His seventh PBA title tucked safely under his belt although his congressional seat had been yanked from under him in the last elections, Yeng Guiao, the Rain or Shine coach, smiles when asked what’s in store for Citizen Yeng.
Wala, pahinga muna,” says Guiao Tuesday during a press gathering hosted by RoS team owners Terry Que and Raymond Yu.
“Pero babalik ako.”
Clearly stung by his failed re-election bid as congressman in the first district of Pampanga, Guiao nonetheless sets aside talks of his future political plans and puts his priorities in order.
“We have 10 players expiring at the end of the season,” he says. “Eleven, if you include me.”
A three-year contract to coach the Elasto Painters ends this October, says Guiao, “but that isn’t what comes first.”
Signing up maximum players Paul Lee, Beau Belga, Jeff Chan and Gabe Norwood to new deals is what’s most important, he says.
“As boss Raymond foresees, the next rookie draft may not be as deep as the one before (where RoS landed Maverick Ahanmisi and Jericho Cruz), maybe up to the fifth or sixth pick, so we’re not looking to add more players to our team but rather keep what we have,” Guiao says.
Contract negotiations are beginning as he speaks, the mercurial RoS mentor bares.
“We intend to exercise our right of first refusal and we’re not keen on making any trades unless the proposal is irresistible,” he says. “If this team is intact and healthy by next season, we stand a good chance in the Philippine Cup.”
It’s the only title Guiao hasn’t won in his career, with four Commissioner’s Cups, including the last one which he won in six games against the Alaska Aces, and three Governors’ Cups to his name. And it’s the championship he hopes will crown his achievements.
“Siempre, iba yung Philippine Cup,” says Guiao, who actually came as close as he can get to winning one with the low-scoring Pierre Henderson-Niles as their import in the semifinals and championship series last conference.
“Para na rin akong nanalo ng Philippine Cup e,” he says, laughing and shaking his head when reminded that an Interaaksyon.com story pointed out that Guiao won his first championship (with Swift) on the wings of an import capable of scoring 105 points (Tony Harris) while shooting free throws from top of the key, and he won his seventh with a reinforcement who tallies 10 points on his productive nights.
“Gusto pa nga raw na Best Import siya, di ba?” Guiao says, again breaking into laughter after being informed that AZ Reid (his former import who played just one game for San Miguel Beer as a replacement for Tyler Wilkerson in the semis) actually got more media votes (2) than Henderson-Niles in the balloting.
Never at a loss for words even on topics farthest from basketball – his take on the possibility of Manny Pacquiao competing in the Rio Olympics as a wildcard entry (“It’s up to him, really, although his image could be tarnished if he loses.”), on getting appointed to the Philippine Sports Commission (“That’s a fulltime job that will take me away from the one thing I love most doing – coaching.”), jokingly on the same subject matter (“At saka ang liit ng suweldo don!), on Kentucky Derby winner Nyquist placing third in the Preakness (“Ayaw sa bad track; me mga kabayong ganon e, di gusto pag basa yung lupa.”), on American coaches beating out Filipino mentors in juicy assignments (“Off the record muna yan.”), on petitioning the Supreme Court to order PAGCOR and PCSO to remit billions of pesos to the Philippine Sports Commission (“Malaking bagay yon para sa sports.”), and on incoming President Duterte (“Yes, we know each other.”) – he nevertheless had to pause when asked to rate his three championship teams – Swift, Red Bull and Rain or Shine – in the order of importance to him.
“I think I’ll go with Red Bull for the sheer number of championships, at saka walang stars don,” Guiao says after a while. “But this team (RoS) has the potential to be even better, di pa tapos e. If we’re able to sign up all of them, or at least all key players, then we could probably win a few more.”
And what if other teams dangle something more than the maximum salary to his expiring players?
“Maximum na sila, Ano pa ang puwedeng ibigay sa kanila other than the maximum? At least as far as PBA rules are concerned,” Guiao said. “Ngayon kung talagang ayaw naman na sa’min, then they have to tell us and we’ll try to work out some deal that would acceptable to both sides. Walang problema yan.”