25 August, 2023
10 September
Tom Hovasse (JPN)
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Hovasse switches from Japan women's team to men's, keen on building on momentum

TOKYO (Japan) - Basketball has taken center stage in Japan again this week with the major announcement that Tom Hovasse is moving to coach the men's national team.

Fresh off leading the Japan women to the Olympic Final in Tokyo, Hovasse will attempt to build on a positive four-year run of men's coach Julio Lamas, who led the team to qualification for the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 in China, and then led them at the Summer Games.

Taking charge of the women's national team is Hovasse's former assistant, Toru Onzuka. He is just days away from leading the side at the FIBA Women's Asia Cup in Jordan, a tournament the Japanese will try to win for the fifth consecutive time.

Japan won the FIBA Women's Asia Cup in 2013 and successfully defended that title in 2015 after Hovasse joined as an assistant coach. After being promoted to head coach following the Rio 2016 Olympics, Hovasse steered the team to a third consecutive FIBA Women's Asia Cup crown in 2017 and then a fourth in 2019, with both tournaments staged in Bengaluru, India.

His team in between played at the FIBA Women's Basketball World Cup 2018 in Tenerife, Spain, coming in ninth after a 87-81 defeat to China in the Qualification for the Quarter-Finals.

The Japan women thrived under Hovasse, excelling on both ends of the floor. He received universal praise for Japan's performances at the Olympics.

"First of all, it is important to build a relationship of trust with the players."- New Japan men's coach Tom Hovasse

That effort, however, was the culmination of a project that he and the players devoted their lives to for several years. One of the hallmarks of the Hovasse era in charge of the Japan women was that he was able to strengthen the team by discovering gems and adding them to the team.

The best example of that was Nako Motohashi, the dazzling point guard who impressed after Hovasse invited her to an extended training camp. Motohashi became a leading player the next year at the Women's World Cup in Tenerife and the following summer was the MVP of the FIBA Women's Asia Cup.

Other players like Rui Machida thrived under Hovasse's lead. She was one of the top players at the Olympics.

Hovasse had great connection with players in the women's team and will be hoping it's the same with the men

By reaching the Gold Medal Game of the Olympics, Hovasse proved the Japanese had been wise to install him as coach. 

"The biggest thing I experienced at the Olympics was that the athletes believed in me, and conversely I also believed in the athletes and we respected each other," Hovasse said at Wednesday's  unveiling. "It is important to have a good discussion and create an opportunity to get to know each other because it is not easy to build."

Hovasse  will take a similar approach with the men.

"The playing style is almost the same as the women's national team from Japan, and I want to use what Japan is good at, based on fast breaks and spacing," he said. "The basketball style is the same as the Olympics, with three-point shooting, speed, detailed and thorough play, good passing and cutting ..."

It helps Hovasse, too, that he speaks Japanese. 

As for Lamas, Hovasse had only praise for his predecessor.

"For the last four years, I have been friends and respected coach Julio Lamas," he said. "The achievements that have been accumulated so far have been wonderful. Rather than getting better from here, I think I can improve it further by adding my style. I'm really looking forward to the future."

Similar to finding Motohashi, Hovasse will have a good, long look at the talent in Japan.

"There are good shooters, good point guards, and young big men in the B League," he said. "I think we can make an interesting basketball team. I am also confident that it is perfect for (Yuta) Watanabe and (Rui) Hachimura. I'm looking forward to it. Please support us. I will give my best, 100-percent."

Hovasse is eager to speak with NBA players Rui Hachimura (No. 8) and Yuta Watanabe

Japan have the benefit of having a spot secured in the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023 as the country is one of three hosts for the event, along with the Philippines and Indonesia.

Even so, Hovasse says this will be a crucial period for the men's national team as they go up against Australia, China and Chinese Taipei.

"In November, there will be a game against China in the FIBA ​​World Cup Asian Qualifiers, and I have to study the other countries a lot," he said.

"From there, (I will) make detailed goals. First of all, it is important to build a relationship of trust with the players. I would like to meet and talk with Rui Hachimura and Yuta Watanabe in person in the United States."

Hachimura, who plays in the NBA  for the Washington Wizards, and Watanabe, who suits up for the Toronto Raptors, are Japan's best known players and were arguably their top performers at the Olympics.