BARAKO Bull is hoping a shock coaching change can turn around its fortunes beginning on Friday when it collides with in-form San Mig Coffee in the PBA Philippine Cup at the Ynares Center in Antipolo, City.
Bong Ramos takes the unenviable task of trying to steer the Energy Cola back into playoff contention at a time when the shock over Junel Baculi's firing on Tuesday has yet to really die down.
Ramos also takes over at a time when the team, which has gone 1-4 (win-loss) in the weeks leading to Baculi's relief, has just lost its best player, Enrico Villanueva, to an ACL injury.
Worse, waiting for Ramos and the rest of the Energy Cola is a red-hot San Mig team that dealt them a 92-91 loss in a controversial finish a few weeks ago that triggered the club's tailspin.
In all, Barako Bull is mired in ninth spot with a 3-6 (win-loss) record, just above the league’s worst slate of 1-8 currently being held by GlobalPort.
“As of now, tuloy lang kami (with the system). Little adjustment lang kami kung kailangan,” Ramos told Spin.ph after the team’s practice at the Ynares Center.
Aside from finding ways to stop San Mig's armada of scorers, Ramos will also have to inspire enough people to fill the gap left by Villanueva, who went under the knife on Wednesday.
“Malaki ang shoes na iniwan ni Rico. I expect the bigs na magtulungan,” said Ramos, who will have to rely on Doug Kramer, Mick Pennisi, and rookie Dave Marcelo to defend the paint against the bigger Mixers.
San Mig edged out Barako Bull in a memorable first-round encounter that ended with Rafi Reavis tapping the ball out of the cylinder in what could have been a potential game-winning basket by Villanueva.
San Mig Coffee coach Tim Cone admits his team didn’t play particularly well during their first meeting.
“We try to push a little bit in practice because we didn’t play that well against Barako Bull,” said Cone after their 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. practice. “But we expect some guys (from Barako Bull) to step up and give them a lift especially with Enrico Villanueva now down with an injury.”
The Mixers have won their last three outings, including a 77-68 victory over the Alaska Aces on Saturday in a PBA Phoenix on Tour game in Lapu-Lapu City.
Meantime, defending champion Talk ‘N Text (7-2) tries to maintain its grip of first place when it goes up against sister team Meralco (5-3).
The two are coming off contrasting performances. The Tropang Texters are still smarting from a tough 101-104 loss to the revitalized Barangay Ginebra Gin Kings, while the Bolts are fresh from a 95-81 clobbering of the Petron Blaze Boosters.