RAIN or Shine coach Caloy Garcia admitted he could’ve inserted James Yap back earlier than at the time he recalled him late in the team’s 94-89 loss to Alaska on Wednesday night that left them in a must-win situation to catch the last bus to the PBA Philippine Cup playoffs.
At a time when Yap was starting to heat up after knocking down the triple that gave RoS a seven-point lead with a little over seven minutes left, Garcia surprisingly sent the E-Painters star back to the bench just two possessions later for sophomore Maverick Ahanmisi.
Yap only came back with a one minute and 15 seconds left when the Aces were already up by four and on the way to stealing the game.
The E-Painters never recovered, leaving them to go through a playoff against Blackwater on Friday night for the last postseason spot.
“He was playing good na and nakita ko kasi yung senyas na parang humihingi siya ng sub or something,” Garcia explained to SPIN.ph over the phone a day after the loss.
“Then he said naman na, ‘Hindi, okay naman ako coach,’ pero everybody was saying na medyo pagod na rin, kasi even though he was scoring, ina-atake pa rin siya (sa depensa), so I think we did a good job in subbing him.
“Pero siguro, I could’ve put him back earlier,” he admitted. “But yun nga, we have to trust each other – yun lang ang sinasabi ko lagi sa mga players, there’s no such thing as a perfect game for us or anybody; we commit mistakes. Pero at the end of the day, it’s just how the players would react in a situation.”
“I take full responsibility naman for those decisions, so we just have to find ways to win and work harder,” the young coach continued.
In his first year as a full-pledged head coach, Garcia said he is still in the process of trying to find a balance between needing to field a veteran presence down the stretch and wanting his young guns to get used to pressure-packed situations.
“Siguro, as a coach, maybe I learned my lesson to trust more on the veterans when it comes to the endgame, kasi parang yun yung nawawala sa amin, but at the same time, I also trust the players who were there before and gave us a championship,” Garcia said. “So that’s the dilemma that we get in my position.”
“I trust everybody, so probably I should leave at least a veteran player in James or Jay-Wash inside the game in those situations,” he added.
Garcia bared he had a talk with James Yap and fellow veteran acquisition Jay Washington during practice on Thursday.
“Maganda naman ang sinabi nila sa akin na they trust naman my decisions,” Garcia said. “Maganda rin mga insights nila na I also have to learn from this.”
“So I think it’s just a matter of getting our act together,” he added. “I think being on the same page, nandyan na kami eh. Ang ano lang talaga namin is finding the right pieces at the end, kasi yun nga, our losses are mostly coming at the end.”
They can’t afford another late collapse on Friday night when they take on the Elite at 7 p.m. with winner earning the right to face top seed and twice-to-beat San Miguel Beer in the playoffs.
Facing a daunting task in his bid for a first playoff appearance since taking over the coaching reins from Yeng Guiao, Garcia made light of the tough situation Rain or Shine is in.
“Actually gusto namin San Miguel kalaban (kaya hindi kami makapasok agad sa playoffs),” Garcia joked at the end of the conversation.