RAIN or Shine mentor Caloy Garcia isn’t the first coach who had to face the sudden disappearance of star big man Raymond Almazan.
Back in the 2012 season of the NCAA, current Phoenix head coach Louie Alas faced the same problem when coaching the 6-foot-7 beanpole during their time at Letran.
Almazan, already a critical piece in Alas’ solid Letran team, went AWOL for overa month and missed seven games in the eliminations but returned just in time to steer Letran to a finals appearance while getting a Defensive Player of the Year accolade.
When dealing with an enigmatic player like Almazan, Alas believes that it’s all about honesty.
“Kay Raymond, kailangan maging sincere ka lang sa kanya,” Alas told SPIN.ph in a phone conversation on Monday. “I’m not saying hindi sincere si Caloy (Garcia) ah, pero whatever yung sinasabi mo sa management kailangan ganun din ang sinasabi mo sa kanya.
"Very direct na tao yan si Raymond, nagsasabi yan kung anong nararamdaman niya, so kailangan maging sincere ka sa kanya,” he added.
Alas said that it wasn’t easy regaining Almazan’s trust and it took the help of the people closest to the Orion, Bataan native to win back his trust and confidence.
Alas said he sought the help of his former player at Letran and Almazan’s cousin, Kerby Raymundo, to re-establish communication lines again between Letran and the big man and it started from there.
“Hinanap ko talaga 'yan noon. Nagpatulong din ako kay Kerby (Raymundo). Kinausap namin siya, nagpatulong na rin ako sa wife niya, pati sa wife ko and kila Kevin (Alas) at Junjun (Alas), kasi magbabarkada lahat yan e,” Alas said.
“Eventually naging maayos naman, muntik pa nga kami (mag-champion) noon, nadali lang nung Game One,” he added, referring to the stinging loss to rival San Beda in the NCAA Finals.
The 55-year old mentor said that he doesn’t want to interfere in Almazan and Rain or Shine's affairs, but insisted that his doors are open to Almazan if he wants to talk - not as a coach, but as a friend and a father figure.
“Now hindi pa kami naguusap, ayoko rin kasi pakialaman kasi alam naman na ni Raymond yung ginagawa niya. Pero if ever, bakit hindi, di ba?” Alas said.
“Parang anak ko na rin yan si Raymond, three to four years kong nakasama 'yan with Letran, Hindi spoiled sa amin yan si Raymond. Lagi kong napapagalitan yan noon, pero pag maganda naman ang ginagawa, napupuri din.
"Basta kailangan maging totoo ka lang sa kanya.”