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Petron eyes possible replacements for Agustin

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THE PETRON Blaze Boosters are evaluating their coaching situation with four coaches being eyed to replace current mentor Ato Agustin, sources close to the squad revealed yesterday.

Former Smart Gilas coach and current Petron consultant Rajko Toroman, national youth mentor and current Boosters assistant Olsen Racela, current La Salle coach Gee Abanilla and Barangay Ginebra consultant Alfrancis Chua were named as part of the short list of possible replacements.

Toroman has long been the target of speculations that he will assume the head coaching position of one of the San Miguel Corp. squads since leaving the Smart Gilas squad. His appointment, however, is expected to receive stiff opposition from the Basketball Coaches Association of the Philippines (BCAP), which has long contested foreign coaches handling PBA teams.

The BCAP had protested the past appointments of Talk ‘N Text’s Bill Bayno and Paul Woolpert, Shell’s John Moran and San Miguel Beer’s Ron Jacobs. However, all four managed to coach their respective teams with Jacobs even getting appointed national mentor in 2002.

Racela, the source said, seems to be the natural choice for Petron, having played with the team since 1997 as its chief playmaker before being elevated as assistant coach.

Racela has already won two Southeast Asian crowns with the youth squad and led the team to a fourth-place finish in the last Fiba Asia youth tournament.

Chua, the former Sta. Lucia and Tanduay coach with championship pedigree, is likely to stick it out with the Kings.

Agustin’s hold on the Petron coaching job loosened considerably after this season, where the Boosters failed to make a strong impact despite ending last year with a bang.

After stalling Talk ‘N Text’s Grand Slam bid with an underdog victory in the Governors Cup last season, the Boosters failed to reach the Finals of any of the three conferences. Petron’s defense of the Governors Cup came apart in the semifinals, with the team even failing to force a playoff for a Finals slot.

Petron officials could not be reached for comment while SMC’s sports chief Noli Eala did not reply to messages left by the Inquirer.


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