A blessing and a curse for Rara
August 18, 2012 by Sydrick Salazar
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It’s not like we never saw this coming.
Olsen Racela will eventually be a PBA coach.
Weeks after his retirement, he was tasked to handle the 18-and-under RP squad. They had a respectable finish then… but now he is about to handle arguably the PBA richest franchise in terms of seasons and championships.
The Petron Blaze Boosters is formerly the San Miguel Beermen – the oldest and most successful PBA franchise in existence. One of the reasons of SMB’s success was due to him. Racela was the chief orchestrator of the Beermen for more than a decade. Even when he was past his prime, Racela would lead the Beermen during the playoffs. He and Danny Seigle, Danny Ildefonso, Dondon Hontiveros, and Dorian Pena… alongside Jong Uichico and his heady bench of deputies made sure San Miguel topbilled the 2000s with a bunch of titles as proof. Except for Uichico and Seigle (for now), the San Miguel team remains intact.
I think Racela needs to cast these guys as leaders because aside from this vintage core, he has a couple of dueling superstars in Arwind Santos and Jay Washington, important players like Alex Cabagnot, Denok Miranda, and Joseph Yeo (for now), and new guys Chris Lutz, Marcio Lassiter, and whoever is the other draft choice Petron will make after Junmar Fajardo.
In some ways I wished Rajko Toroman would be signed as coach. One thing that Ato Agustin failed to achieve is solving the egos and chemistry issues of the squad. How many times have we heard of the sentence that Petron is the best team in the PBA… on paper? How many lopsided deals have we seen from these guys only to result to disappointment? When Siot Tanquingcen and Agustin coached the team, they were up for overhaul just like what Tim Cone did in B-Meg when he rid himself of Roger Yap and Kerby Raymundo. Unlike what Cone did though, these guys failed. The former SMB guards had trouble with the overflowing star factor of the squad. During Agustin’s time we have slowly seen the management bring back the veterans they traded and mixing them with the brightest crop of youngsters known to the league.
Toroman is an old school foreigner who cares less on who to play… although his exposure to Philippine basketball and the Smart-Gilas program could give Coach Rajko the heads up on who he wants to play.
In one season, Agustin became hero to zero. Before that he was a top notch college coached that at one point gave the San Sebastian Stags a championship… a runner up finish… and one of the longest winning runs in Philippine basketball. I think he had success in Baste because he had a star player in Jimbo Aquino, an able backup in Calvin Abueva, and a core of awesome Stags in Pamboy Raymundo, Anthony Del Rio, Gilbert Bulawan, Ronald Pascual, Ian Sangalang, Raymond Maconocido, and Dave Najorda.
While yeah, Agustin will be busy with his undertakings as a Pampanga politician. That’s a nice move for him. But clearly the only way he can win a championship in Petron is when he has only one star player in Santos, an able backup in Cabagnot, a workhorse import in Anthony Grundy (in some ways Jeremy Wise should be commended too), and a couple of handy stars and role players in Ildefonso, Miranda, Mick Pennisi, Sunday Salvacion, Paolo Hubalde, and Jojo Duncil.
So yeah I wish Racela the best in his coaching endeavors. While the last thing he should be is to become Toroman’s puppet, I hope people will remind the egos in the Petron roster that Racela knows what he’s doing. Racela is one of the most respected players to wear the San Miguel colors and at one point he was the best pointguard in the PBA. It took a lot of players and a lot of trades for the squad to finally realize that the rightful pointguard to replace Racela is the clutch monster Alex Cabagnot.
But then again, Agustin was a former MVP and before he had the Petron job people call him a coaching genius.
So hopefully the Olsen Racela magic will work in Petron!