Sometime ago, I learned from an unimpeachable source within the PLDT-Smart group that a major revamp within the coaching ranks of the Manny V. Pangilinan-owned basketball teams was forthcoming.
Three teams immediately came to mind: Talk ‘N Text, Smart Gilas and Ateneo. I began mulling over the possibilities.
Would Norman Black, who then “only” had a “three-peat” tucked under his belt for the Ateneo Blue Eagles in the UAAP, take over Chot Reyes’ coaching chores at Talk ‘N Text?
And would Reyes, in turn, move over to Smart Gilas to replace Rajko Toroman?
After the national five’s dismal ninth-place finish in Tokushima, Japan, back in 2007, when he was head coach, Reyes seemed to have gotten obsessed with personal redemption.
At that time, Reyes getting a second chance depended on how the national team under Toroman would perform in the 2011 Fiba Asia championship.
Black to Talk ‘N Text, Reyes to Smart Gilas. But who would fill Norman’s shoes at Ateneo?
Will anybody want the job, considering that Black is a tough act to follow? Eventually, I got tired of speculating and decided to forget about the projected revamp.
* * *
The whole thing came back to me when Toroman’s contract with Smart Gilas expired recently and there seemed to be no indication that it would be renewed.
On top of this, the MVP group signed up Jong Uichico for Smart Gilas.
This move got everybody speculating. They wondered if Jong was about to play a major role in the national men’s team.
This, too, was what I was inclined to believe at first.
Needless to say, the coaching job at Smart Gilas seemed to be the most coveted among the three positions in the MVP group.
* * *
Yesterday, Toroman came back, but only to pick up the stuff he had left behind.
I was told that while the Serbian’s head-coaching contract with Smart Gilas might not be renewed, he could be offered the post of consultant.
Under Toroman, the Philippines finished fourth in the 2011 Fiba Asia championship in Wuhan, China.
“Meantime, Jong Uichico is tasked with the formation of Smart Gilas II,” said an SBP official who requested anonymity. “Jong will draft the recruitment and training program of the team.”
This means that contrary to what I previously presumed, Uichico will be the second man at Smart Gilas.
Like Ryan Gregorio at Meralco, Reyes will be given an executive position in the MVP group, my source said.
“At the same time, he is being considered as head coach of Gilas,” the insider said.
“All these changes will happen but only if we find a new coach for Ateneo.”
* * *
Right now the search is still on for Black’s replacement at Ateneo. As I said, it will be difficult to approximate, much less surpass, Black’s “four-peat” with the Blue Eagles.
My source said that despite the daunting task, there is a long list of candidates knocking at Ateneo’s door. After all, the head coach’s salary that Ateneo patron MVP provides is said to approximate that of a PBA head coach.
If a new Ateneo coach is hired, Black will be filling in Reyes’ head coaching chores at Talk ‘N Text, as the latter moves to Smart Gilas.