Ex-UCLA player Natalie Nakase is new coach of men's team in Japan
The Saitama Broncos welcomed the former UCLA point guard as the first female coach in the history of the professional Japanese BJ League on Thursday after Dean Murray was fired 12 games into the season.
Nakase, who is of Japanese-American descent, coached the Broncos to a 93-74 victory over the Toyama Grouses on Sunday while Murray served a suspension for violating unspecified team rules.
"I know these aren't the best circumstances in which to be hired," Nakase said in a statement on the team website. "But I will do everything possible to get the job done. There is a lot of talent on this team."
Nakase, 31, worked as an assistant for the Tokyo Apache of the BJ League last season under former San Antonio Spurs Coach Bob Hill and has experience as the head coach of a women's professional team in Germany. The Broncos (5-7), who have endured six consecutive losing seasons, feature a roster that includes former NBA point guard Kenny Satterfield and former West Virginia standout John Flowers in addition to several Japanese players.
"She earned the players' respect through her work ethic and direct approach with them," Hill told the Japan Times of Nakase's work with the Apache. "She has great coaching instincts, which I think will allow her to become a great coach as she moves forward with her career."
Nakase grew up in Southern California as a speck of a point guard at 5 feet 2, starring at Marina High in Huntington Beach before playing at UCLA from 1999 to 2003.
Photo: Former UCLA point guard Natalie Nakase watches a game during her career with the Bruins from 1999 to 2003. Credit: Los Angeles Times.