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Who will coach UE Red Warriors?

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By Jerome Lagunzad

Is another pro league great set to take over the reins of University of the East men’s basketball team?

One-time PBA MVP Johnny Abarrientos is being floated as one of the top candidates to land the vacant Red Warriors job after veteran mentor Derrick Pumaren stepped down at the close of another failed UAAP campaign last November.

Abarrientos, 47, who immediately plunged into coaching scene after ending his decorated PBA career in 2010, is being groomed as a possible successor for the UE post which has remained vacant with less than eight months left before UAAP Season 81.

Abarrientos’ fellow pro league icon Allan Caidic, a former Red Warriors star, has expressed his desire to handle the squad while veteran mentor Koy Banal has already threw his hat for a possible collegiate coaching comeback.

Sought for confirmation by Tempo-Bulletin yesterday, Abarrientos, 47, admitted that UE and other schools, including Emilio Aguinaldo College, have already broached the idea of him taking over the respective basketball program.

But it’s highly unlikely – at the moment – that he’ll be able to part ways with FEU, which he led to back-to-back UAAP titles in 1991 to 1992 before taking the pro league by storm as a crafty playmaker.

“Marami na rin talagang nag-aalok na sa akin kung ready na ako mag-coach full-time. Kaso sa totoo lang, busy rin talaga ako kaya baka hindi ko pa matutukan talaga,” said the proud Naga City native commonly known as “The Flying A” in a phone interview.

While he said that he still enjoys current role at the Tamaraws’ camp as a consultant on all of its basketball teams, including the women’s and juniors’, Abarrientos added that he’s also determined to give back to the institution which has given him the biggest break of his life.

“Malaki rin naman ang naitulong talaga sa akin ng FEU. Kung hindi naman dahil sa kanila, hindi naman ako makikilala sa mundo ng basketball. Kaya hanggat makakatulong ako, gagawin para makabawi naman sa kabutihan nila,” he said.

Currently serving as an assistant to Chito Victolero at Magnolia Hotshots in the pros, Abarrientos admitted he won’t be closing his doors for a possible coaching stint in the future.

“In the right time lang,” he said. “Ayaw ko naman magsalita ng tapos na hindi na ako hahawak ng ibang team. Love natin ‘yung basketball at ‘yan ang buhay natin.”