The audacity of Chot Reyes


THE TNT Tropang Giga defeated Magnolia, 4-1, in the Philippine Cup Finals that ended over three years of dominance by San Miguel Corp. teams and 11 straight titles in the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA).

It was also the eighth title for head coach Chot Reyes and his first since he last coached TNT to a title in 2011-12. Furthermore, it tied him with the late great Baby Dalupan for the most All-Filipino titles with six.

Ten years and he returns like some conquering king. Amazing.

I first saw Chot Reyes when he was playing for the Ateneo Blue Eagles. His younger brother, Jun, who later starred for Ateneo and went onto the PBA, was a batchmate of mine and he would oft invite us to watch his older brother’s matches at the Loyola Center as today’s Blue Eagle Gym is called.

Imagine in 1983, he made the University Athletic Association of the Philippines Mythical Five selection alongside Allan Caidic, Jerry Codinera, Pido Jarencio, and Glenn Capacio. So I knew he was good. As a coach?

That was when he was coaching the Blue Eagles and they went up against a powerhouse La Salle team that walloped them in the first round. Shockingly, Reyes’s Ateneo team beat La Salle literally at their own game.

He made them run a triangle-and-two which was what La Salle employed against Ateneo in the first round. I remember in the post-match interview then how Reyes merely threw back at them what they did. “The audacity of the man,” I recalled thinking back then. In a good way of course since I am a product of the blue side of Katipunan.

After leaving Ateneo, he led Coney Island (Purefoods) to an All-Filipino championship beating the star-studded San Miguel Beermen that had Hector Calma, Caidic and Ato Agustin.

While this San Miguel team was post-1989 Grand Slam, they would still win three more titles, two second runners-up and three second runners-up trophies.

Of course, Coney Island had very good players in Dindo Pumaren, Alvin Patrimonio and Jerry Codinera.

When Reyes moved to Coca Cola, the Tigers had become a refuge for ex-Alaska players in Johnny Abarrientos (who was said to be washed up), Jeff Cariaso and Poch Juinio; ex-Tanduay Rhum Maker Rudy Hatfield, ex-Beerman Freddie Abuda, as well as hard-working non-descript players like Will Antonio, Leo Avenido, Ato Morano and Rafi Reavis.

Said Juinio of that Tigers team of Reyes, “Back then, most teams set up their offense or ran the slow break. We took advantage of that by running and to outrun the opponent. Coach Chot also made me shoot from the outside. He made sure that everyone improved on both ends of the court.”

“Our motivation (Jeff, Johnny and me) was to prove that we can still win a championship. Having Rudy and Rafi helped our team a lot. Rudy improved on his offense when he got to Coca Cola.”

The he had TNT challenging for a Grand Slam. They were unable to do so but I really thought they were the disadvantage of bad officiating that ultimately cost them a shot at matching the feat of Baby Dalupan, Tommy, Manotoc, Norman Black and Tim Cone.

I remember before TNT started winning, they went to Italy to train. When they came back the Tropang Texters were playing like a European team predicated on long-range shooting, slick passing and almost position-less basketball.

Then with the national team, Reyes ushered in a new era of greatness. The excitement of placing second in the 2013 Fiba Asia Cup and going to the World Cup the following year has broken new ground for the national team. Anything less now is a disappointment.

Reyes is now back at the helm of TNT and what a triumph this was. Just when the PBA was beginning to get boring with its one-storyline of SMC champions, he barges in and throws a monkey wrench into this dynasty. And this latest title run will rank among his masterpieces.

The interesting thing though is…Chot Reyes isn’t done yet.

Read full article on BusinessMirror