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비상하는 일본 농구와 리더: Tom Hovasse's journey:

youngsports 2023. 10. 12. 09:13

Tom Hovasse's journey: Boosting Japan's hopes at FIBA World Cup 2023


After coaching the Japanese women to silver at Tokyo 2020 in 2021, the country's first-ever basketball medal, the American is plotting another masterstroke with the men. Read the exclusive interview with "Tom-san."

Call it a watershed moment for Japanese men’s basketball.

At the 2015 Rugby World Cup in England, Eddie Jones’ Japan stunned a planet by toppling South Africa in what is still said to be the biggest upset in tournament history.

Seven years later at the FIFA World Cup 2022 in Qatar, Japan slayed not one but two giants in Germany and Spain, and this March, they got it done at the World Baseball Classic, edging the United States in a sizzling final behind the one-of-one, the unicorn known as Ohtani Shohei.


Has the time arrived for Japanese men’s hoops to finally shine under the lights?

The nation's women won silver medals on home soil at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics in 2021, and now the man who will be pulling the men's team strings in front of home fans at this year's FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023, seems to think he might have something on his hands.

“We’re trying to usher in a new era of basketball,” Japan coach Tom Hovasse told at the start of training camp with his extended World Cup squad in June.

“The women really stepped up in the Olympics and everybody’s waiting for the men to do it.

“The B.League has been doing really well. But it can’t just be league driven. The national team and the league have to be in concert with one another.

“There are so many fans in basketball. They’re just waiting for the national team to do something. This could be a really big start for us.”


Hovasse took over the men’s team in September 2021, a month after he masterminded the women’s team to their fully deserved silver, behind only the United States, at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.

It was Japan’s first Olympic medal in basketball, period. Male or female.

Hovasse has been around the Japanese game a long time, since 1990, and the American does all his media in Japanese without an interpreter.

The man everyone affectionately calls “Tom-san” said he took away a lot during his four years in charge of the women as the team’s first foreign head coach in history.


“My women’s team, we used NBA sets, NBA, European, college philosophies,” he said. “Just the Olympic experience, we worked so hard and to see the players enjoy the journey that we went on - they were just so excited and happy.


“I learned from that. As a coach you get so focused and locked in on what you need to do, sometimes you don’t enjoy the moment. So they really opened my eyes to that.

“Now I’m trying to coach with a little bit more thinking about enjoying what I’m doing right now.”


The work has been cut out for Hovasse with the men, who, apart from Tokyo 2020 when they were hosts (three defeats from three group games), have not appeared at the Games since Montreal 1976. Their previous best result was at Tokyo 1964, where they placed 10th.


For Hovasse’s team to directly qualify for Paris 2024 via the 25 August-10 September World Cup (the games in Japan will be in Okinawa), Japan must finish as the highest team from Asia.

If they come up short but manage to finish as the second highest Asian team, they will be rerouted to the Olympic Qualifying Tournament (OQT) next year.


Hovasse will have to find Japan’s path to Paris without his best player Rui Hachimura, who chose to prioritise free agency and recovery over competing in the FIBA World Cup.

Hovasse, though, had been bracing for the possibility of the Los Angeles Laker not being available and made it clear that Hachimura’s absence will not detract from his team’s preparations.


“I’ve always told the guys, I’m going with the team that’s here - and the team that wants to be here. That’s been our thought process all along.

“For me, to not do it that way - we’re waiting, we’re waiting, we’re waiting - that’s kind of disrespectful to the guys who are here, and I would never do that because these guys work hard.

“I told them, we’re creating a good team whoever is going to be here.”


Japan scheduled nine warm-up games leading up to the FIBA World Cup, starting with a pair of friendlies against Chinese Taipei this Saturday and Sunday (8-9 July) in Shizuoka.

Japan will then tour through the Republic of Korea (20-24 July) followed by two home games vs New Zealand in Ota, Gunma Prefecture, on 2 and 4 August.


Their final three tune-ups from 15-19 August in Tokyo will be a true test, set to face Angola, Tokyo 2020 silver medallists France and last but not least, Luka Doncic and Slovenia, who were in Japan's group at the Games two years ago.


Japan open their FIBA Men's World Cup campaign on 25 August against Germany. They take on Finland two days later and Olympic bronze medallist Australia on the 29th to wrap up Group E.

“Right now, 80 per-cent of my focus is on Germany,” Hovasse said. “The closer we get to the tournament I’ll start putting in some Finland stuff and we’ll scout against that as well.


“Australia we know. Australia, we played them in the Asia Cup. Their style doesn’t change drastically. It’s just who’s going to be on the roster.”

It’s never easy to tell when sporting history is actually in the making. But for Hovasse and his players, at least things appear to be pointing in the right direction - in the direction of Paris and the 2024 Olympic Games, perhaps.


“This past year and a half - I think I’ve looked at close to 60 players - and throughout the six windows in the Asia Cup I was able to pretty much key in on the guys we need.


“The basketball is similar. My style is not going to change. It just took me a little bit of time to get the right players in position. I really like players who are hungry and who have a lot of energy - and I finally found that group.

“Our practices have been great, all of our camps have been really fantastic, just getting better and better and better. It was more about finding the right fits.”



Basketball World Cup 2023: Hovasse-led Japan Grabs Spot at Paris Olympics with ‘Confident’ Victory

Japan coach Tom Hovasse shouts out directions to his players during Saturday night’s game against Cape Verde at the FIBA Basketball World Cup.

The Yomiuri Shimbun

NAHA — Japan is set to appear at the Paris Olympics next year after securing a berth with an 80-71 victory over Cape Verde at the FIBA Basketball World Cup on Saturday night.

Coach Tom Hovasse, who was in charge of the women’s team that earned the silver medal at the Tokyo Games for Japan, has continued to emphasize what has again become a driving force for basketball here: “The power of belief.”

That’s how Japan closed out its classification round finale for world rankings 17-32. The buzzer that ended in a victory at Okinawa Arena over Cape Verde left Japan as the top-ranked Asian side.


Hovasse said he was thrilled to earn a spot at the Paris Games next year and that everyone set the goal, and they all believed.

The American-born Hovasse took over as the coach of men’s team in autumn of 2021 after the Tokyo Games. The men’s squad at the previous World Cup in 2019 dropped all five of its games. It also lost all three matchups at the Tokyo Olympics, showing a gap on the international level that was wider than the Japanese women had experienced.

But Hovasse didn’t hesitate to accept the offer to coach the men’s team, saying the challenge was compelling.


Japan, which lacks size, relies on its ability to sink a bevy of 3-pointers on the offensive side, while playing aggressively on the defensive. Hovasse’s team plays the same style as the women did during his tenure.

But just as the women, the men seemed to be lacking in confidence. And Hovasse was adamant, urging his players to “Please believe. Believe. Believe.”

Hovasse has continued to hit his players with that phrase during practices, games and even in press conferences.

Early on during his tenure as men’s team coach, the players had some moments when they looked lost. But as the players built up a resume of games, they had more instances in which they appeared to play more as a team.

“If not everyone on the team believes we can win, then we can’t win,” said Yuta Watanabe of the NBA’s Phoenix Suns.

“Coach Hovasse tells us that, and we players continue to reaffirm that.”


In fact, Watanabe showed just how big a presence Hovasse is by saying numerous times, “This team has confidence.”

In a World Cup group packed with excellent teams, Japan’s never-give-up attitude was apparent from the first round. And under Hovasse, the 12 players didn’t doubt their potential, eventually opening up a new path for basketball in Japan.


일본 남녀 농구팀을 세계적인 수준으로 끌어올린 호바스 코치의 전술은 현대 농구를 리드하는

NBA 골든 스테이트와 유사한 전술을 사용한다.

5명 선수 모두 3점 라인에서 슛을 던지는 것, 빠른 트렌지션에 의한 속공,

철저한 압박 수비를 통한 상대 공격 차단,

엄청난 활동력을 활용한 공간 창출, 빠른 패스 플레이를 통한 어시스트로 요약된다.

172cm 단신 가드 카와무라 유키가 보여주는 놀라운 플레이는 NBA 선수 트레이 영을 연상시킨다.


아시아 선수들이 유럽이나 미국 선수들에 비해 뒤처지는 높이, 탄력, 파워에 맞서

농구를 이해하는 영리한 플레이와  효율성 높은 득점으로 승부를 끌고 가는 것이다.


호바스의 성과는 일본 농구 전체에 세계적인 흐름과 전술에 맞는 팀과 선수들이 배출되어

여자 팀은 도쿄올림픽 은메달과

남자 팀은 2024년 파리올림픽 출전권을 획득하는 놀라운 성과를 거둔 것이다.


이 모든 것은 장기적인 계획과 투자가 이어지도록 일본 농구 협회, 농구계 인물, 선수들,

농구 팬이 만들어낸 빛나는 결과라고 평가된다.


그것과 비견할 만한 성과 또한 일본 남녀 배구다.

남자 팀은 올림픽 티켓을 획득했으나 일본 여자 팀은 아쉽게 예선전에서 결과를 얻지 못했지만

내년 VNL에서 획득하게 될 득점 포인트로 충분하게 올림픽에 참가 할 것으로 예상된다.


한국은 남녀 농구, 남녀 배구 모두 올림픽 티켓을 획득하지 못했고 

그동안 강세를 보였던 아시아 대회에서 조차 아쉬운 결과를 보여주었다.


이 결과는 일본과 비교되는 협회의 무능, 기성 권력을 유지하는 기성 세대,

발전을 위한 노력이 부족한 선수가 있을 뿐이다.

하지만 농구팬과 배구 팬은 세계 어느 스포츠 팬들과 비교해도

결코 뒤지지 않는 성원을 보여주고 있다.


아시아 쿼터로 들어온 필리핀 선수들이 한국 선수 5명의 주전에 비해

1억 정도 되는 가장 낮은 금액으로 활동하지만

팀 전력의 20-30% 차지하는 결과는 많은 시사점을 보여준다.


빅 맨 위주의 외국 용병을 활용하는 농구는 한국에서만 통하는

구식 전술이라는 것을  KBL 관련 인사 모두가 인식해야 한다.

소노의 김승기 감독이 추구하는 양궁 농구가 그래도 가장 한국 팀이

국제 경쟁력을 지닐 수 있는 방법이라는 것이 농구 언론과 농구인의 평가다.


배구를 좋아하는 입장에서 단 한가지만 꼽자면

세계 모든 팀들이 과감하게 사용하는 파이프 공격을

한국 팀은 겨우 1%도 안되게 사용하거나

아예 리그 경기에서 나오지 않는 현실을 아쉬워 한다.

일본 남자 팀 타카하시 란(188cm)의 플레이나 여자 팀 코가(180cm) 플레이는

부러울 정도로 뛰어나다.

신장의 열세를 뛰어난 실력으로 커버하고 있기 때문이다.

예전 한국 팀을 이끌던 신진식과 장윤희 선수가 연상된다.


특히 서브, 리시브, 유효 블로킹, 이단 패스로 이어지는 기본기가 약한 부분은

선수와 코치들이 모두 반성해야 할 부분이라고 생각한다. 


스포츠 경기에서 모두 성공과 국제 경쟁력을 가져야 한다는 주장은

리그 자체에 투자되는 자금과 인원을 생각하면

일본 스포츠 현실과 비교하는 것은 정당하지 않다.


일본 농구는 3부 리그 까지 형성 되어 있고 스포츠 클럽은

연령별로 수 천개를 넘어서 활동하고 있는 것이 현실이다.

3대 3 리그도 미국에 이어 두 번째로 프로 리그가 운영되는 곳이 일본이다.


다만 프로 스포츠는 실력과 연봉이 비례해야 한다.

남녀 모두 NBA와 유럽 일부, 일본을 제외하고

최상위권에 달하는 연봉을 한국 선수들은 수령하고 있다.

그러므로 어느정도 성과를 내는 것은 반드시 필요하다는 것을

선수들은 반드시 인식하고 인정하고 노력해야 할 것이다.


비인기 종목 선수들이 얼마나 힘들게 운동하고 있는 지는 우리 모두가 알고 있다.

이번 아시안 게임에서 수영, 배드민턴, 펜싱, 탁구를 통해 메달을 획득해야

비로서 어느 정도 안정적인 연봉을 확보할 수 있는 선수들의  필사적인 노력이

빛나는 결실을 맺었다고 평가된다.


프로 스포츠는 실력이 연봉에 어울리도록 결과를 보여주어야 한다.