AT this time when NLEX is struggling in its PBA Governors Cup campaign, coach Boyet Fernandez can’t help but feel nostalgic.
The young coach admitted missing the services of his former players with ex-team Sta. Lucia Realty, where he won a championship back in the 2007-08 season.
The Realtors bagged that same year the Philippine Cup title by beating a heavily-favored Purefoods side in the best-of-seven title series behind a mix of veterans and young stars composed Marlou Aquino, Dennis Espino, Kelly Williams, and Ryan Reyes.
Aquino and Espino of course, had long retired, while Williams and Reyes still play together for Talk `N Text.
“How I wish I could have my players at Sta. Lucia. But you know, it’s probably a remote possibility,” Fernandez confided to Spin.ph shortly after the Road Warriors suffered another heartbreaker, 106-102, at the hands of Rain or Shine on Wednesday night.
But in as much as he’s longing for the services of Aquino and Co., Fernandez is aware he has to make do with the materials he has right now.
“We need those guys, Kelly and Ryan (in the team), right now. But for now, I have my players. I just have to be patient with them and make it work,” he said.
“I have no regrets whatsoever. For me, whatever is in my team, I will try to sacrifice and improve it. Hopefully we’ll get some wins and we can be consistent about it (playing and winning every game). I will be patient with my (present pool of) players and I will continue to be patient with them,” said Fernandez.
The Road Warriors tumbled to their sixth loss in eight games and in danger of missing the playoffs for the first time this season.
Asked what ails NLEX which most of the time suffers late-game meltdowns, Fernandez said the franchise as a whole remains in its infancy stage despite the presence of such veterans like Asi Taulava, Enrico Villanueva, KG Canaleta, and Mac Cardona.
“It’s more of the experience, like Rain or Shine, they are a champion team. All of the teams where we lost are champion teams or whose players are from champion ballclubs,” he pointed out.
“For us, we have to continue to learn from that (heartbreaking losses). Every time we fail, we have to get back on our feet and try to improve,” added the youthful mentor.
Fernandez admitted advancing to the next round is no longer entirely in the hands of NLEX, which is currently in a logjam at the lower half of the standings.
Still, the NLEX coach preaches the need for the Road Warriors to be resilient.
“If we just take good care of ourselves,” Fernandez lamented. “Our fate is no longer in our hands now because of the fact that we’re 2-6 (win-loss). We have to win our next three games and take it from there.”
In a way, Fernandez still sees a similarity between the Realtors and the Road Warriors that he has yet to lose hope about turning things around for NLEX.
“We can do that (Sta. Lucia feat). It’s a matter of personnel. I think I am capable of bringing back all of the things we have done with the championship I had. But it’s more of personnel. They have to accept the system,” he said.
“We have only been together for less than a year. Ten months pa lang kami. It takes time,” he added.
Fernandez also cited how Tim Cone, the most accomplished coach in the pro league today, also started from scratch with Alaska in the past.
“It takes time. Tim Cone won a championship for Alaska, but he sacrificed a little bit at the early stage of his (coaching) career, that’s also the possibility I am looking,” he said.
“Coach Tim started really bad with Alaska, but until the players accepted the triangle offense, look at what happened. He’s a champion coach, he won so many championships. For me, we just have to be patient with my players and for sure, eventually we will win,” said Fernandez.
Asked if the Road Warriors are saddled with players acting as superstars, Fernandez was quick to shake his head.
“No, no. we just have to learn from that (losses). Both players and coaches have to learn from the situation,” he said.
“I know we all wanted to win. Right now, we’re not getting it. We had a good run in the second conference. We started on the wrong foot this conference. But if you look at the situation, we are there, we just have to learn to finish,” said Fernandez.
Watch interview with Boyet Fernandez: