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Hapless Oita HeatDevils facing tough decisions

Date Posted: 2011-07-01

A team-imposed appeal for ¥45 million to help fund the Oita HeatDevils play in the Basketball Japan League this fall is at the deadline, and deep-pockets donors haven’t stepped forward, leading speculation on what happens if a second of the league’s 20 teams folds.

The HeatDevils lack funding to field a team this fall, it has no coach, it has lost its top players to free agency, and the fan base is crumbling. The team’s woes have been building, going through three American coaches in the past two seasons, finishing 17 games better than the 2009-2010 year with a 25-27 record last season. Oita’s the second of six original league teams to hit troubled waters; the Tokyo Apache have already pulled the plug on the coming year.

League observers are calling for the HeatDevils to be dumped from the league, pointing out that even if money came available, the team doesn’t have a roster put together, with emphasis on “none that they could win with”. Some are insisting the BJL force the team to sell out, moving the team to a location that could provide essential fan support. Relocation to another city, with Hiroshima, Nagasaki and Kobe being cited as possibilities, is said to be the only reasonable solution for the BJL to keep fan support high.

Sources say “whenever you have one franchise struggling or bringing negative news to the league when it comes to financial issues, it tends to taint the whole league and make players and coaches wonder about the stability of the league.” The long-time observer says “It seems like they have the wrong people trying to run their whole franchise.”

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