TOKYO - In two seasons, coach Reggie Geary and the Yokohama B-Corsairs have established a standard of excellence for new teams as the upstart Basketball Japan League has morphed into a major-size league.
When the Osaka Evessa captured three consecutive titles in the league's infancy, there were six, eight and then 10 teams in the 2005-06, 2006-07 and 2007-08 seasons.
When the B-Corsairs reached the Final Four as an expansion outfit last May, 19 teams competed in the 52-game season, including 10 in the Eastern Conference.
And when they earned the championship last Sunday with a 101-90 victory over the Rizing Fukuoka, Geary's B-Corsairs had taken their game to the next level in proving they are the best in the now 21-team circuit.
Two seasons, two Final Four berths. What's more, Geary - a former star guard for Lute Olson's University of Arizona powerhouse teams in the 1990s - has a 66-38 record in the regular season.
Former Pima College men's basketball coach Mike Lopez, who has closely followed Geary's career since his days at UA, said the former Wildcats star coaches like he played.
"I loved to watch Reggie play because of his tenacity and approach to the game on the defensive end," Lopez wrote in an email.
"Reggie was an awesome athlete and was always thinking of ways to best use that through anticipation, positioning on the court and matchups. There should be no question that he would be a successful head coach. Coach Lute Olson was one of the best to ever be in the game and I am sure Reggie will follow closely to the kind of success that he has been a part of at the UA and through his playing."
We caught up with Geary, 39, before and after Sunday's championship win. Here's what he said:
For the head coach and the staff as a whole, what is the most satisfying aspect of establishing a standard of excellence in Yokohama for the franchise?
A: "The most satisfying aspects are: First, I was given complete freedom from Day 1 to acquire the American players myself and to implement my basketball philosophies and teachings, which have resulted in great success. Second, I was embraced by the players I work with: They bought into my system and style and watching them execute on such a high level is very gratifying. So for them to work as hard as they have and win it all, I am honored to be a part of their championship journey."
How has the team's success planted the seeds for rising popularity and support of the franchise for years to come?
A: "It has been amazing to watch as the B-Cor fan base has grown over these two seasons, and our boosters are very loyal and dedicated to our team. It is satisfying to also reward their support with a championship. Our boosters really enjoy basketball, and they always bring us energy through their cheers and chants throughout the games. Our fans are truly like a family with their signs for the players, the huge B-Cor flags waving in the stands, and the pirate hats they hand out and wear.
"And my own family is fully involved with the boosters. My wife, Candace's, Facebook page is followed by many Yokohama fans who follow her team updates and pictures. And she appreciates each and every one of our boosters and greets them as they enter and exit the games."
Did you see yourself as more of a teacher than you did last season, or does the daily work appear to be the same in terms of passing on knowledge about the fundamentals of the game?
A: "I take the same amount of great pride this season, like I do every season, in trying to be a teacher of the game. I'm a strong believer in the fundamentals. When combined with talent and communicated properly, they are vitally important for coaches in terms of player development and team success. Sharing what you know and have experienced as well as having a good working relationship with your players to assist with putting them in the best possible situation to succeed is what coaching is all about in my opinion."
In your quest to capture a title, do you find yourself watching more BJ-League games of other teams this season, studying all foes more intensely? And are you viewing more NBA and NCAA college games to see the way others are thriving and stumbling in the game?
A: "I'm always watching and studying as much basketball as possible. Whether it's NBA, NCAA, or BJ-League games you can usually find me watching any one of them or more daily. Obviously during the season my assistant and I are following the BJ- League mostly and our upcoming opponents, but with today's technology, I can watch a lot of NBA and sporting events in the United States."
This season, has your phone calls and contact with Lute Olson and others picked up as you work hard to steer the B-Corsairs to the top? Can you think of an example of how your coaching mentors have given you sound advice this season?
A: "David Yanai, a highly respected, retired college basketball coach out of Los Angeles, has been the one individual I consistently correspond with throughout the season. Coach Yanai has a wealth of knowledge and experience, and his friendship is one I value deeply. Unfortunately, I haven't spoken to Coach Olson this season, but hopefully he is proud of my accomplishments here."
Looking at your future ambitions, it's clear your time in Yokohama has been a success,and people will notice that. Is the ultimate goal in the next five years or so to be an NCAA Division I head coach or an assistant on an NBA team?
A: "People have definitely stood up and taken notice of the job I've been doing here in Japan. Attending the NBA Summer League (in Las Vegas) last offseason, I was pleasantly surprised to see so many people who had heard about the team's success and me being named coach of the year. This coaching business is so difficult in terms of predicting where one will be that I've given up on speculating. I'll continue to work hard to be a great example for my children to follow your dreams with all your energy and hopefully that leads me to an NBA, NCAA, or a job coaching here in Japan."
Has Yokohama management discussed next season with you yet? Have you been offered or given a contract for 2013-14?
A: "I've had a preliminary discussion with Yokohama, but no decision has been made. And I have been patiently waiting. My first choice is to remain in Yokohama due to wanting to continue to build on what I started here. Plus with all the support and kindness shown to us by the great B-Cor boosters, and the life my wife and kids have built here, it would mean a lot to come back. But we'll have to see how things play out over the coming weeks and months while other potential offers also roll in."
On StarNet: See a video of Geary and his club previewing the Yokohama B-Corsairs expansion season (2011-12) in the rapidly growing Basketball Japan League at azstarnet.com/video
Geary at full throttle
Former UA standout Reggie Geary made an instant impact as coach of an expansion Japanese team.
The Yokohama B-Corsairs regular-season record in just two years as a franchise.
Appearances in Basketball Japan League final fours and league titles, respectively