LONGTIME Kuala Lumpur Dragons coach Ariel Vanguardia is the latest addition to the coaching staff of expansion team Blackwater, which has also recently welcomed former Ginebra forward Chito Loyzaga as consultant.
Vanguardia's arrival is expected to bring a lot of experience to the young coaching staff of Blackwater, which went without a win under head coach Leo Isaac in the season-opening PBA Philippine Cup and is in danger of another early exit with only two wins to show in the ongoing Commissioner's Cup.
Vanguardia, however, made it clear that he is not after the Blackwater head-coaching job, saying he is happy to settle for a supporting role to Isaac as he is still very much connected to his KL Dragons team in the Asean Basketball League which he has been coaching since the ABL’s inception in 2010.
The youthful-looking former Mobiline Phone Pals (now Talk 'N Text) mentor vowed that will never he pursue the position of Isaac, who has always trusted him as a lieutenant going back to their days at Barako Bull in 2009.
“Walang dapat ikatakot si Coach Leo sa pagpasok ko sa team na ito. Very much with the KL Dragons ako, so hindi ko balak agawan siya ng pwesto rito,” said Vanguardia.
“Symbiotic relationship ang stint ko rito sa Blackwater. More on scouting ako ng imports at Asian players na gagamitin sa third conference, tapos sa KL team ko scouting rin ako ng mga Filipino players, andun pa rin ako. Happy pa rin ako run. Ayaw kong iwan yun ng basta-basta,” he said.
The former De La Salle Green Archers Team B guard will be part of the Blackwater coaching staff during ABL offseason. The sixth season of the Indonesia-based regional basketball tournament is slated to open on the last week of July.
Vanguardia said annual trips to the NBA Summer League have given him an edge in the scouting department.
“Yun siguro ang isang maipagmamalaki ko, kasi well travelled ako sa Asia tapos sa US, frequent visitor rin ako at observer ng mga Summer Leagues kaya dun ako sa aspect na 'yun makakatulong sa Blackwater,” said Vanguardia, who admitted approaching Elite team owner Dioceldo Sy to apply for the job.
Vanguardia said he has the consent of his big bosses in KL for his new role with Blackwater.
“I am forever in their debt. Sobrang bait sa akin ng management ng Dragons and I am happy that all these years, their faith in me is unquestionable,” he said.
Asked if he can bring his top Dragon player Moala Tautuaa to Blackwater next season since the high flying Fil-Tongan wingman is set to join the PBA rookie draft, Vanguardia can only shake his head.
“Wala kami sa top picks eh. Pero we will find ways para makahanap ng best available man sa aming draft pick,” he said, pointing out that Blackwater has already traded places with Talk 'N Text for its first pick in the coming rookie draft.
With Blackwater expected to pick in the bottom half of the first round, Vanguardia believes that they can still find quality talent.
“Maraming papasok na players sa coming draft, isa na run yung gwardya ko sa KL Dragon na si Avory Scharer. Pag umabot sa amin, kaya naman 'yun. Combo guard yun, magandang pang tandem kay (Brian) Heruela,” he said.
As for the chances of Blackwater finally making its presence felt in the pro league, Vanguardia said patience and maturity is necessary as the expansion franchise gets its feet wet.
“Kaya naman 'yun. Kilala naman sa kanilang championship pedigree ang Blackwater, sila boss Dio (Sy) dati nang nag-champion sa PBL at D-League 'yan. So they know the path to victory,” said Vanguardia.