Former NBA player molds Japanese basketball team into title contender


Bob Nash’s tenure with the University of Hawaii men’s basketball team came to an end in March 2010 after a three-year run as head coach and a 34-56 overall record in that span. For Nash, that opportunity came after a 23-year stint as an assistant coach at the school.

Nash’s dismissal by the University of Hawaii didn’t mark an end to his long coaching career, but a chance for a new chapter — and in Japan of all places.

The former NBA forward was hired to lead the bj-league’s Saitama Broncos for the 2010-11 season. But the Broncos season came to an abrupt halt after the Great East Japan Earthquake on March 11, and Nash’s reclamation project in Saitama was incomplete. The team went 14-24.

After a season away from coaching, though, he returned to Japan. Nash joined another Eastern Conference team, the Toyama Grouses, with a wonderful one-two punch in forward Ira Brown and shooting guard Masashi Joho. And Nash proved to be the right fit for the Grouses for the 2012-13 season.

Nash guided Toyama to its first winning campaign (35-17 overall, a 10-game improvement over 2011-12) last season and a trip to the playoffs. It was the start of something special that carried over in a big, bold way to 2013-14, the Hokuriku-based club’s eighth season in the upstart circuit.

After parting ways with the University of Hawaii basketball team, Nash channeled his energy into exploring his options. Saitama proved to be a stepping stone for him to get familiar with the bj-league, and he eventually landed on his feet with a franchise that was an ideal fit.

In Toyama, the talent and the commitment to winning is there. This season, Joho, a prominent player in the bj-league since its inception in 2005, became the first Japanese player in league history to earn regular-season MVP accolades, and Brown’s all-around athleticism and stellar contributions earned him a spot on the league’s Best Five Team this season, too.

Nash, meanwhile, humbly recognizes that his long career in basketball, including as a member of Hawaii’s “Fabulous Five” team in the 1970-71 and 1971-72 seasons, speaks for itself. It’s as if to say that every season is another few lines on his resume.

“After coaching for over 30 years and having been associated with basketball for most of my life, there is little left to prove to anyone,” the energetic 63-year-old Nash told The Japan Times. “I’d be crazy to be doing this for so long if I didn’t have the passion and desire to coach and develop players.”

“At this stage in my life I welcomed the challenge and experience of coaching a professional team. I must say that I am blessed to have a great group of players who are accepting my coaching philosophy. At this level, it is about having honest relationships and interactions with the players. My mission each day is to give my best effort to prepare my players for practices and games.”

Nash’s future may have appeared uncertain in March 2010. But at the present time, it’s clear the Toyama Grouses found the right man to lead the franchise to respectability and a prominent place in Japanese pro basketball.

Bob Nash played both in the NBA (4 seasons) and ABA (one season). He averaged 4.7 ppg, 2.2 rpg, 11.7 mpg in the NBA, where he played for Detroit Pistons and Sacramento Kings. Nash played a total of 236 games in NBA and ABA, averaging 4.7 ppg and 2.3 rpg in 11.6 mpg.


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