YENG Guiao, the champion coach, is at it again.
After uttering the now classic line `we will win this series with or without Paul Lee’ in the midst of the touch-and-go Governors Cup Finals against B-Meg, Guiao dared to make another bold declaration after the Painters wrapped up a first-ever PBA championship.
And this time, everybody is taking notice.
“I feel the potential of this team is not at its maximum right now,” said Guiao. “They’ll still get better. Other teams are going to get older as we peak, so really the timing and design of this team is good at this point.”
The Elasto Painters, who became just the fourth team after Royal Tru-Orange, Red Bull, and Coca-Cola to win a championship in its maiden Finals stint, have the youngest team in the league right now. Their oldest player is skipper Jireh Reyes at 30, with Lee the youngest at 23.
But being young and inexperienced were two factors which Guiao felt worked against them in the best-of-seven titles series, the reason why even in victory, he still can’t fully grasp how his underdog team was able to beat a battle-scarred and talented opponent like the Llamados.
‘I just don’t know how we beat a team like B-Meg, with a future Hall of Famer coach, superstars, a champion team, a great organization. They have the experience, the depth,” said Guiao, who won his sixth PBA championship, but first in the last six years.
“I just don’t know how we beat them. Hindi ko pa maarok hanggang ngayon.”
Looking back, the 53-year-old Guiao, who’s also the vice governor of Pampanga, said not even a single factor favored the Elasto Painters going to their first Finals stint.
That was until the shocking 91-80 win they essayed in the series opener.
“The only advantage we had in this series was that probably we just got into their heads,” said Guiao, recalling how B-Meg players showed up in their pre-game shirts that had the words `Only Tough Guys Need Apply’ printed in bold letters at the back.
“And then two hours later, they were saying we were too physical,” added the Rain or Shine mentor.
“I just felt we had gotten to their heads and just took advantage of that. I just rubbed it in and gave our guys some confidence that we have gotten into the opponents' head at that point.”
When Lee went down with a dislocated shoulder in Game Two, Guaio became even bolder with words that made the Elasto Painters believe that they can win it all without their best player in the lineup.
“After Game Six I thought if I was going to be a fool now, it doesn’t matter,” said the outspoken coach, recalling how B-Meg came back from the depths of a 1-3 deficit to force a deciding Game Seven.
“I’m just happy after six years for the franchise and after six years for myself, at least I know how it feels to be a champion again.”