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B.League Coaching Carousel: New Bench Bosses in Hiroshima, Gunma, Yokohama and Nagasaki

The 2023-24 B.League champion Hiroshima Dragonflies will begin defense of their title with new head coach Shogo Asayama, who recently retired as a player.

Less than a month after leading the Hiroshima Dragonflies to their first B.League title on May 28, Kyle Milling has left the team. The Dragonflies made an announcement on Monday, June 17.

Milling was named the new head coach of the Gunma Crane Thunders on Tuesday, replacing the departed Kota Mizuno. 

On the same day, Hiroshima named retired swingman Shogo "Mr Dragonflies" Asayama as Milling's successor.

Asayama, 43, suited up for the Dragonflies from 2015-24.

Dragonflies general manager Shuji Okazaki detailed why he believes Asayama is a suitable replacement for Milling, who led the club to three winning seasons during his three-year tenure.

"Not only does he have a strong relationship of trust with the players who have already announced that they will continue with the club," Okazaki said of Asayama in a statement, "but he also has a deep understanding of the club's history and the culture it values."

Okazaki added, "Specifically, Asayama is a head coach who can clarify what is good and what is bad, and can sometimes communicate harsh opinions to players and staff to achieve results. While there are growing pains involved in changing and developing the team, he is also willing to spare no effort in building a trusting relationship with each and every one of them."

B.League
Shogo Asayama (HIROSHIMA DRAGONFLIES)

Asayama Outlines His Goals for the Dragonflies

Taking over a team that went 36-24 in the 2023-24 B.League regular season and then defeated the San-en NeoPhoenix, Nagoya Diamond Dolphins and Ryukyu Golden Kings in the playoffs to capture the title, Asayama wants to maintain the team's high standards.

"I am pleased to announce that I will be taking over as head coach," Asayama said. "First of all, I would like to express my utmost respect and gratitude to head coach Kyle Milling and the players and staff who are leaving this team.

"I am also very happy to be able to compete with you all again, carrying the Hiroshima Dragonflies name on my shoulders. [And] I would like to carry on what we have built up so far, strengthen it further, and create something new from it."

B.League
Kyle Milling coached the Hiroshima Dragonflies for the past three seasons. (B.LEAGUE)

A New B.League Coaching Challenge for Milling

In leaving Hiroshima to accept a new coaching position with Gunma, Milling takes over a team that had a 31-29 record in 2023-24.

The American-born mentor said he's eager for the new challenge that lies ahead.

"I’m very excited and honored to be joining the Gunma Crane Thunders for the 2024-25 season," Milling stated in a team-issued news release.

The 49-year-old coach added, "I want to thank the management and club for having confidence in me to help continue building the club both on and off the court. 

"Our team will play hard and together, defend and always have a fighting spirit. The staff and I will do our best to win as many games as possible with the ultimate goal of winning a championship." 

Veteran star Trey McKinney-Jones, a former NBA player entering his fifth season with the Crane Thunders, said the club is committed to making improvements. He described the overall focus for 2024-24 as "unfinished business," while noting "I'm happy to be back to do whatever it takes to reach our goals." 

B.League
Finland coach Lassi Tuovi draws up a play in a 2023 FIBA Basketball World Cup European qualifier in February 2003 in Espoo, Finland. (FIBA.BASKETBALL)

It's just a shoe!

B-Corsairs Hire Finnish Bench Boss Tuovi

Lassi Tuovi, head coach of the Finland national team, was appointed to fill the same role for the Yokohama B-Corsairs, it was announced on Sunday, June 16.

Tuovi replaces Taketo Aoki, who was let go after the team went 24-36 this past season.

The 37-year-old Tuovi served as an assistant coach for Italian Serie A club Virtus Bologna in 2023-24.

Before that, he was the head coach for French top-flight team SIG Strasbourg from 2020-22.

B.League
Finland coach Lassi Tuovi directs his team in a 2023 FIBA Basketball World Cup game against Venezuela on September 2, 2023, at Okinawa Arena. (FIBA.BASKETBALL)

At the 2022 EuroBasket, Tuovi led his home country to a solid seventh-place finish, its best showing in the tournament in the 21st century. Finland then played at the 2023 FIBA Basketball World Cup in Okinawa.

In the summer of 2023, Tuovi gained additional experience working for the Utah Jazz as an assistant coach at the NBA Summer League.

Looking ahead to the next chapter of his coaching career, Tuovi said: "I'm super, super excited to join and start this new journey with Yokohama, and very thankful that they saw potential and interest in me as a coach."

In the most basic description, what is Tuovi's vision to launch a turnaround for the B-Corsairs?

"When it comes to basketball, we want to bring our fighting spirit to everyone who comes to watch our games," Tuovi revealed in a statement.

He added, "For sure we will build our spirit on teamwork and collectiveness and maybe [play] a little bit more, faster and active basketball than what the team played the previous season."

B.League
Mody Maor (NAGASAKI VELCA)

Velca Appoint Maor to Fill Coaching Vacancy

American-born coach Mody Maor, who has extensive pro coaching experience in Israel, primarily as an assistant coach, is the Nagasaki Velca's new sideline supervisor.

The Velca, coming off a 27-33 season, their first in B1, announced the news on Monday, June 17.

Maor, who turns 39 on June 27, most recently served as the New Zealand Breakers head coach in the Australian NBL from 2022-24. The Breakers were the runners–up in the NBL Finals in Maor's first season in charge.

"It is a great honor for me to coach the Nagasaki Velca club," Maor commented. "The 2024-25 season represents an exciting new beginning. We are taking our first steps in our new Happiness Arena and adjacent training facility. [And] we will rely on this foundation that we have all built together to reach new heights and establish ourselves as a force to be reckoned with in this competitive league."

Maor replaces Kenjiro Maeda, who held the head coaching post for two seasons. He left the club to fill a vacancy with the Shiga Lakes, who won the B.League second-division title in May.

Now preparing to play in B1 in the 2024-25 season, the Lakes were previously guided by Spaniard David Gomez, who departed in the offseason.

Around the B.League

In recent weeks since the end of the regular season, the Utsunomiya Brex (Kevin Braswell), the Kawasaki Brave Thunders (Ronen "Nino" Ginzburg), the Ibaraki Robots (Chris Holm) and the Sendai 89ers (Yoshiro Ochiai) have also announced the hiring of new head coaches.

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Author: Ed Odeven

Find Ed on JAPAN Forward's dedicated website, SportsLook. Follow his [Japan Sports Notebook] on Sundays, [Odds and Evens] during the week, and X (formerly Twitter) @ed_odeven.

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