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PBA: Yeng still searching

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NLEX Road Warriors coach Yeng Guiao was hoping that the third time would finally be a charm yesterday as his team sought to snap a long losing skid dating back to last conference against the GlobalPort Batang Pier at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

A victory over the Batang Pier in their game being played at presstime would end the Road Warriors’ five-game winless run in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup and also snap a nine-game losing skid dating back to the Philippine Cup.

It seemed unusual to see Guiao, who has been one of the winningest coaches in this decade, endure the hardship of losing. But many have forgotten that the fiery mentor, who joined NLEX this season after giving Rain or Shine two championships during his run from 2010 to 2016, has dealt with such situation before.

One example would be his pro coaching debut in 1990 when the Pop Cola Sizzlers of the RFM franchise went 10-28 in its expansion season. Another was his forgetful two-season run with the Pepsi Mega/Mobiline Cellulars franchise in 1995 and 1996, going a combined 7-23 record in the first year before having a 7-28 campaign the following campaign.

Guiao also struggled in the early stages of his coaching return in 2000 for expansion Batang Red Bull. The Energizers had a 3-11 record in the All-Filipino Cup followed a 3-6 mark in the Commissioner’s Cup under the bald-headed mentor who at that time was coming off a stint as PBL Commissioner.

“This is not a unique situation,” said Guiao after NLEX blew a 29-point third quarter lead in the 126-121 overtime loss to TNT KaTropa last Friday at the Mall of Asia Arena.

This season, Guiao decided to leave behind a talented Rain or Shine squad in hopes of turning the franchise of an NLEX team that usually makes the playoffs but never get past the quarterfinals. So far, it has been a rough situation after the Road Warriors won just two games in the Philippine Cup.

Before yesterday’s game, NLEX lost its first five games, the last two in heartbreaking fashion. The Road Warriors were on the verge of completing a 21-point comeback against the Star Hotshots only to see rookie Jio Jalalon hit a buzzer-beating jumper that stunned Guiao and his crew, 105-103.

Last week, it appeared that NLEX was close to ending the slump, scoring 42 points in the first quarter before taking an 89-60 lead in the third. The Road Warriors suddenly committed an epic meltdown, allowing the KaTropa to steal the game.

While he remains in a dilemma of what has to do to stop the bleeding, Guiao can only hope he can repeat what he had done before – turning the fortunes of struggling teams.

The Pop Cola team went on to win two titles under Guiao as the Swift Mighty Meaties in the 1992 Third Conference followed by another in the 1993 Commissioner’s Cup.

Red Bull turned the corner after its first two conferences in the league, finishing third in the 2000 Governors’ Cup before winning three titles in the 2001 and 2002 Commissioner’s Cup and the 2006 Fiesta Conference.

Rain or Shine was not as worst as those franchises were but Guiao turned out to be the missing piece in the puzzle, turning the team into something that characterized his unorthodox way of tapping diamonds under the rough and rugged defending, resulting in championships in the 2012 Governors’ Cup and 2016 Commissioner’s Cup.

“We’ve struggled with the Swif team but we were quick to recover in the second year, the same thing with Red Bull, first year struggle, second year bounce back,” he said. “But with Rain or Shine, it was the same thing. But with RoS my recollection is we’ve never finished last place.

“Hindi naman unique to,” Guiao added, referring to his NLEX situation. “Pero at the same time, you don’t solve this problem the same way we solved the problems in the teams I’ve coached before.”

He may never solve the problem the same way but winning at least one game would be a good start for Guiao and the Road Warriors.

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