Villanueva starts and ends PBA career with ‘father figure’ Guiao as coach
NLEX saw its season come to an end Tuesday night and so did the PBA career of its rugged big man Enrico Villanueva, who quietly called it quits after 15 seasons.
Villanueva had his moments as one of the league’s stars and played his best basketball as part of the defunct Red Bull franchise, which selected him as the seventh overall pick in 2003.
“More than competing at the highest level, I’d have to say I’ll miss the people I encounter in the league. I’ll miss the camaraderie and friendships that I’ve built through the years,” Villanueva told INQUIRER.net Wednesday.
“Of course, I’ll still see some of them but not being with my team day to day will be something I’ll need to get used to. Those people have been a part of my life one way or another.”
The 37-year-old Villanueva led Red Bull to a title in the 2005-06 Fiesta Conference where he was named Best Player of the Conference.
Villanueva played for six other teams before finishing his career with the NLEX Road Warriors. And interestingly, his first PBA coach in Yeng Guiao was also his last.
“He’s created a lot of good memories, especially when we were together in Red Bull,” said Guiao after the Road Warriors’ quarterfinals exit following a loss to the Star Hotshots.
“It’s been a privilege coaching him when he started, and when he’s ending.” Guiao, who called the shots for Red Bull from 2000 to 2009,” he added.
Guiao coached Villanueva for five seasons before the former national team player was traded to San Miguel Beer.
“He’s a very blunt and straightforward coach. He’ll tell you what he wants and will tell you if you’re messing up; and in the most colorful way you can imagine,” Villanueva said. “There’s no superstar and you can’t be soft. You need to be tough otherwise you won’t survive. I can guarantee, though, that you’ll be a better player after.”
“More than a coach, he’s also a father figure to us. He cares for his players and this is evident through his relationships with them, including former players. He’s a great family man and a person to emulate.”
Injuries, however, prevented the one-time UAAP MVP out of Ateneo from sustaining his strong showing in the latter part of his career.
“The only problem when he was near the end of his career, he couldn’t get back into game shape because his injuries kept coming back so he just really wanted to finish this season, but it would have been [great] if he was able to play and was healthy and that was really his problem during the last few months that maybe his body was giving up on him already so that is the time to call it quits and enjoy the rest of young life,” Guiao said.
“But he was able to do what he wanted with the basketball career that’s really more than anyone can ask for.”
Guiao believes Villanueva won’t be away from basketball entirely and it won’t take long before he returns to the sidelines.
“I think he still wants to able to be involved in basketball in another capacity but we still don’t know that yet,” Guiao said.
Villanueva said he has businesses to attend to and he’s not discounting the idea of coaching someday.
In fact, he already has a blueprint figured out.
“If I’ll be a coach, it’s pretty obvious which coaching style I’ll take.”
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