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[JAPAN SPORTS NOTEBOOK] B.League Season Tips Off with Few Coaching Changes

Before its eighth season tips off, a rundown of who's in charge in the 24-team B.League provides a quick look at the current crop of head coaches.

Ten members of Japan's FIBA Basketball World Cup squad will play in the B.League during the 2023-24 season, which tips off on Thursday, October 5. The Saga Ballooners play host to the reigning champion Ryukyu Golden Kings in the opener, while the rest of the 24 first-division teams are set to play lidlifters two days later.

With Japan qualifying for the Olympic men's basketball competition for the first since the 1976 Montreal Games, greater global recognition of the B.League, which was launched in 2016, has followed.

Yudai Baba (KYODO)

A prominent member of Japan's national team, Yudai Baba, became the 10th player to secure a B.League contract for 2023-24.

An announcement was made on Tuesday, September 26, with Baba joining the Nagasaki Velca, one of two teams to be promoted from B2 to B1 this season. (Saga is the other.)

Shinshu Brave Warriors coach Michael Katsushisa (B.LEAGUE)

Who's Who in the B.League Coaching Ranks

Did you know that Michael Katsuhisa of the Shinshu Brave Warriors is the longest-tenured head coach in B1?

Katsuhisa, 40, is starting his sixth season in charge.

Three B.League mentors are beginning their fifth season as bench bosses with their respective teams: Kenji Sato of the Kawasaki Brave Thunders, Taizo Kawabe of the Fighting Eagles Eagles and Kenzo Maeda of the Akita Northern Happinets.

Fighting Eagles Nagoya coach Taizo Kawabe (B.LEAGUE)

In a profession where bench bosses change jobs quite frequently, former SeaHorses Mikawa coach Kimikazu Suzuki was a pillar of stability for the former Japan Basketball League powerhouse team known as the Aisin SeaHorses before the B.League's inception in 2016. Suzuki led the SeaHorses from 1995-2023 before retiring in May.

SeaHorses Mikawa coach Ryan Richman (SEAHORSES MIKAWA)

Looking to revitalize the SeaHorses after the team finished with a 27-33 record in 2022-23 is new American head coach Ryan Richman, a 33-year-old former assistant coach with the NBA's Washington Wizards the past three seasons.

Joining Richman as new sideline supervisors this season are JR Sakuragi (Toyama Grouses), James Andrisevic (Ibaraki Robots) and Luka Pavicevic (Sunrockers Shibuya). 

Pavicevic is the only head coach in league history to win back-to-back championships, doing so in the 2017-18 and 2019 seasons with the Alvark Tokyo. He left the club at the end of the 2021-22 campaign. 

Meanwhile, Levanga Hokkaido's Ryutaro Onodera is beginning his first full season in charge. He was named acting head coach in February 2023, replacing Kenichi Sako before "acting" was dropped from his title in May.

Additional Info on Current Head Coaches

The majority of B1's coaches are starting their second or third year at the helm.

Entering season two are the following: Dainius Adomaitis (Alvark), John Patrick (Chiba Jets), Kota Mizuno (Gunma Crane Thunders), Atsushi Ono (San-en NeoPhoenix), Roy Rana (Kyoto Hannaryz), Kenjiro Maeda (Velca), Mathias Fischer (Osaka Evessa) and Norio Sassa (Utsunomiya Brex).

Starting season three on the sideline are: Dai Oketani (Golden Kings), Hiroki Fujita (Sendai 89ers), Shawn Dennis (Nagoya Diamond Dolphins), Paul Henare (Shimane Susanoo Magic), Kyle Milling (Hiroshima Dragonflies), Taketo Aoki (Yokohama B-Corsairs) and Yuta Miyanaga (Ballooners).

A quick note before the focus shifts below to other sports: Related preview articles are planned by the SportsLook team in the run-up to the season's aforementioned tipoff date.

Take a Food Journey Around the World!


Brooks Robinson in file photos from 1963 and 1977. (PUBLIC DOMAIN)


Legendary MLB Third Baseman Robinson Participated in Memorable 1971 Offseason Tour in Japan

Hall of Fame third baseman Brooks Robinson, who won 16 consecutive Golden Gloves and played his entire 23-year MLB career with the Baltimore Orioles, died on Tuesday, September 26. He was 86.

Robinson was a defensive anchor for the Orioles and a two-time World Series champion (1966, 1970). He was the 1970 World Series MVP. After the 1971 season, when the Pittsburgh Pirates beat the O's in a dramatic seven-game World Series, Robinson joined his Baltimore teammates on a lengthy offseason exhibition tour in Japan.

According to most MLB experts, Robinson is recognized as the greatest defensive third baseman in history. 

Luis Tiant, a 229-game MLB winner interviewed by JAPAN Forward in June 2020 for Part 1 of a special eight-part Nomomania retrospective series, reflected on Robinson's career and legacy on social media.

"Farewell to one of the greatest I ever played against," Tiant wrote in an Instagram post. "One the best [third baseman] but more importantly a gentleman of the game. Baseball will miss you Brooks, my thoughts and prayers are with the entire Brooks and @orioles family."

Details of Baltimore's 1971 Japan Tour

In 1971, the Orioles, coming off a 101-61 regular season and their third consecutive appearance in the World Series, had a shortened offseason. Prior to the season, Jerold C Hoffberger, the team's chairman of the board, OK'd an invitation from the Yomiuri Giants on behalf of Nippon Professional Baseball to play 18 games against Japanese teams after the 1971 campaign, according to a detailed report published by the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR) in 2020.

Led by Sadaharu Oh, Shigeo Nagashima, Toshimitsu Tsuetsugu, and others, Yomiuri won its sixth consecutive Japan Series title in October 1971.

For the Orioles, the tour was an epic extravaganza: Between October 23 and November 20, 1971, Baltimore faced the Giants 10 times and also played games against the Chunichi Dragons, Hankyu Braves, Hiroshima Carp, Nankai Hawks, and Nishitetsu Lions. In addition to Tokyo (at the start and finish of the 18-game, 31-day tour), the tour featured stops in Sendai, Koriyama, Nishinomiya, Osaka, Toyama, Niigata, Kyoto, Hiroshima, Matsuyama, Fukuoka, Kitakyushu and Nagoya. 

Getting from Point A to Point B throughout the tour was a detail-rich experience, involving "airplane, bus, ferry, hydrofoil, and train," SABR's Steven Glassman reported in the article.

How did the Orioles, led by Hall of Fame manager Earl Weaver, fare? They won 12 games, lost twice, and had two ties. 

Robinson was second on the O's in home runs (five) during the Japan trip. Teammate Boog Powell slugged six.

New York Mets hurler Kodai Senga fires a pitch to a Miami Marlins batter in the first inning on September 27 at Citi Field in New York. (Vincent Carchietta/USA TODAY SPORTS)

Senga Notches 200th Strikeout in Final Start of Season

The New York Mets failed to achieve their goal of clinching a spot in the National League playoffs. But in his first season as an MLB player, Kodai Senga demonstrated that he has the pitching acumen to be a vital member of the team's starting rotation.

Senga started the second game of a doubleheader against the Miami Marlins on Wednesday, September 27 in the Big Apple. He allowed three hits on two runs (a pair of solo home runs) in five innings, recording eight strikeouts on the night.

In the third inning, Senga fanned Jake Burger on an 0-2 forkball for his 200th strikeout of the season. Senga, who had a no-decision, added two more Ks before he left the game, which the Mets lost 4-2.  

A former star for the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks (2012-22), Senga became the Mets' second MLB rookie to record 200 Ks in their first season. Dwight Gooden fanned 276 in 1984.

"Honestly, going into the season, I had no expectations," Senga commented through interpreter Hiro Fujiwara, according to the New York Post. "I had no idea what I was capable of."

Senga, 30, finished the 2023 season with a 12-7 record and a 2.98 ERA. His 202 strikeouts came in 166⅓ innings.

Fun MLB Fact of the Week

Shohei Ohtani's Los Angeles Angels jersey is MLB's most popular one in terms of sales on its online store since the season began in March.

Here's a look at the top 10.

Former Japan national team midfielder Shinji Ono is seen in a June 2006 file photo. (ⒸSANKEI)


J.League's 'Genius' Ono Announces Retirement 

Midfielder Shinji Ono began his pro career with the Urawa Reds in 1998 and for more than a quarter century, the Shizuoka Prefecture native played for J.League and overseas teams. 

Ono revealed on his 44th birthday that he'll retire at the end of the 2023 season. He made the announcement on Wednesday, September 27.

"I decided to stop my career as a player at the end of this season because my feet, which have been my partner for the 39 years since I started playing, are asking for a break," Ono announced in a statement.

Ono, who was named the 2002 Asian Football of the Year, currently plays for Hokkaido Consadole Sapporo.

Other career honors include J.League Rookie of the Year and J.League Best XI (both in 1998) and selection to the league's 30th anniversary team. He also suited up for the Japan national team during the 1998, 2002, and 2006 FIFA World Cups. Ono earned 56 caps and scored six goals for the Samurai Blue from 1998-2008.

During his lengthy career, Ono competed for Dutch club Feyenoord (2001-06), German squad VfL Bochum (2007-10) and Australia's Western Sydney Wanderers (2012-14).

In addition to Urawa (1998-2001, 2006-07), Ono played for Shimizu S-Pulse (2010-12), Consadole (2014-19, 2021 to present) and FC Rukyu (2019-20).

Hailed as a "Genius" for his slick technical skills on offense, Ono has not appeared in a J.League match this season.

Hinata Miyazawa in action at the FIFA Women's World Cup in August 2023. (KYODO)

Manchester United Newcomer Miyazawa's Team Set to Start Season

Manchester United opens its 2023-24 Women's Super League campaign against Aston Villa on Sunday, October 1 at Villa Park in Birmingham, England.

Hinata Miyazawa, winner of the Golden Boot at the 2023 FIFA Women's World Cup, was one of United's nine offseason signees. She scored a tournament-best five goals for Japan in July and August.

In a video clip posted on Manchester United's official website, the 23-year-old midfielder outlined her goals for the season.  

"I'm really looking forward to playing at a high level and for my own development I would like to set a goal for myself to constantly participate in games and I would like to score goals," said Miyazawa, who will wear jersey No 20. 

She continued by saying, "I hope I can make a lot of plays that will excite the audience."


Ozeki Takakeisho speaks at a news conference on September 25 in Tokyo. (KYODO)


Takakeisho Reflects on Autumn Basho

A day after winning the Autumn Grand Sumo Tournament on September 24, ozeki Takakeisho spoke about the sense of duty that he carried throughout the 15-day tournament at Tokyo's Ryogoku Kokugikan.

Specifically, Takakeisho noted that with yokozuna Terunofuji sidelined with a back injury, it was important that he stepped up and had a successful showing.

"I wanted to avoid getting dirt on all the senior top-ranked wrestlers, who have shown [through winning titles] the weight of the rank," Takakeisho said, according to Kyodo News, at a news conference.

The 27-year-old has won the Emperor's Cup four times in his career.



As of 10 PM JST on Saturday, September 30, Japan had collected 103 medals, including 28 gold, at the Asian Games in Hangzhou, China. (Check out the full medal table on

The competition, featuring 481 events, 12,000 athletes, and 45 Olympic Council of Asia member nations, continues until October 8.

Individual and team glory and national pride are on the line in Hangzhou, while Olympic qualifiers for the 2024 Paris Games are being staged for nine sports, including archery, boxing, field hockey, and tennis. 

Quote of the Week

"I'm really happy to experience something like this from my first year in the majors. This is a strong team with a great atmosphere. It was amazing luck to be traded here."

―Baltimore Orioles relief pitcher Shintaro Fujinami was quoted as saying by Kyodo News after his team clinched the American League East title on September 28. Fujinami, a former Hanshin Tigers player, was traded from the Oakland Athletics to the Orioles in July.

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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