BY joining Barangay Ginebra, Jeffrey Cariaso has basically forfeited a shot at a second career grand slam at San Mig - 18 years after winning the 'Triple Crown' as a player with Alaska.
But 'The Jet' insisted it wasn't a hard decision to make.
“No, not really. It (leaving San Mig at the height of the team’s success) didn’t come hard for me. It’s one of the things where you gotta count your blessings,” Cariaso told Spin.ph on Tuesday night after his Ginebra debut ended in an 89-71 win over GlobalPort.
“To me this opportunity to be a head coach is a blessing and I am going to take it,” he added.
Cariaso, no doubt, was one of the key pieces in the San Mig’s compelling title run over the last three conferences, where he served as Tim Cone’s chief assistant and, in the words of his longtime mentor, the "glue guy" that kept the Mixers together.
If there was something he felt bad leaving, the 1995 Rookie of the Year said it was the San Mig players and coaches and the camaraderie they were able to build in his three years there.
“Of course, I am going to miss those guys, we really had a good chemistry going. Not just the players but the coaches also,” he said.
“But like I said, I am happy being here, happy with my blessings and I am excited to share my blessings and what I know,” Cariaso added.
“No regrets at all!”
The 41-year-old former Sonoma State University standout also vowed to do everything to bring Ginebra to the promise land - something the popular team has reached the last six years - by way of a triangle offense that has spelled success at San Mig and Alaska.
“Hopefully, we bring the championship tradition of a triangle offense here. That’s the challenge, we don’t know how it’s going to end up. But that’s the goal,” he said.
Is there pressure?
Cariaso shook his head, saying, “No pressure at all. I am not trying to follow them (Cone and Alaska coach Luigi Trillo). I am trying to be me. I am just trying to make Ginebra better on both ends of the court and that’s my goal.”
Cariaso, however, admitted he was so anxious in the days before his Ginebra debut that he wasn't able to sleep well at all.
“It feels good. I was very anxious going into the game, hindi nga ako makatulog kagabi eh. I was really excited and anxious and I am just happy that the guys came out and really, really did their best to run the triangle,” he said.
“There’s a lot to learn. We haven’t even touched on what we can really become. I just stressed chemistry and defense, 'yun medyo matagal 'yun to learn and for it to become a habit,” he said.
As it is, Ginebra hasn't even scratched the surface as far as the 'triangle' is concerned, the rookie coach said.
“We’re lucky to be at 60, 65 or 70 percent. That’s hard work pa. Malayo pa kami,” he said. “But like I told the team, next week will be better than this week, a month from now will be better. So obviously the more time we have, the better we’ll gonna be. No time frame.
“As long as these guys continue to learn everyday and get better. I am happy na!”
Cariaso is so determined to help the players grasp the new system that he is working double time. One team insider said the Gin Kings have not had a single break since the new coach came on board three weeks ago.
“Wala kaming pahinga, kasi kakapain ni coach Jeff yung may playing time sa walang playing time. Para mas mabilis na matuto ang team,” said a Ginebra source. “Wala pa kaming break since pumasok si coach Jeff sa team.”