CHICAGO - Barring any unforeseen developments, Jojo Lastimosa will take over the reins at Talk N' Text for the next two conferences, multiple sources told me.
Lastimosa will guide the MVP group's flagship PBA franchise while Chot Reyes devotes all his time and energy preparing Gilas Pilipinas for the 2023 FIBA World Cup which the Philippines is co-hosting.
Sources also revealed that Lastimosa will keep his post as the team's manager.
[READ: Why Bay Area will be difficult to beat, says Cone]
The original plan was to bring in a Serbian coach to help Jolas call the shots, a move that would have been reminiscent of the 2020 arrangement when Mark Dickel acted as the active consultant to then TNT head coach Bong Ravena.
But an encore to that approach encountered stiff resistance within the ranks of the MVP group, not to mention the fear of a potential backlash from fans and the Basketball Coaches Association of the Philippines (BCAP) which view such a move as a means to circumvent a law that prohibits foreigners from coaching in the PBA.
Also factoring in the decision, sources said, is the recent turmoil that has rocked TNT's parent company, PLDT INC., where "as much as P130 billion in financial anomalies" were discovered two months ago, according to The Philippine Daily Inquirer.
While the matter continues to be investigated and a forensic accounting being conducted, there is apparently a freeze in all matters of hiring and other contract-related transactions.
TNT might not have wanted this at the outset, but this outcome looms as the best move for the embattled Tropang Giga, who despite an array of All-Stars and max players, did not make the playoffs of ongoing Commissioner's Cup where Ginebra and Bay Area are fighting for the championship.
BRINGING IN A FOREIGNER TO WHISPER PLAYS ON JOLAS' EARS WOULD HAVE BEEN AWKWARD, NOT TO MENTION DEMEANING TO A PERSON OF LASTIMOSA'S STANDING.
It's either, you trust him or you don't. And the wise bet is to hand the guy the keys.
Jojo is one of the greatest players to ever suit up in the PBA. He was Rookie of the Year in 1988, the Finals MVP in 1996, a 10-time All-Star and a 10-time PBA champion. He has also played in the national team and represented our country with equal aplomb.
Sure, he doesn't have experience as a head coach, but he has earned his dues as an assistant coach in the PBA since 2006.
Let me go out on a limb here and say Jojo will do just fine. He has a sharp basketball IQ. Most importantly, Jolas has both the knowledge and the vigor to win.
In a league where coach Johnedel Cardel drove Terrafirma Dyip to the ravine of a 1-11 record last conference and he somehow still has a job, there's got to be room for a more accomplished figure such as Lastimosa to enter the coaching fray.
Jolas, 58, has devoted his entire life to basketball. It's about time for the sport to give him the chance to share his passion and love for the game as a coach.
While it may not be permanent, a little change and a softer, kinder voice in the sidelines may just be what the doctor ordered for Talk N' Text.
Highly-acclaimed Serbian coach Nenad Vucenic is returning to the Philippines to reprise his role as consultant for the Meralco Bolts in the PBA, multiple sources told SPIN.ph.
He is set to arrive January 2, just in time for January 3 when Meralco starts team practice for the third conference.
In the aftermath of Tab Baldwin's abrupt exit as Gilas program director last February, the Samahang Basketbol Ng Pilipinas (SBP) hired Vucenic as a consultant and acted as one of coach Chot Reyes' assistants during the second window of the 2023 FIBA Asian Qualifiers.
Vucenic was also tapped as head coach when Gilas played a couple of exhibition games against Korea in the third window.
No word yet if Vucenic will also return to the SBP but sources revealed that his name is also being tossed as a possible candidate for the LaSalle coaching job.