Shiga Lakestars Head Coach Ishibashi fired

Former Lakestars head coach Ishibashi gives a high-five to a fan.

Ishibashi Takatoshi (石橋貴俊) has been fired as the head coach of the Shiga Lakestars, one of the bj league’s pro basketball teams in the Western Conference. The team announced the dismissal on Feb. 22, 2011.

The news is quite shocking as the Lakestars is still one of the top four teams in the Western Conference with 19 wins and 15 losses. The Lakestars’ official Web site announced in a brief, two-sentence statement that Ishibashi was dismissed and that 31-year-old Assistant Coach Nema Hirokazu will be the interim head coach until a replacement is found. No explanation was given for the firing.

But Kyoto Shimbun newspaper reported that team president Sakai Nobusuke (坂井信介) explained that besides wanting to break the recent string of losses (five games in a row), he wants the team back in 1st or 2nd place in the conference and win in the playoffs. He concluded that a change in the head coaching was necessary to this end.

Right now, the top four teams in the Western Conference is in a very tight race. They are separated only by 2 wins/losses. The Lakestars was actually in 1st place in Jan. 2011, but five consecutive losses from Feb. 6 put them down to 3rd place. The string of losses is certainly disappointing, but I don’t think it’s enough to fire the HC.

I still haven’t seen a Lakestars game this season (notice that I haven’t posted any photos this season). I have to confess that I’ve lost much of my enthusiasm for the team after former head coach Robert Pierce and Bobby Nash were released despite their popularity among fans. I like Joho and Wara, but as for most of the others, I can’t even remember their names and faces. They change too often. The high turnover of players and coaches has been disenchanting and it makes it difficult for me to develop a real bond with the team. I just don’t know these people.

And look at the way they announce such firings. No explanation at all. Not even a public “thank you” to poor Ishibashi-san. It’s like they are discarding a piece of machinery. Cold, very cold. So anyone and everyone on the team is expendable. Here today, and maybe gone tomorrow. It must be stressful for them to think about it.

The team president’s policy seems to be “win at all costs.” Sure, a winning team gets more sponsors and more money. But sports should not be only about winning and/or money. It’s about teamwork, working together, overcoming adversity together, never giving up, and forging a bond with fans. It’s really about doing your best.

I’m really concerned about the local children when they see how “winning is everything” and how coaches and players can be discarded like a paper toss to the trash can at anytime. Kids look up to pro teams, players, and coaches. These adults must set a good example.

OK, so five losses in a row. Work to turn a negative into a positive. That’s what sports should be about. The kids should see and learn that it’s also about the struggle, personal experience and growth, physical health, and self-improvement. Winning isn’t everything. Losing is part of the game and kids should learn how to face it and deal with it.

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