GEE Abanilla marks his first PBA semifinal stint as a coach by pitting wits against no less than his former mentor.
Top seed Petron goes up against defending Governors Cup champion Rain or Shine in a best-of-five semifinal series whose main sub plot revolves around the coaching match-up between Abanilla and Yeng Guiao.
The two won championships together with Barako Bull in the past until eventually parting ways when Abanilla became one of the deputies in the stable of the San Miguel Group of Companies prior to his appointment as head coach of the Boosters at the start of the conference.
Now, they’ll try to win a title at the expense of each other.
The respect for Guiao will always be there, according to Abanilla, who nonetheless feels excited to go up against the fiery Rain or Shine coach.
“Going up against this guy in the semifinals is a challenge. You don’t know what to expect,” said Abanilla shortly after Petron ousted seventh-seed Barangay Ginebra in their quarterfinal playoff that made the semifinals showdown with Rain or Shine possible.
The former De La Salle guard admitted having learned a lot from Guiao during his long stint as main assistant of the multi-titled coach, with whom he kept his friendship despite the two of them now belonging to different ballclubs.
“It’s really hard to quantify kung ano `yung natutunan ko (kay coach Yeng). But I would say this, I learned a lot from coach Yeng, I know for a fact that his leadership skill is very high, and I really appreciate that, and I really admire that.”
The Boosters beat the Elasto Painters, 99-84, in their only meeting this conference. Petron’s win snapped Rain or Shine’s streak after a 2-0 start.
But Abanilla said that would hardly matter now.
“It really has less meaning now because this is the playoff. It’s gonna be the semis, we just have to be prepared for what they’ll gonna do,” said the Petron coach.
“They’re a tough team, a very well-coached team, they have good players, and our work is cut out for us.”