GERRY Esplana has been tasked to lead the rebranded Valenzuela SPVTOP Marketplace to a new era as he takes over the head coaching position in time for the Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League (MPBL) Lakandula Cup.
The 1990 PBA Rookie of the Year, who also served as a head coach for Emilio Aguinaldo College, looks to lead his hometown team to the top of the regional league.
Team owners are confident with what Esplana can bring to the table.
"I think we will make good strides this coming season. Pumasok lang kami sa quarterfinals this coming season, we've already overachieved, but we won't be contented with that. We're going big," said co-owner Samson Lato.
Co-owner Jess Zurbito added: "Maraming pagbabago, pero asahan ng team na ang Valenzuela ay tatakbo ng maayos ngayong season."
Valenzuela had three coaching changes in the Datu Cup, from Chris Gavina and Eric Samson to Juven Formacil.
Their progress took a hit from those developments, with the team finishing 10th in the North Division with a 10-15 win-loss record.
With Esplana in charge, team captain Paolo Hubalde hopes that things will now turn for the better for Valenzuela.
"It's a matter of believing the system. For it to work, we have to believe," he said. "Last season, we had three head coaches so hopefully, (Esplana) will stick with us from start to end. Hindi lang quarterfinals kundi championship kasi yun talaga ang goal ko ever since."
Mac Andaya rejoins Valenzuela after spending the past season with Mandaluyong and Pasig.
"Dito ako mas kumportable," said the former Letran slotman. "I want to impose veteran presence and be the man in the middle."
Key holdovers for Valenzuela are Ford Ruaya, Hans Thiele, and brothers Chris and Carlo de Chavez, while newcomers include Jason Varilla and King Esplana, as well as veteran Erwin Sta. Maria and former University of the Philippines forward Rob Ricafort.
Rounding out the squad are Jerome Ortega, Jaymar Gimpayan, Marlon Kalaw, Carlo Velasco, Joshua Alcober, JR Rosales, Kido Cabrera, Raydman Lacamanto and Mel Mabigat.