After much speculation, Gee Abanilla has been rewarded for staying loyal to the San Miguel group in the PBA with a head-coaching job at Petron Blaze, replacing Olsen Racela.
San Miguel Corp. basketball operations chief and current PBA board chair Robert Non bared this yesterday, ending weeks of guessing as to where Abanilla would land and what post he would get after his relief from the La Salle bench in the UAAP.
Non was quick to point out, though, that Abanilla’s appointment is part of a continuing process of evaluation, something San Miguel teams in the recent past have been known to resort to whenever coaches are shipped to sister teams after dismal performances.
Racela, who took over the Petron coaching job from Ato Agustin at the start of the season, failed to steer the powerhouse Boosters past the quarterfinals in his first two conferences.
Racela was moved to San Mig Coffee as one of Tim Cone’s deputies.
Petron’s long-time team manager Hector Calma has also been replaced by former Ginebra San Miguel coach Siot Tanquingcen. Calma is now alternate board member, a job that has little to do with team personnel.
“It’s not cast in stone,” Non said of the new coaching appointments. “It’s still a continuing process of evaluation for the coaches, just like the players.”
Todd Purves, the coach of the Indonesia Warriors in the Asean Basketball League, is in the middle of contract negotiations to join Petron as an active consultant.
Leo Austria has also been tapped to sit as one of Abanilla’s assistants.
It was wildly rumored that Austria would replace Racela, but his commitment with Adamson until the end of the coming UAAP season got him no more than a deputy’s job.
Racela will take over Coy Banal’s spot in the San Mig bench, with Banal moving over to Barangay Ginebra to be one of Alfrancis Chua’s assistants along with Agustin, Boysie Zamar and Jorge Gallent, who like Agustin is coming in from Petron.
Samboy Lim was also made alternate board member from team manager.