A wealthy Indonesian basketball executive is currently in the country to pursue the services of a smart but underrated Filipino coach.
Irawan Haryono, owner of the multi-titled Aspac team in Indonesia, showed up during the ongoing PBA playoffs in the company of former Barako Bull mentor Bong Ramos, who is being persuaded to return to the country where he made a name over a decade ago.
“I want him. I need him. I want to be champion again,” Haryono, known back in his country as ‘Boss KimHong,’ said laughing.
The soft-spoken hotel and golf course owner claimed he’s been pursuing Ramos since last year, but the former Mapua Cardinal guard was not available as he was still under contract with Barako.
“I heard he’s already available. So I am here now,” he said of Ramos, who steered Aspac to the NBL championship from 2002 to 2004.
Following his success with the team, Ramos left Indonesia and returned to the PBA as coach of FedEx Express in 2005. He led the ragtag Bert Lina franchise to consistent playoffs appearances, including a semis stint in 2011.
Asked what he likes about Ramos, a former Ginebra and Talk ‘N Text assistant coach, Haryono had a ready answer.
“I like his coaching (style). He’s very smart and everybody in my team knows him. And he can talk Bahasa (Indonesian language) for easy communication with the players and everything,” he said.
“For me, he is one of the best Filipino coaches. He’s the only Filipino coach to win a championship in Indonesia,” disclosed Haryono, a former Aspac Bank president.
The NBL is the premier basketball league in Indonesia, a predominantly football-loving country where other well-known Filipinos had coaching stints such as Frankie Lim (Stadium team), Nat Canson (Pelita Jaya), Boycie Zamar (Garuda & Aspac), Caesar Polhen (Stadium), and the late Dong Vergeire (CLS Knights).
Ramos said he is seriously considering the offer of Haryono, but remained firm in his wish of staying in the country if an offer from any of the PBA ballclub comes.
“I am still thinking (about it). I am still considering the offer. Sa ngayon kasi tinitignan ko pa, kasi mas gusto ko dito sa Pilipinas,” said Ramos, who stood at the forefront of a rebuilding Barako Bull franchise last season when it managed a sixth-place finish in the 2014 Philippine Cup.
“Syempre, mas gusto mo dito, nasa Pilipinas ka eh. Nag-offer na siya, verbal pa lang. Pero hindi pa kami nagkakasara,” he added.
“Ako kasi if given the chance, I want to stay. Yung competition kasi rito eh mas mataas, mas challenging,” said Ramos, father of former De La Salle Lady Archers guard Camille and former sportscaster Nicole.
Former Barako guard Willie Miller believes Ramos is one of the most underrated coaches in the country but has not been fortunate enough to handle a team laden with quality players.
“Hindi lang nabibigyan ng magandang break si coach Bong. Pero tignan mo naman, kahit hindi ganun kalakas team na hawak niya, nagagawan niya ng paraan,” said Miller.
“Mautak na coach yan. Magaling sa adjustment at alam niya ang gagawin niya in case may present na bagong tactic sa game ang kalaban. Mabilis ang in-game adjustments niya. Bilib ako dun,” added the two-time league MVP.
Headed by Indonesian-Filipino cager Ibrahim ‘Biboy’ Enguio, Aspac team ruled the NBL in 2013 and 2014 before losing its title to Satria Muda last season, where it failed to make the playoffs.
“Kaya siguro nila ako kinukuha ulit,” said Ramos in between laughs.