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Japan Men’s Basketball Coach Tom Hovasse Reflects on Olympic Experience, New Goals

Hovasse shares insights on his old job, serving as the women’s national team coach, and capturing the silver medal at the Tokyo Games, and challenges of his new post.

Tom Hovasse guided the Japan women's basketball team to a silver medal at the Tokyo Olympics.

Tom Hovasse instilled confidence in his players and guided the Japan women’s basketball team to its best-ever finish (silver medal) at the Tokyo Olympics.

The American-born coach reflected on the whirlwind experience of competing in the Summer Games on home soil and the media buzz that the team created in a recent JAPAN Forward Sports Talk podcast interview

“I think it’s a great thing for basketball in Japan,” Hovasse said of the big uptick in media requests and appearances for the women’s team after the Olympics. 

Hovasse is hopeful that a parallel between the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, where the Japan women’s volleyball team won a gold medal, and the second Summer Games in Japan will spark a new promising era of basketball here.

Because of the women’s national team’s success in 1964, volleyball “became a major sport in Japan,” Hovasse noted. “And I’m hoping that women’s basketball and men’s basketball will have the same effect. I really hope that basketball can take the next step in terms of being a major sport here.”

Weeks after the players received their silver medals following a loss in the final to the United States and garnered more media attention than ever before, Hovasse began the next chapter of his professional career as the Japan men’s national team head coach, filling a coaching vacancy after outgoing leader Julio Lamas returned to Argentina following the Olympics.

Hovasse discusses building relationships with his players, a focal point of his leadership style, and how the women’s team transformed itself from a good team to a great team during the Olympics. 

He also praises point guard Rui Machida for her perseverance and commitment to the team. “She is such an unselfish player, always positive,” Hovasse stated. “She’s this little dynamo, but also very strong-minded, so to see her shine on that stage was something special.”

Hovasse, a former NBA player and Japan Basketball League star, also shares his thoughts on putting his stamp on the men’s team as it prepares for 2023 FIBA World Cup Asian qualifiers against China on November 27 and 28 in Sendai. He noted that Lamas built a foundation, and now he wants to continue challenging his players to reach the next level.

“My first objective is to start creating relationships with the players,” Hovasse pointed out, “and the only way you can do that is get them on the court, start working with them, start building trust, start building clear objectives for the team.”

NBA players Rui Hachimura and Yuta Watanabe have been key members of the men’s national team in recent years in international tournaments. That said, Hovasse talks about how he wants to develop overall roster depth to bolster the team’s competitive drive, even when Hachimura and Watanabe are not participating in practices and games.

Will the Japan men’s team under Hovasse play a similar style of basketball that the Akatsuki Five women did when he called the plays?

Yes, he said, referring to a fast, aggressive, high-energy style of play that’s based on NBA tactics.

The first glimpse will be against China.

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