MANILA, Philippines – As Yeng Guiao returns as head coach of the national team, he admitted that the reunion with his former players turned out to be one of the key factors in his decision to take the Asian Games job.
"I’m excited. That’s part of the reason that I accepted the responsibility because those guys are like family to me," Guiao told Rappler in a phone interview on Thursday, July 26.
"We had a nice time together so there are pleasant memories with the team owners, with their families, with the players, so it’s kind of like a homecoming that makes it a lot more exciting."
Rain or Shine had committed to the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) to represent the Philippines in the Asian Games.
Guiao led the franchise to a breakthrough PBA semifinals stint in his first year in 2010 before steering Rain or Shine to two PBA conference titles and 6 finals appearances.
The fiery mentor, who has 7 PBA titles under his belt, said he got convinced by Rain or Shine team owners Raymund Yu and Terry Que, as well as current Elasto Painters head coach Caloy Garcia, to lead the national team in the Asian Games.
"Before I even considered it, I had to talk to both of them, si coach Caloy and boss Raymund, which was what I did the other day (Tuesday, July 24)," recalled Guiao.
"My purpose really was to convince them that they can take up the challenge, that they’re good enough to do that and apparently they are determined, their minds have been set already to make that offer to me, so instead of convincing them to accept it, they convinced me to accept it."
Rain or Shine factored in Guiao's national team experience when he coached the Philippine men's basketball team in the 2009 FIBA Asia Championships. The squad finished 8th in the tournament.
"They (Rain or Shine) will be coached by coach Yeng because coach Caloy has no international experience," said Rain or Shine governor Mamerto Mondragon.
Garcia, though, will still be part of Guiao's coaching staff.
Guiao faces a daunting task as he has less than 3 weeks left to whip the Gilas squad in competitive form.
"One of the lessons I learned when I was coaching the national team back in 2009 is early preparation. But the problem now is that it’s no longer possible," lamented Guiao.
The NLEX head coach also noted that he will be unable to tap any of the 10 suspended players who could have been vital in forming a formidable roster. However, Guiao still aims to improve on the country's 7th-place finish in the 2014 Incheon games.
"The goal is just to perform credibly," added Guiao. "We’re hoping that we can improve from 7th place pero sabi ko nga (but as I said) we have almost half or 3/4 of the team not available because of their suspension."
Guiao hopes to include his former players Paul Lee and Jeff Chan in the lineup while also naming PBA stars Marcio Lassiter, Stanley Pringle, Poy Erram as potential pool members.
"I put Paul Lee, Jeff Chan, Marcio Lassiter, Stanley Pringle, Poy Erram, I am hoping that they will be allowed by their mother teams," said Guiao.
Gilas Pilipinas is slated to play its first Asian Games match on August 16 in Jakarta. – Rappler.com
More commonly known as “Bee”, Beatrice is a multimedia sports reporter for Rappler, who covers Phillippine sports governance, national teams, football and the UAAP. Stay tuned for her news and features on Philippine sports and videos like the Rappler Athlete’s Corner and Rappler Sports Timeout.