REIGNING PBA MVP Mark Caguioa may be frustrated with Barangay Ginebra's struggles and may not be entirely happy with how predictable some of the Kings' plays have become, but he insisted that his support and respect for coach Siot Tanquingcen has never wavered.
“Siya (Tanquingcen) ang leader namin, so kung di kami makikinig sa sistema niya, then mas lalong walang mangyayari. Ako naman di naman ako puwedeng maging against kay coach, you can’t just be disrespecting him," Caguioa told Spin.ph on Thursday at the end of the Kings' practice at the Xavier School in San Juan.
The acknowledged face of the Ginebra franchise spoke in the midst of a perplexing struggle that has seen the Kings, one of the teams that made the biggest gains in the offseason at least on paper, lose five straight games after a 2-0 start, piling up the pressure on veteran coach Tanquingcen.
Caguioa admitted that he feels some of the team's plays have become too predictable. He added the revamped squad is still in a 'feeling-each-other-out' period, compounding the problems on offense.
“You can say that we’re predictable kasi alam ng ibang team kung ano tatakbuhin namin. I guess, madali (kaming) bantayan, puwede nating sabihin," said the Ginebra star. "(Kapag napigil ka), di mo naman puwedeng ipasa sa kabilang side, kasi halos lahat, walang gumagalaw.
“So iyung play talaga ang problema. Yung time na natatalo kami, everyone was still figuring out and learning to play with each other. Everyone is just starting to feel the game with each other,” he added.
Caguioa believes big guys like Billy Mamaril, Rico Maierhofer and Fil-Ams Chris Ellis, and Keith Jensen need to assert themselves more inside, especially during the times when opposing defenses start switching and focusing on proven scorers like LA Tenorio and him.
“If they (opponents) start switching, ngayon kailangan mga bigs namin mas active dapat,” said the third pick overall of the 2001 rookie draft.
Caguioa, however, made it clear he is not in any way going against his longtime coach.
“I’ve been with him for a long time na, since 2004. First time ako nag champion sa kanya … I’m still standing by his side,” he said.
Caguioa said one admirable quality of Tanquingcen is that he keeps an open mind and listens to the players, describing his coach as a "learner."
"Nakikinig naman siya eh. He’s asking all the players, ‘Ano sa tingin ninyo,’ and when we have suggestions, he’s listening because he wants the team to get better. Iyun naman ang gusto ng mga players eh,” Caguioa said.
Caguioa now hopes Ginebra can replicate a memorable turnaround the team achieved back in 2004 during Tanquingcen's first season as a coach.
'The Spark' recalled that the Gin Kings also went 0-5 after Tanquingcen took over from Allan Caidic. But after making the necessary adjustments, the crowd favorites pulled off an improbable run to the playoffs on the way to winning the Fiesta Conference championship via 3-1 victory over Red Bull in the Finals.
“Hopefully magawa namin yung nagawa namin noon … when we turned things around. We went down 0-5 but at least 2-5 naman kami ngayon," Caguioa said.
Ginebra gets a golden opportunity to reverse its slide on Friday when it plays Globalport - one of the few teams with a worse record than the Kings. But Caguioa warned that they can't take any team lightly.
"Ngayon lahat ng teams, maski sabihin mo ganun lang ang record ng Global, they got great players like Gary David, Willie Miller, ang mga rookies nila magagaling rin,” said Caguioa, who is turning 33 this November 19.