RIGHT after Barangay Ginebra started its 2014 PBA Governors Cup’ campaign last Sunday with an 89-71 rout of GlobalPort at the Smart Araneta Coliseum, I quickly researched then posted one trivia on my Twitter account: that it was the Kings’ largest win for their first game of a conference since last season’s Philippine Cup when they routed, ironically, the same Batang Pier team, 110-90, in the season-opening game, spoiling GlobalPort’s debut in the pro league.
Then it got me thinking. I wondered if Jeffrey Cariaso’s 18-point win in his very first game as PBA head coach was of any significance.
I mean, isn’t the triangle offense supposed to be hard to teach? But here come Cariaso and Barangay Ginebra winning by 18 points, just a couple of weeks into learning the intricacies of an offensive system that won for the Kings’ new head coach most of his combined 13 championships as a player and assistant coach under Cone and Chot Reyes.
I wanted to know who was the last official PBA head coach whose team won by at least 18 points right in his very first game on the job in the league, behind the triangle offense or whatever system he had in place.
I was up until the wee hours of the following morning scrounging my files and other PBA references. After a couple of hours of sleep, some other work and Game Two of the Miami vs. Indiana series in the NBA, I continued my search for an answer.
To no avail.
Well, I still wasn’t able to find the results of the first games as head coaches of Norman Black and Derick Pumaren in the mid-eighties. But of the 42 head-coaching debuts representing what I believe should be more than 90 percent of those who were head coaches in the PBA since the 1990s, no one came close to Cariaso’s 18-point win.
Fact is, believe it not, only EIGHT head coaches out of those 42, Cariaso included, led their teams to a victory in their very first game on the job – or just 19 percent.
Prior to Cariaso, the head coach on that list which had the biggest winning margin in his PBA head coaching debut was Perry Ronquillo whose Shell team routed Sta. Lucia 82-70 at the start of their campaign in the 1998 All-Filipino Cup at the Cuneta Astrodome.
The six others on my list who won their very first games as PBA head coach? The late Ely Capacio with Purefoods in the 1991 All-Filipino Conference, Louie Alas with Mobiline in the 2000 Commissioner’s Cup, Ryan Gregorio with Purefoods in the 2002 Governors’ Cup, Leo Austria also with Shell in the 2004 Fiesta Conference, Bo Perasol with Air21 in the 2005-06 Fiesta Conference, and Ato Agustin with San Miguel Beer in the 2011 Philippine Cup.
My list of 42 even includes American coaches Bill Bayno and Paul Woolpert who at one time handled Talk ‘N Text, and the late John Moran of Shell, as well as coaching greats Sonny Jaworski, Tommy Manotoc and Baby Dalupan. They also lost in their PBA head coaching debuts.
But the most telling of all, Cone, the most successful coach in league history with 17 championships and Cariaso's longtime mentor, also lost in his debut as PBA head coach.
I know it’s a long ways to go for Cariaso’s very promising head coaching career and it’s just one game. But if only for that trivia, you can take a bow, Jeff.