NOW that it has been given the green light by the PBA to take over NLEX's franchise in the D-League, the next order of business for Hapee Toothpaste is to find a new coach.
The Lamoiyan Corporation is set to make its return to basketball by continuing the Road Warriors' school-based partnership with the San Beda Red Lions, assuring Hapee of a competitive lineup.
“Yes, we are now talking to San Beda and the management of NLEX is helping us form a team,” said Bernard Yang, head of basketball operations of Hapee.
NLEX's coach in the D-League, Boyet Fernandez, is set to call the shots in the Road Warriors' PBA debut after his stint with San Beda in the NCAA, prompting Hapee management to start the search for a new coach.
“Right now, naghahanap na talaga kami ng coach. May mga list na kaming tinitignan,” said the soft-spoken Yang.
Yang did not deny that Junel Baculi, the coach who gave Hapee a number of championships in the defunct PBL, is very much high on their list.
“Yes, kasama si Junel sa mga nasa listahan namin. Isa siya sa mga candidates,” said Yang, pointing out that Hapee's past coaches like Louie Alas (Alaska), Egay Macaraya (CEU), Jun Noel (University of San Jose-Recoletos, Cebu) and Gee Abanilla (San Miguel) are now committed to other teams.
However, Baculi's job as athletic director of National University may also prove a hindrance to a Hapee reunion.
Another source told Spin.ph that Baculi’s constant brushes with game officials especially during his stint as coach of GlobalPort in the PBA may work against a deal with Hapee.
Yang said other coaches are also being considered for the Teeth Sparklers’ head coaching job including Bong Ramos, formerly of Barako Bull, and former Air21 coach Franz Pumaren.
“Nabanggit nga sa akin yang dalawa na 'yan. Kaya sinulat ko na ang names nila tapos pinasa ko na kay boss (Cecilio Pedro). Sya naman magde-decide nyan,” he said.
Among the players expected to don the Hapee-San Beda jersey in the upcoming PBA D-League Aspirants Cup, which opens on October 27, are Ola Adeogun, Baser Amer, Art Dela Cruz, Ryusei Koga and JV Mendoza.
Former San Beda stars Jake Pascual and twins Anthony and David Samerad have already decided to join the coming PBA draft.
Pending negotiations between Hapee and San Beda managements next week, Red Lions assistant coaches Adonis Tierra, JV Sison, Benjie Paras and Ford Arao might also become part of the Teeth Sparklers bench.