Reyes likens PHL Cup victory to 1st PBA title 28 years ago


VINCENT “CHOT” REYES marked his return as head coach in the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) by banging the gong so loudly that the Magnolia Hotshots played as if they almost had no chance at bringing down the TNT Tropang Giga.

Reyes and the Tropang Giga scored an emphatic 94-79 Game 5 victory on Friday in Pampanga to run away with the Philippine Cup, ending the race-to-four series at five games.

Reyes left the PBA in 2012 to tend to the national team—he coached Gilas Pilipinas back to the Fiba 2014 World Cup in Spain—and to hold the corporate reins of ESPN 5 after that. On Year 2 of the Covid-19 pandemic, he was recalled to mentor the Manuel V. Pangilinan franchise.

And was he successful in his return, the feeling of winning the championship he likened to his first PBA title 28 years ago, almost a generation, as a head coach.

“It seemed like déjà vu to 1993 when I won my first title in my very first tournament as head coach,” Reyes said. “It feels great.”

Reyes, then the youngest PBA head coach at 29, led Coney Island led by PBA greats Alvin Patrimonio and Jerry Cordiñera to the 1993 Philippine Cup title. They beat a powerhouse San Miguel Beer in six games.

Fast forward to 2021. Reyes did it with a formidable team made even more fluid by his two Ws—fellow returning 14-year league veteran Kelly Williams and 29-year-old spitfire rookie Mickey Williams.

“I don’t have to explain how important Kelly [Williams] is to our team. Anyone who understands the game can see this,” said Reyes, who now has nine PBA championships with five different teams. “I didn’t have to convince him. I just asked him if he was open to coming back.”

Kelly Williams retired for “personal reasons” September last year but was back in TNT uniform in six months. Mickey Williams was picked fourth in the draft for one  goal—fill up the scoring void left by Bobby Ray Parks Jr., who’s now plying his trade in Japan.

Parks averaged 22.4 points for TNT in the 2020 bubble season, numbers Mikey Williams easily filled up. He was named Finals Most Valuable Player with Finals averages of 27.6 points, 5.6 rebounds and 4.8 assists.

“Mikey was voted MVP of the Finals, I don’t think I have to say anything more,” Reyes said.

The next conference for the abbreviated 46th season is due soon. So what’s next for Reyes and TNT?

“We need to get better,” Reyes said.

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