Japan Olympic coach Hoshino won't return for WBC

TOKYO -- Japan's Olympic coach Senichi
Hoshino has refused to stay on to lead the defending champions
at next year's World Baseball Classic.

The 61-year-old's decision not to answer his country's call
leaves Japanese baseball officials with even fewer options
ahead of the March tournament.

"Even if I am asked I will turn it down," Hoshino told
Thursday's Japanese media. "I have informed [Japan's baseball]
commissioner of my decision."

Hoshino suffered intense criticism after Japan failed to
secure a medal at this year's Beijing Olympics.

"I've already been engulfed in flames once -- why should I
have to drag someone's chestnuts out of the fire again?" he
said on his personal Web site. "I don't want to put my family through that again."

Japanese officials told Reuters they had yet to make a
decision on who would be in charge of the team at the WBC but
were scheduled to unveil the new coach later this month.

Japan's baseball commissioner Ryozo Kato conceded Hoshino's
withdrawal from the running was a blow.

"It was a shame to hear that," said Kato. "But we have no
alternative other than to accept his decision."

No active coaches have emerged as serious candidates,
prompting Ichiro Suzuki to demand Japanese officials
stop dragging their feet.

The Seattle Mariners outfielder, who helped Japan win the inaugural
WBC tournament in 2006, said the confusion could have a
negative impact on the team's chances of defending their title.

Sadaharu Oh guided Japan to victory two years ago. but the
68-year-old has turned down the opportunity to take the job
again for health reasons.

Japan lost to eventual gold medalists South Korea in the
semifinals at the Beijing Olympics in August before being
beaten by the United States in the bronze-medal game.