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New Boss in Utsunomiya: Kevin Braswell Promoted to Head Coach of the B.League Squad

After getting bounced in the first round of the B.League playoffs despite a 51-9 regular-season record, the Brex begin afresh with a new head coach.

Guiding the Utsunomiya Brex to the best regular-season record in the B.League was not enough for head coach Norio Sassa to keep his job for the 2024-25 campaign.

The Brex parted ways with Sassa, it was announced on Monday, June 3, after they won 51 of 60 games this past season and then lost in the B.League playoff quarterfinals to the Chiba Jets.

In Sassa's first season at the helm, the Brex had a 32-28 record.

B.League
Utsunomiya Brex fans root for the team during an April 2024 game. (B.LEAGUE)

Despite the 19-win improvement in his second season in charge, team management opted to make a coaching change, a move that Sassa described as a "mutual" decision.

American Kevin Braswell, an associate head coach on Sassa's staff in 2023-24, was named the Brex's new bench boss on Wednesday, June 5.

Before joining Utsunomiya, Braswell spent two seasons with the Akita Northern Happinets, serving as an assistant coach and associate head coach. He also filled in as an acting head coach in 2022-23 when Kenzo Maeda took a leave of absence after his wife passed away.

In addition, the former Georgetown University guard coached a trio of teams in New Zealand (Wellington Saints, New Zealand Breakers, Auckland Huskies) before moving on to Akita.

B.League
Norio Sassa (B.LEAGUE)

In a news release, Sassa said he expects the Brex to be a title contender next season.

"I believe that the team has returned to a position where it can aim for another championship," said Sassa, who took over as head coach after the team won the franchise's second B.League title in the 2021-22 season under then-bench boss Ryuzo Anzai.

B.League
Kevin Braswell (center) served as the Utsunomiya Brex associate head coach during the 2023-24 B.League season. (B.LEAGUE)

Braswell Expresses Outlook for the 2024-25 B.League Season

"I am very excited to be named head coach for the 2024-25 season," Braswell, 45, said in a statement, "[and] I would like to thank the Brex organization for believing in and entrusting me to lead such a great team."

He added, "I am confident that this team will compete at a high level and will be able to challenge again to achieve the goals that we did not reach this season. When I came to the Brex for the 2023-24 season, our goal was to win a championship and that will not change."

B.League
New Ibaraki Robots head coach Chris Holm in a November 2023 file photo. (B.LEAGUE)

Robots Hand Coaching Reins to Holm

The Ibaraki Robots, who had the worst record (12-48) in the eight-team Eastern Conference in 2023-24, have also made a coaching change.

Rich Glesmann, whose contract expired in late May, will be replaced by promoted assistant Chris Holm as the new bench boss. The Robots announced Glesmann's departure and Holm's promotion on May 27.

Glesmann began his second stint as Robots coach in November 2023, returning to Japan after the team had a 1-13 start under James Andrisevic.

B.League
Rich Glesmann (B.LEAGUE)

"When I returned to Ibaraki Prefecture, the Robots were in a very difficult situation," said Glesmann, who led the club for three full seasons (2020-23) before his return. "I am very proud of the players and basketball staff. The Robots were able to remain a B1 organization because the team continued to fight till the very end of the season."

Ibaraki remains in the B.League first division for the 2024-25 season. The Toyama Grouses (4-56) and Shinshu Brave Warriors (10-50) were relegated to the second division, aka B2.

In a statement, Holm, 39, outlined his thoughts on becoming the head coach.

"I'm eagerly looking forward to leading the team in the upcoming season and am grateful for the warm reception my family and I have received from the Ibaraki community over the past two seasons," said Holm, a former University of Vermont standout who spent the majority of his pro career playing in Japan.

"While the last season presented its challenges, it's through the unwavering support and dedication of our boosters and sponsors that we were able to finish with upward momentum. We will look to continue that momentum as we strive to further strengthen our team and achieve even greater success."

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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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