 2014-15 campaign.
*Charlie Parker (July 29, 2014 to –end of 2014-15 season): The former NBA and NBA Development League assistant coach is the fourth head coach in Gunma Crane Thunders history. The franchise, coming off a 13-39 season, is set to start its third season in October. Parker, 65, worked as a Dallas Mavericks assistant coach from 1996-2006. He was a New Orleans Hornets assistant from 2007-10. He was also a head coach for NCAA Division II Wayne State (Michigan) from 1982-88, a University of Southern California assistant coach and head coach between 1988 and ’96. He has coached in China and Bahrain. He worked for the D-League’s Texas Legends last season as an assistant. **UPDATE – summer of 2015: The Crane Thunders went 19-33 and reached the playoffs for the first time. Parker’s contract was not renewed.
*Joe Navarro (October 2015 to –): Guided the Hiroshima Lightning during the team’s bj-Challenge League (developmental circuit) campaign last season. He remains the head coach for the team’s inaugural season. Navarro was a longtime assistant coach (2001-12) at NCAA Division II Concordia University in Portland, Oregon.