Monday musings on the Basketball Japan League (bj-league)

Quick thoughts that have passed through my mind — with three weeks of games now in the book.

  1. It’s a pity that the league doesn’t take its duty to publicize information in a timely, common-sense manner seriously. Case in point: Statistical leaders and league standings (which should also be published in English) are still not posted on the league’s website.
  2. The state of affairs for the Tokyo Cinq Reves and Saitama Broncos is, well, disastrous. Once again. Tokyo, coming off a 5-47 season, is 0-6 to usher in the new campaign. Saitama, which went 6-46 last season after a 5-47 campaign in 2013-14, are also 0-6.
  3. Has anyone made a legitimate effort to promote the Oita Ehime HeatDevils in a professional manner, and done so with proven methods? One look at the team’s Sunday (320) and Monday (288) attendance figures signals another crisis in leadership for this long-troubled franchise.
  4. As he demonstrated playing under Dai Oketani on the Iwate Big Bulls (2012-15), Lawrence Blackledge is a versatile, game-changing force for Coach Dai once again this season, but now for the Oskaka Evessa. Exhibit A: Sunday’s stat line for the frontcourt standout: 13 points, nine boards, seven assists, four blocks and two steals.
  5. In their second year, the Fukushima Firebonds are off to a 5-1 start, which reflects well on second-year bench boss Hiroki Fujita, spitfire guard Masaya Karimata, big man Stephan Van Treese, rising star forward Le’Bryan Nash, among others.
  6. The Ryukyu Golden Kings’ talent and impressive depth will keep them in the hunt for the title in the bj-league’s 11th and final season.
  7. Misguided, nonstop expansion has watered down the talent level and most of the league’s teams do not have the number of top-level Japanese players they should have. Any industry that quadruples in size in a little over a decade will have major holes in terms of key personnel for key positions, and this follows suit for the bj-league’s 24 teams. In a nutshell, this crisis is magnified when one takes more than a half-second to study the box scores of various games, including Saitama’s 42-point effort on Saturday against the Shinshu Brave Warriors, and Oita’s 109-66 loss to the Kyoto Hannaryz a day later.
  8. Swingman Masaharu Kataoka is a good fit for the Sendai 89ers. In his first year with the squad, Kataoka is averaging 14.8 points through six games for the unbeaten 89ers. He’s converted 31 of 47 shots from inside the arc.
  9. Here’s a column I wrote a few weeks back about the launch of the three-division, 45-team B. League for the 2015-16 season:
  10. Shimane forward Josh Davis, averaging 16.6 rebounds and 12.2 points in six games, has emerged as one of the hardest-working newcomers in the league.

One on One (basketball) interviews – the archive

Here’s a link to dozens of articles in the One On One series, published in The Japan Times since early in the 2006-07 bj-league (Basketball Japan League) season:

Monday musings – on Japan basketball


10 quick thoughts and observations after two weeks of games have been contested in the 11th and final bj-league (Basketball Japan League).

1. The perennnial basement-dwelling (or chasing) Saitama Broncos are in midseason form with four loses in as many games.

2. The Tokyo Cinq Reves are in the same sorry state of affairs, dropping their first four games by 43, 33, 56 and 19 points.

3. Le’Bryan Nash is a player to keep an eye on. The Fukushima Firebonds forward, formerly of Oklahoma State, has scored 30 or more points in four games throug Sunday.

4. Sendai 89ers forward Wendell White (UNLV alum), even with an MVP on his resume and a past title with the Hamamatsu Higashimika Phoenix, remains an unheralded superstar in Japan. Through four games, his 21.3 points and 10.25 rebounds per game serve as a reminder of his steady consistency and quality all-around game.

5. Shuhei Kitagawa of the Ryukyu Golden Kings had five steals in 24 minutes on Sunday against the Shiga Lakestars. That type of defensive productivity could lead to an increase in playing time.

6. Strong start: Aomori Wat’s guard Daichi Shimoyama is averaging 22.5 points after a pair of games, shooting both 56.3 percent from 2-point range and outside the arc.

7. Sendai point guard Takehiko Shimura has 29 assists and zero turnovers — plus 10 steals for good measure — so far.

8. Ex-NBA big man Marcus Cousin (University of Houston) of the Shinshu Brave Warriors is averaging 17.0 points and 13.5 rebounds through two games.

9. High-energy scorer Thomas Kennedy (Detroit Mercy) of the Gunma Crane Thunders has made an insant impact for his new team, averaging 20.0 points through four games, including a 34-point outburst in Game 2 this season.

10. Shimane Susanoo Magic big man Josh Davis (San Diego State), an NBA Development League veteran, pulled down 70 rebounds in the first four games.

History of foreign head coaches in the bj-league

Foreign coaches in the bj-league, in chronological order, updated on Oct. 8, 2015
A quick rundown on the growing fraternity, with updated comments and insight to come.
*Joe Bryant (Tokyo Apache, 2005-09, two trips to championship game, two losses; Kobe’s father, a strong player in his own right, too, as “Jellybean” in the NBA and as a star in Italy. Joe B. has served two stints as the head coach of the WNBA’s L.A. Sparks.) UPDATED on July 6, 2013: Bryant is now coaching in Thailand in the fledgling ASEAN Basketball League: **UPDATED on Jan. 2, 2015**: Joe B. was named the head coach of the Rizing Fukuoka last week, and he’ll take over for Ken Hamanaka, 25-year-old who filled the top spot temporarily after James Duncan was fired.** UPDATED summer of 2015: Bryant was not retained as head coach after the team’s 13-39 campaign.)
*Jawann Oldham (Oita HeatDevils, 2005-06, 16 games in charge, 4-12 record for the former NBA big man, and the first of two ex-Chicago Bulls big men to land a job in the bj-league; see Bill Cartwright below.)
*Charles Johnson (Saitama Broncos, 2005-06, 2-15 to begin season before stepping down from his head-coaching duties and becoming a player for the injury-depleted squad; Toyama Grouses, 2009-10, 17-35.)
*David Benoit (Saitama Broncos, 2007-09; Kyoto Hannaryz (2009-10, fired with a few weeks left in the season; the ex-NBA forward next coached in Qatar.)
*John Neumann (Rizing Fukuoka, 2007-09, two playoff appearances; Takamatsu Five Arrows, 2009-10; Longtime college coach Howie Landa, then 75, was to be Fukuoka’s original coach but stepped down before coaching a game due to a family member’s health issues. Neumann, you may recall, was a scoring machine in college, averaging 40.1 ppg for Ole Miss in 1970-71. He was named Coach of the Year in 2007-08.)
*Hernando Planells (Ryukyu Golden Kings (2007-08; worked in the NBA D-League for the Maine franchise last season, scouted for the NBA, work as a basketball choreographer in Hollywood; now a part of the Duke women’s basketball staff for 2012-13 season.)
*Brian Rowsom (Oita HeatDevils, 2009-10, the ex-NBA forward had a 25-27 record in charge; then took a job in Qatar.)
*Bob Pierce (Shiga Lakestars, 2008-10; Akita Northern Happinets, 2010-11; Sendai 89ers, 2011-to Feb. 23, 2013); fluent in Japanese, he’s an astute student of the game in Japan, a great advocate for progress that is decades behind where it should be, unfortunately, for the great sport here in Japan. A voice of reason, when few are heard in Japanese hoops. UPDATE: Pierce was fired on Feb. 23 after his team was swept by the East’s cellar-dwelling Sendai 89ers the day before. The 89ers were 13-21 at the time of his dismissal, and split their next series, also at home, against Gunma under GM/acting head coach Takeo Mabashi)
*Bob Nash (Saitama Broncos, 2010-11; Toyama Grouses, 2012 – present): Saitama suspended operations after the Great East Japan Earthquake en route to its sixth consecutive losing season; the ex-NBA forward deserved better. Updated on May 23, 2013 — He led the Toyama Grouses to a 35-17 record in the 2012-13 season and the third overall seed for the East in the playoffs. Toyama advanced to the second round and forced a Game 3, the mini-tiebreaker against the eventual champion Yokohama B-Corsairs. … led Toyama to a 40-12 record in 2013-14 and its first trip to the Final Four)
*Bob Hill (Tokyo Apache (2010-11, team also suspended operations after the earthquake, though Hill, the first ex-NBA head coach to lead a bj-league team, had the Apache in position for a run at the Final Four. Great teacher, tactician and all-around good guy to deal with for the media; now working in a consulting role for the Taiwan men’s team. Don’t rule out a return to the bench for him somewhere in the next few years.)
*Zeljko Pavlicevic (Shimane Susanoo Magic, 2010- to end of 2012-13 season): the two-time Euroleague-winning sideline supervisor and former Japan national team manager built the foundation for the team’s future during its inaugural season, a well-regarded mentor from Croatia.)  Updated 6/30/2012: By agreeing to coach the Magic for the upcoming season, he’ll become only the second foreign coach in league history to remain with one team beyond two seasons; Joe Bryant was the first. … UPDATED on 5/24/2013: Last week, it became official that Pavlicevic has left the team; he’ll coach in the NBL (formerly called the JBL), taking over as Wakayama Trians boss next season.
*Ryan Blackwell (Osaka Evessa, 2010- to May 2012); the former Syracuse University forward guided the club to the Final Four in his first season at the helm.) UPDATED on 6/4/2012: His contract was not renewed after the 2011-12 season despite leading the team to a second-place finish amid the loss of great leader and two-time MVP Lynn Washington. Team officials told Blackwell, he said, that his relationship – friends — with Washington was the reason to not bring him back. The Evessa reached the playoffs twice under Blackwell, and went 67-35 in the regular season. ***UPDATED on 11/1/2012: Blackwell named coach of the 0-8 Gunma Crane Thunders.**UPDATED in December 2013: Gunma, in its second season, was 3-16 when he coached his final game, getting fired before the All-Star break.
*L.J. Hepp (Oita HeatDevils, 2010-11): who was fired in mid-march after three key American players left the team following the March 11 earthquake. Yep, Hepp became the scapegoat and the team severed ties with him; a disgraceful cost-cutting mode. The upbeat, hard-working coach was 16-22 for Oita).
*Tony Hanson (Hepp’s assistant, who finished the 2010-11 season in charge, compiling a demoralizing 0-10 record at the helm.)
*Dean Murray (Saitama Broncos, 2011-to November 23, 2011); new coach in Saitama’s revolving door; he’s worked in South Korea, China, the NBA D-League. The Broncos went 5-7 during his time on the team, 4-7 with Murray on the bench. He was fired due to a violation of team rules, the team said without going into specifics.)
*Alan Westover (Shiga Lakestars, 2011-to July 1, 2013); longtime player, asst. coach and then head man in Australia, starts over again in Japan.) UPDATED on July 6, 2013: Westover announced he would return to Australia to work as a basketball instructor after two seasons with the Lakestars, including a pair of playoff appearances. The Lakestars went 65-39 in the regular season in that time.
*Reggie Geary (Yokohama B-Corsairs, 2011-to 2013): former NBA guard gets the nod as the first coach in the expansion team’s history; he’s also worked in the NBADL … Named the 2011-12 bj-league Coach of the Year. UPDATED on 5/24/13: Of the 24 foreign-born head coaches in the league’s first eight seasons, Geary is the only on with a championship. He guided the B-Corsairs to a 101-90 triumph over the Rizing Fukuoka in the May 19 title game. He has led Yokohama to back-to-back Final Fours. Regular-season record to date: 66-38. ) UPDATED on July 6, 2013: Geary announced he won’t be back for a third season with the B-Corsairs, who were going through a transition with the sale of the team, a roster overhaul and an expected plan to cut costs drastically. He took over as coach of the NBL’s Chiba Jets for the start of the 2013-14 campaign. The Jets defected from the bj-league after 2 seasons.
*Eric Gardow (Chiba Jets, 2011-to June 2012, Wisconsin native, cancer survivor, former Qatar League and Qatar men’s national coach, was the man in charge for the expansion team. UPDATE: June 31, 2012: The Jets went 18-34 in Gardow’s one season at the helm. His replacement is Shinji Tomiyama.
*Vlasios Vlaikidis (Iwate Big Bulls, 2011-to Jan. 18, 2012; the Greek mentor stepped into the spotlight to run the expansion squad; he worked under Pavlicevic in Europe, specifically , having served as an assistant coach under the highly regarded mentor for three seasons at Panathinaikos Athens in the early 1990s. In that time, Vlaikidis helped coach the squad to a Greek Cup title in 1993. Vlaikidis also worked as an assistant coach for Greek club Aris Thessaloniki and as a head coach in Macedonia. UPDATE 1/18/12: Vlaikidis stepped down to return to Greece, where his father is seriously ill. UPDATED on 5/24/13: He was named Pavlicevic’s replacement at Shimane yesterday.) UPDATED on 1/17/14: After Shimane’s 5-21 start, the worst record in the West, he was fired and replaced on 1/12/14 by American Reggie Hanson (see below).
*Matt Garrison (Niigata Albirex BB, 2011-to May 27, 2013): the former Niigata and Takamatsu Five Arrows forward, and two-time All-Star 3-Point Shootout winner, is beginning his first season as a pro head coach. He’s worked in the prep ranks, in various camps and also as a talent evaluator in the United States. He replaces Masaya Hirose, the only coach in Albirex history.) UPDATED on June 1, 2013: Garrison was not given a contract extension after leading the team to the Final Four and a 36-16 regular-season record and an Eastern Conference regular-season title in 2012-13. Overall, he posted a 64-40 record in the regular season and guided the Albirex to two postseason appearances.
*Natalie Nakase (Nov. 24, 2011 to May 2012): The former UCLA point guard was named the team’s coach in a press release posted online at 2:36 a.m., or two minutes after Murray’s ouster was announced. The Japan Times received a fax after 3 a.m. with the news. Wonderful timing. Nakase served as an assistant coach under Bob Hill on the Tokyo Apache squad last season and has also coached in the German women’s pro league. She began the season as an assistant under Murray. She was 12-29 at the helm, after Murray was forced out with a 4-7 record to begin the season. Now working in the video production intern for the L.A. Clippers for the 2012-13 season.
*Tracy Williams (June 2012 to May 31, 2013): The former Harlem Globetrotter, pro player overseas and motivational speaker was tabbed to replace Nakase. His personal bio lists zero head coaching jobs at the pro level, but he’s worked running youth camps and served as an AAU coach for many years in the U.S.) UPDATED on June 1, 2013: Murray was fired after a 15-37 season.
*Zoran Kreckovic (June 30, 2012 to Oct. 22, 2012): The Serbian mentor was named as Blackwell’s replacement. The 53-year-old’s coaching career has included stops in Serbia, Bulgaria, Kuwait and Qatar. He was fired after four games (all losses) in charge, the shortest stint of any head coach in league history.
*Bill Cartwright (Jan. 21, 2013 to end of season) yes that Bill Cartwright, was named the fifth coach in Osaka Evessa history this week, taking over the 5-19 Western Conference squad, which is two seasons removed from its sixth consecutive Final Four appearance. Cartwright owns five NBA championship rings, three as a Chicago Bulls starting center (1991-93) and two as an assistant coach for the Phil Jackson- and MIchael Jordan-led second Bulls three-peat (1996-97 and 1997-98). Big Bill is the second former NBA coach (he led the Bulls for parts of three seasons, 2001-03), following Bob Hill, to be appointed to the same post in the bj-league. The No.3 pick in the 1979 NBA Draft (Knicks), the 7-foot-1 Cartwright played in the NBA until 1995 and served as an assistant coach for the Bulls, New Jersey Nets (2004-08) and Phoenix Suns (2008-12). UPDATED on July 6, 2013: Cartwright officially announced last weekend that he would not return to the team, though some players knew about it just days after the regular season ended in late April. He guided the Evessa to a 17-11 record. He said the distance from Japan to the United States was a major factor. UPDATED Oct. 8, 2015: Cartwright returned to the Evessa this season as an advisory coach.
*Chris Boettcher (July 12, 2013 to May 26,2014): The Shiga Lakestars named Boettcher the team’s new coach, replacing Al Westover. Boettcher has been a longtime women’s college basketball assistant coach at Utah Valley State and BYU. He has also served on the Metro State (Colorado) men’s staff during his coaching career from 1994-97. UPDATED on May 29, 2014: Boettcher accepted a job as the Southern Utah women’s head coach. He went 27-25 in his one season at Shiga and guided the team into the second round of the playoffs.
*Mack Tuck (Aug. 1, 2013 to October 2013): The new Rizing Fukuoka coach played several years overseas as a high-scoring swingman, including in the Chinese Basketball Association, where he also got spent time coaching. He attended Central Oklahoma before embarking on a pro career. UPDATED on Nov. 27, 2013: Tuck was officially replaced as head coach by Kimitoshi Sano last week. … He was on the sideline ONLY during the preseason, and the assumption was he’d return, but that’s not the case now. He never coached a regular-season game for Fukuoka, leaving Japan due to family concerns that required his attention overseas. And so, his short-lived tenure will always have a what-if attached to it.
*Reggie Hanson (January 12, 2014 to Nov. 9, 2014): The Shimane Susanoo Magic head coach is a former University of Kentucky player and UK assistant coach (2000-07). Hanson, 45, had two 10-day contracts with the Boston Celtics to close out the 1997-98 NBA season. He also worked for the University of South Florida basketball program from 2007-13 as both an assistant coach and director of basketball operations, the latter role for his final two seasons there. Hanson was a longtime standout in Japanese basketball, playing for Isuzu, Denso and Aichi Kikai in the JBL. Based on stats posted on his online bio on the UK athletics website, Hanson averaged 20.6 points, 8.7 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 2.6 steals and 1.6 blocks during his JBL career (1992-2000). He took over the 5-21 Magic and led them to an 11-41 record to finish the 2013-14 season. The Magic went 1-11 to open the 2014-15 season, picking up their first win on Nov. 9, the same day it was announced Hanson was fired.
*James Duncan (Jan. 25, 2014, to -Dec. 22, 2014): Rizing Fukuoka’s bench boss. The Canadian native played pro ball for the Artland Dragons and Dusseldorf Magic in Germany before beginning a coaching career that has included stops in Germany and Belgium. He took over the 11-17 Rizing and led the club to a playoff appearance in the 2013-14 season, keeping team’s postseason streak alive to seven seasons, as they went 15-9 to close out the season. **UPDATED on Jan. 2, 2015** Before being axed, Duncan’s Rizing were 6-16 to open the 2014-15 campaign.
*Charlie Parker (July 29, 2014 to –end of 2014-15 season): The former NBA and NBA Development League assistant coach is the fourth head coach in Gunma Crane Thunders history. The franchise, coming off a 13-39 season, is set to start its third season in October. Parker, 65, worked as a Dallas Mavericks assistant coach from 1996-2006. He was a New Orleans Hornets assistant from 2007-10. He was also a head coach for NCAA Division II Wayne State (Michigan) from 1982-88, a University of Southern California assistant coach and head coach between 1988 and ’96. He has coached in China and Bahrain. He worked for the D-League’s Texas Legends last season as an assistant. **UPDATE – summer of 2015: The Crane Thunders went 19-33 and reached the playoffs for the first time. Parker’s contract was not renewed.
*Joe Navarro (October 2015 to –):  Guided the Hiroshima Lightning during the team’s bj-Challenge League (developmental circuit) campaign last season. He remains the head coach for the team’s inaugural season. Navarro was a longtime assistant coach (2001-12) at NCAA Division II Concordia University in Portland, Oregon.

Getting to know … Linda Robertson (part I)

By Ed Odeven
TOKYO (Oct. 7, 2015) — Linda Robertson is an established, versatile, creative sports columnist for The Miami Herald. During her tenure at the South Florida newspaper, the rise of Dan Marino to superstardom was one of the earliest generation-changing topics reported by the venerable paper.

Joining the Herald during legendary quarterback Marino’s rookie season (1983), Robertson witnessed history as it unfolded in the booming, sports-crazed market of Miami and the surrounding areas.

In time, the Miami Dolphins weren’t the only pro team in town and the University of Miami Hurricanes football team weren’t the squad chasing titles (see later moments of glory for the Florida – now Miami – Marlins, Miami Heat and Florida Panthers)

Her thoughtful coverage of the South Florida college and pro sports scene is a major part of her overall work portfolio. But Robertson has filed stories from the Winter and Summer Olympics, about top-notch tennis stars (Serena Williams, Novak Djokovic, et al), among other topics such as sailing, running — you name it, she’s written about it. .

She’s also been on the right side of history in blasting the corrupt reign of FIFA chief Sepp Blatter. (To wit: a recent column had this headline: “Godfather of soccer Sepp Blatter keeps reign of shame as FIFA president”)

Robertson received the 2009 Mary Garber Pioneer Award, given by the Association for Women in Sports Media, in recognition of her distinguished career.

In 2014, she received an Associated Press Sports Editors top 10 award for explanatory reporting for 175,000-plus circulation newspapers.

I recently caught up with Robertson via email. Here’s the first of two planned Q&A segments that highlight her career and influences, thoughts on the news business and a wide range of individuals working in media and the sports world.

There’s something to be said for familiarity and longevity in a community and at a job. How has your time at the Miami Herald (since 1983) made it easier — if it has — to establish rapport with key sources from teams and colleges and other sports events in the South Florida sports community?

Rapport is enhanced by knowledge. By staying in Miami these many years – embedded like a sodden mangrove — I’ve developed a certain amount of institutional knowledge, if by no other means than osmosis. I know the reference points for the Dolphins, from the Perfect Season to the Dan Marino era to the current period of futility. I know the characters from the University of Miami’s glorious, swaggering five national championship seasons. I’ve been here for the birth of the Marlins, Heat and Panthers and their ups and downs. You can draw on those relationships in your reporting and those histories in your writing. Covering a local sports culture is kind of like living in a small town; you know your neighbors’ business – which can be claustrophobic, as well. Longevity bestows a keen sense of place. When I wrote about the inner-city rivalry of the Soul Bowl, for example, I interviewed parents of players who used to be players and cheerleaders themselves, and still live on the same street and burn with pride for what their school’s football team does for their neighborhood. When I wrote about Jimmy Johnson taking an early retirement in Islamorada, I had an understanding of the Keys lifestyle and why it was his ideal escape.

When I wrote about the Cuban baseball defectors pipeline, I already had layers of knowledge on the subject, having lived so long in the Cuban-American city and been to Cuba. I grew up in Miami from age 11 when the Dolphins were going undefeated (the Buonicontis lived nearby), and I’ll be doing an interview today and discover some kinship from my high school running days. Roots help you connect with your reading community. I returned here after college to start my career never, ever intending to stay. Sometimes I feel a twinge of regret for turning down opportunities to leave, but then remind myself that having a voice in one’s hometown is a rare and rich opportunity, too. Miami is a journalist’s dream. To be here to cover its wild and wacky evolution has been a lot of fun.

Do you think using a historical figure, stretching back to ancient times, can make a random point in a column that much more effective? Is that a technique you visit on numerous occasions? (Example from one recent Bosh column: “That will be tough without Bosh, the linchpin of the team and its thoughtful leader — its Socrates.”)

Allusions illuminate your subject from a different angle. When LeBron James failed to rise to the occasion during his first NBA Finals with the Heat, I compared his angst and lack of action to Hamlet. Not the most original reference, but at least it gave readers something to think about, because Hamlet is such a rich character and our current sports stars often come off as flat cartoon characters. I once wrote a column comparing the University of Miami’s agonizing wait for the sentence from the NCAA to “Waiting for Godot.” I like writers willing to take risks. You’ve got to be careful, though, because too many of us are guilty of the lazy, overused but handy historical reference. In sports writing we ought to put a moratorium on David and Goliath.

Did you always want to be a sportswriter? Or was there an event or person that made an impression on you that piqued your interest in this career? Describe what led to this career path.

I wanted to be a lot of things but sports writer was not one of them. I sort of fell into it because I always liked sports. Certain athletes made an impression on me: Tommie Smith and John Carlos, Billie Jean King, Fran Tarkenton, Ken Stabler, Muhammad Ali, Alberto Juantorena and Mary Decker, among others. I played sports and I became a very good runner. I always enjoyed and excelled at writing and worked for my school newspapers. When I was a freshman at UNC-Chapel Hill, I wanted to write for the Daily Tar Heel but the only way I could wangle my way onto the staff was by volunteering to cover women’s sports. Nobody else wanted to cover women’s sports; they were mainly interested in the men’s basketball team, which would soon have a player by the name of Michael Jordan.

Because I had knowledge of sports and was on the cross country and track teams, the editors figured I could handle it. By the time I graduated, I was associate editor writing editorials. I hoped to be a feature writer, then a foreign correspondent, then maybe a novelist. But the Miami Herald called asking me to cover sports because they were desperate for another female sports writer. Christine Brennan was soon to depart for The Washington Post. So I said yes, figuring I’d come back to Miami and write sports for a maximum of two years before moving on to a journalism job with more substance.

How influential were your UNC professors on you to provide a nuts-and-bolts foundation for your journalism? Was there a mentor your time there as an undergrad who you would like to point out as having a special influence on your development as a writer and reporter?

UNC has a distinguished history of educating journalists. I was fortunate to have professors who taught students to be storytellers. Jim Shumaker (the inspiration for Pulitzer-winning cartoonist Jeff MacNelly’s strip “Shoe”) taught us to write with flair and impact, to say what you mean and mean what you say, and leave out the b.s. Raleigh Mann taught me how to be a meticulous reporter, observer and interviewer. Jane Brown taught me about the sociology of journalism, which has helped me see sports as integral to our culture. And my English teachers and professors were a huge influence.

As you reflect on Dean Smith’s life and legacy (note: the Hall of Fame basketball coach died in February), how important was his moral leadership and values in helping to advance racial unity and equality and progress at UNC, in the ACC, in North Carolina and in the South as a whole?

Dean Smith was a force for integration in the 1960s. He took a black student to an all-white restaurant where the team often ate. He made Charlie Scott the first scholarship athlete at UNC, just as his father had put a black player on his all-white high school team in Kansas. Smith exemplified class. He taught everyone who came in contact with him how to compete, work and treat people with class. I had no idea who Dean Smith was when I arrived at UNC but through the years covering college basketball – first as a student journalist at the 1982 championship then as a professional at the 1993 championship and his other Final Four appearances – I learned what a selfless, humble man he was. He spoke out against the death penalty, opposed nuclear proliferation and supported gay rights, but he did it quietly, lest he bring attention to himself. Matt Doherty said Smith would annually take the team to the Death Row prison in Raleigh to scrimmage and talk to inmates. When Smith died, it was so incredibly Dean-like that he left $200 to each of his 180 letter winners, to let them know he was always thinking of them and to “enjoy a dinner out compliments of Coach Smith.”

When you think back to your time working at the Daily Tar Heel what are the memories that immediately come to mind? What was the biggest thing you gained from that experience?

The Daily Tar Heel was crammed into a small, cluttered office space in the Student Union. This was in the Mesozoic Era, pre-computers, pre-Internet, pre-cell phones. We pounded on vintage manual typewriters and edited with pencils. We did headlines, layout, paste-up, everything. It was such a wonderfully intense, chaotic, hilarious hive of students dedicated to publishing a newspaper that was better than yesterday’s. I was sports editor my junior year, associate editor my senior year. The place had a Jack Kerouac-type of energy, like we were on this perpetual adrenaline-fueled adventure, at least in our minds. I loved my colleagues. S.L. Price and I ran the sports section. John Drescher, Melanie Sill and Jim Hummel were wiser-than-their-years editors. Frank Bruni, Ann Peters, Ken Mingis, Scott Sharpe, Al Steele – all distinguished themselves in a line that includes Thomas Wolfe and Charles Kuralt.

What we gained from the DTH experience was the conviction to embrace creativity rather than repress it like it was one of the seven deadly sins. We wrote some awful ledes but that’s how we improved. And we developed a work ethic we still draw on, learning it’s 90 percent perspiration, 10 percent inspiration, and when you finish that feature article, go to the library and write your English term paper.

How would you describe your working relationship with top newsroom management and top sports department management at the Herald?

I’m fortunate to have a great working relationship with my superiors at the Herald. They respect my ideas. The Herald has always been a dynamic, empathetic newspaper and the best pound-for-pound fighter in the business. But it’s a shrinking business. We can only hope editors will keep playing to reporters’ strengths, because that’s what distinguishes good journalism from all the media noise out there today.

What are the biggest challenges for a female sportswriter in this male-dominated field of print journalism?

It used to be the impediments to equal access (the uninformed security guard who thought we were locker room voyeurs), then condescending attitudes. But today what’s most frustrating is the low number of women in positions of decision-making power. Salaries remain out of whack with male counterparts. And it’s amazing, in a comically pathetic way, how a certain percentage of irate readers still choose to insult women writers with outdated gender stereotypes such as “go back to the kitchen” or your basic nasty vulgarities. About sports! You’ve got to feel sorry for their daughters.

Follow Linda Robertson on Twitter: @lrobertsonmiami

Robertson’s Miami Herald archive:

2015-16 bj-league rosters

Rosters for the 11th and final bj-league (Basketball Japan League) season … (Updated on Dec. 13, 2015.)

Import players for the 2015-16 season:

Coach: Makoto Hasegawa (second season)
1 Shoya Uchimura PG
2 Ryosuke Mizumachi G
5 Shigehiro Taguchi SG
6 Kenta Tateyama SF
8 Akitomo Takeno PG
11 Noriyuki Sugasawa F
13 Scott Morrison C
14 Yuto Otsuka F
15 Richard Roby F
16 Kenichi Takahashi SG
55 Daichi Taniguchi F/C

Coach: Nobunaga Sato (first season)
1 Makoto Sawaguchi G/F
3 Yuta Kojima F
7 Yuki Kitamuki G
8 Daichi Shimoyama G
11 Yuki Yamaguchi PG
15 Takahiro Shimoyama F
20 Nile Murry G
33 Jesse Perry F
44 Quintin Alexander PF/C
50 Daisuke Umetsu F
52 Yoshifumi Nakajima G

Coach: Hiroki Fujita (second season)
1 Yosuke Hori F
2 Le’Bryan Nash SF
4 Masaya Karimata G
5 Kenya Tomori G
8 Shinya Murakami PG
9 Atsushi Nogami F
20 Joseph Taylor PF/C
21 Shota Kanno F
28 Yusuke Masuda G
41 Iriya Wajima PG/SG
44 Stephan Van Treese C

Coach: Hirokazu Nema (first season)
0 Masashi Obuchi G
1 Thomas Kennedy F
4 Patrick Sullivan F/C
10 Masanobu Ito F
11 Takamichi Fujiwara PG
13 Yosuke Sugawara G
23 Kosuke Taneichi F
27 Daiki Kobayashi G
36 Yuya Takagi SG
42 Michael St. John F/C
51 Hirotaka Kondo G

Coach: Geoffrey Katsuhisa (first season)
0 Tatsunori Fujie G
1 Isamu Omori G
2 Alandise Harris F
3 Kaito Ishikawa PG
5 Shinya Chiba F
12 Hayato Kantake F
23 Jasper Johnson F
31 Abdullahi Kuso C
33 Hirohisa Takada G
34 Shota Onodera SG
68 Koji Nagata G

Coach: Kazuo Nakamura (first season)
5 Yuki Sato G/F
7 Hiroaki Takei F
10 Faye Pape Mour C
13 Shuhei Komatsu SG
16 Ryotaro Nonma PG
18 Ryota Kato PG
23 Kimitake Sato SG
25 Shoji Nakanishi F
32 Yuichi Ikeda SF
33 Chris Oliver F
42 Ryan Reid PF
Former player: 6 Charles Hinkle G

Coach: Ryutaro Onodera (first season)
2 Yuta Kurihara G
3 Mitsuhiro Kamezaki G
10 Akihito Inoue F
12 Masaki Odo PG
15 Seth Tarver SF
22 Evan Harris PF/C
23 Yuki Sasaki F
33 Takafumi Arashiro PG
37 Paul Butorac PF/C
39 Kandai Nakamura G
44 Masaomi Toi G/F
66 Yuya Shoji SG
Former players: 0 Du’Vaughn Maxwell F

Coach: Shuto Kawachi (third season)
1 Dallin Bachynski C
4 Takehiko Shimura PG
5 Ryo Tanaka SG
6 Manato Kikuchi F
9 Yohei Sakai PG
12 Daisuke Takaoka F
14 Fumiya Sato PG
31 Ryunosuke Yanagawa F
41 Wendell White F
54 Jamal Boykin F/C
91 Masaharu Kataoka G/F

Coach: Koju Munakata (first season)
0 Fumiaki Hanno G
1 Yasuhiko Wada G
2 Yoshitomo Shiina F
6 Takato Saito PG
11 Yosuke Saito SG
15 Mike Bell F
22 Takahiro Ueda G
24 Dai Suzuki G
26 Sho Uesugi F
30 Jaye Crockett F
45 Junki Kano F
50 Marcus Cousin C

Coach: Hirosumi Tomatsu (first season)
0 Ryan Sypkens G
2 Kosuke Asahi F
3 Kodai Takahashi G
6 Takashi Sano F
7 Fumiya Kitamori G
9 Sei Koshiba F
1 El Hadji Ndieguene C
27 Chihiro Sawagashira PG
32 John Florveus F/C
34 Mikiya Fukuda F
39 Yuji Funayama F
81 Yusuke Shimoda SF
92 Tomoyuki Shinzato G

Coach: Bob Nash (fourth season)
1 Duke Crews F
3 Takanori Goya G
6 Daichi Tanaka G/F
9 Takeshi Mito G
12 Kensuke Tanaka G
22 Rintaro Takeda G
30 Ryo Yamazaki SG
31 Masashi Joho SG
33 Drew Viney F
34 Sam Willard C/F
54 Samuel Sawaji Jr. F

Coach: Taketo Aoki (first season)
2 Cory Johnson F
3 Masayuki Kabaya G
4 Emanuel Willis F/C
7 Ryuichi Horikawa SF
12 Atsushi Inagaki PG
13 Kenji Yamada G
15 Kenta Hyodo G
21 Jordan Henriquez-Roberts C
32 Yosuke Maeda F
33 Kiichi Kikuyama G
37 Seiji Kono G

Coach: Kohei Eto (first season)
0 Jumpei Honda F
1 Tatsuya Suzuki PG
4 Julius Ashby PF/C
6 Charles Hinkle G
9 Junya Masumoto G
10 Takuro Ito G
15 Daiki Terashita F
16 Taishi Kasahara G
19 Takeru Tsujiya SG
23 Josh Ritchart PF
Former players: 98 Wesley Witherspoon G/F

Coach: Tomoya Higashino (fourth season; took over near end of 2012-13 campaign)
1 Shinnosuke Oishi G
2 Reggie Warren PF
3 Masahiro Oguchi G
7 Hiroki Furuhashi G
8 Atsuya Ota C
9 Toshifumi Kawamitsu SF
11 Shingo Okada SG
19 Hiroshi Inoue PG
24 Addison Spruill G
47 Tasuku Namizato G
73 Shuto Tawatari G

Coach: Joe Navarro (first season)
0 Ayumu Osawa PG
1 Shuji Takei SG
3 Andre Murray SG
8 Keishiro Tsutsumi PG
11 Tetsuya Maemura G
14 Daichi Tomioka G
15 Daisuke Tamura SG
24 Kensei Jikuri PG
30 Gijo Bain C
44 Adam Herman F
47 Takeshi Nomoto G
73 Satoshi Hisayama G/F

Coach: Yukinori Suzuki (first season)
1 Shohei Goto G
4 Shota Masubayashi F
5 Gyno Pomare F
8 Masato Tsukino G
9 Yusuke Takamatsu PG
12 Andrew Fitzgerald PF/C
15 Marshall Brown F
21 Yutaka Suzuki SG
23 Yusuke Kodera SG
33 Tsubasa Yonamine G
38 Yuji Ide G
88 Katsuhiro Minami G

Coach: Honoo Hamaguchi (fifth season)
0 Kyosuke Setoyama G
7 Takuya Komoda F
8 Sunao Murakami G
12 David Palmer F
15 Larry Owens F
17 Hikaru Kusaka G
19 Rintaro Tokunaga G
25 Takuya Sato PF
33 Shingo Utsumi G
34 Koki Yabuuchi G
42 Kevin Kotzur F

Coach: Tomoyuki Umeda (first season)
0 Takayuki Yonekura G
1 Yuki Takakura G
7 Yasuo Iijima F
8 Patrick Simon PF
9 Masahiro Okamoto G
11 Chehales Tapscott SF/PF
12 Takato Hara G
13 Yoshihiko Toshino F
15 Ryota Amaki G
25 Koki Wada F
33 Tatsuhiko Toshino F
44 Travis Derochowski C
93 Kosei Ban G

Coach: Dai Oketani (first season)
0 Yutaro Nishi PG
1 Shota Konno SG
3 Haruyuki Ishibashi G
5 Olu Ashaolu PF
7 Narito Namizato G
9 Shun Watanuki G
13 Markhuri Sanders-Frison C/F
18 Takuya Soma SG/F
21 Lawrence Blackledge F
24 Ryo Kubota F/C
29 Naoki Hashimoto PG

Coach: Tomohiro Moriyama (first season)
1 Taishiro Shimizu G
7 Minoru Kimura G
8 Bingo Merriex PF/C
9 Jun Nakanishi G
11 Cohey Aoki G
12 Donnavan Kirk PF/C
13 Yoshimasa Ohara G
15 Azuma Koga PG
22 Josh Peppers F
24 Satoshi Ishitani PG
27 Josei Maniwa F
31 Keisuke Takabatake G

Coach: Tsutomu Isa (third season)
2 Draelon Burns F
5 Anthony McHenry F
6 Shigeyuki Kinjo G
8 Hiromasa Omiya F
9 Naoto Kosuge G
13 Shota Tsuyama G
14 Ryuichi Kishimoto G
30 Evan Ravenel F/C
31 Shuhei Kitagawa F
32 Morihisa Yamauchi G
40 Shinji Arashiro F

Coach: Koto Toyama (second season)
1 Yu Okada SG
4 Jeff Parmer F
7 Yusuke Inoue F
8 Kejuan Johnson G
9 Shuto Mizoguchi SG
10 Kazuya “J.” Hatano F
13 Ryota Kobayashi PG
21 Masahiro Kano G
23 Yutaka Yokoe PG
30 Yuki Suzuki SG
32 Julian Mavunga PF

Coach: Michael Katsuhisa (first season)
00 Josh Davis F
2 Naoto Takushi PG
7 Manabu Umemiya SG
10 Scootie Randall F
21 Yasuhisa Hikino SG
32 Jun Abe G
45 Naoto Nakamura SG
50 Wayne Marshall C
55 Tatsuhiro Yokoo SG
88 Edward Yamamoto PG

Coach: Nobuyoshi Ito (first season)
1 Anthony Kent C
5 Dion Harris G
6 Nino Johnson PF/C
7 Rintaro Hayashi G
8 Daiki Horita G
11 Hiroyuki Kikuchi G/F
22 Masaaki Suzuki PG
24 Kazuki Yamashita SG
25 Tsubasa Yonezawa G
30 Gen Fukuhara F
33 Masamune Tate G
41 Shuichi Takada F