ANOTHER lackluster San Miguel Beer campaign has sparked a clamor for yet another shuffle of the team's coaching staff, and one familiar name is rising to the top.
After an underachieving season that saw a talent-laden Beermen side make the semifinals just once and tumble out at the quarterfinal stage twice, fans online have piled pressure on active consultant Todd Purves who has taken a lot of flak for the latest misstep of a once proud team.
Three names have contantly cropped up in online discussions on who the next San Miguel coach should be: Franz Pumaren, former Alaska coach Luigi Trillo, and, curiously, Gee Abanilla, who was demoted to team manager when Purves was tasked to take control of the team this season.
Of the three, however, Pumaren's name has drawn a lot of buzz, which is undertandable.
Franz afterall happens to be a former San Miguel player from the team's glory days in the eighties, and is in fact one of the most successful among the former Beermen stars who transitioned to coaching.
Pumaren is also coming off an impressive year as coach of Air21, which he has transformed from a perennial cellar-dweller into a league darkhorse in the three years that he has built the team from scratch.
Also, the uncertainty of Pumaren's status at Air21 after the company's admission of ongoing negotiations for the sale of the ballclub to NLEX/ Metro Pacific Investments Inc. has led to calls for the former back-up guard to return to the team where he was part of the 1989 grand slam team.
Pumaren, though, refused to comment on the fans' calls, saying he is still Air21 coach until his contract expires at the end of August. There are also questions on the status of the Pumarens' relationship with the SMC organization under the leadership of Ramon S. Ang.
Here's a video of a poll among San Miguel fans:
But former Beerman Joseph Yeo believes his former La Salle coach and now Express mentor has what it takes to lead San Miguel back to the path of success.
“Okay si coach Franz. Kaya niyang ilabas ang laro ng mga players dun,” said Yeo, who played for San Miguel during its Petron days before being traded to Air21 for Mark Isip.
“Marunong kasi siyang makisama, alam niya ang style kung paano i-approach ang player. Pag may attitude, hinihigpitan niya. Pag tulad ni Asi (Taulava) na may edad na pinapakisamahan niya.”
Yeo also marveled at Pumaren's seamless transition from collegiate to pro coaching. “Nakita ko yung evolution niya from a college coach to a PBA mentor. Magka-iba kasi' yun eh. Pero maayos na nag-adjust si coach Franz from the two roles. Alam niya ang ginagawa niya.
“Galing ako ng San Miguel, alam ko na kaya niya hawakan yun (San Miguel players). Kaya niya kunin respeto ng tao run. Tingin ko yun ang kulang sa San Miguel, kita mo yung San Mig, nung pumasok si Tim Cone, may respeto agad.”
Former SMB great Nelson Asayton echoed Yeo’s sentiment.
“Pwede 'yan si coach Franz dyan (San Miguel). Dati pa siyang player dun,” said Asaytono, who led the Beermen during a period of transition from the Mon Fernandez/ Allan Caidic/ Hec Calma years to the era of the two Dannys, namely Ildefonso and Seigle.
“Pwede rin akong mag-assistant sa kanila ha. Willing akong magturo sa mga big men nila. Malay mo makatulong tayo at ma-i-share ang ibang nalalaman natin.”
Asaytono, however, warned that bringing in Pumaren or any other coach to lead a star-studded San Miguel roster won't mean instant success for the ballclub.
“Coach Franz, magaling na coach 'yan. Pero hindi natin masabi kung mababaligtad niya ang kapalaran ng San Miguel,” said Asaytono.
“Nasa pagpapasunod kasi ng player yan eh. Yung pagdisiplina kasi sa player, sa disiplina 'yan. Dapat makuha mo respeto ng players. Yung part na 'yun ang crucial,” he said.
Here are some fans reactions to an unofficial poll by Spin.ph: