IF there is anyone who understands what Petron coach Olsen Racela is going through these days, it should be his former coach Jong Uichico.
Uichico can easily relate to what his former player is experiencing, having been in more or less the same situation during his final days in close to three decades with the San Miguel basketball organization.
“Nung time ko ganyan din halos. Wala naman akong magawa, walang nag-co-confirm or nag de-deny. I just go on and do my job,” said Uichico, recalling his ordeal before he decided to move to Meralco as consultant.
“I just waited for official announcement from management.”
Uichico worked for the SMC Group for close to three decades and served as head coach of San Miguel from 1999 to 2006, a stretch that saw him steer the Beermen to seven PBA championships with Racela at point guard.
Later on, he was transferred to Barangay Ginebra and coached the Kings to two titles, including the 2008 Fiesta Conference which turned out to be the final title romp of the league’s most popular team.
It was downhill for Uichico from there.
His coaching career hit rock bottom when he was relegated as deputy to former apprentice and good friend Siot Tanquingcen prior to the start of the 2011-12 season.
Asked what he felt at that time, the former national team coach cracked up and said, “Ang hirap ng tanong na `yun. Nakalimutan ko na. Kinalimutan ko na `yun (pakiramdam nun).”
But Uichico did not hesitate to give words of wisdom to Racela, his chief playmaker during those championship run with the Beermen, and whose reign as Petron coach is uncertain amid reports that former Indonesia Warriors coach Todd Purves is set to come in as an 'active' consultant.
“Just do your job and learn from whatever will come. At habang wala pang development, focus ka lang sa work. Do the best you can,” said Uichico.
“And if the unexpected happens, do your job pa rin. Strive to improve so when given another opportunity, you’ll be ready,” he added.
Uichico considers Racela as one of the best point guards he ever handled.
“Okay si Olsen, siya `yung parang coach ko inside the court noon. He relays my thoughts to the other players on the court,” said Uichico.
“ I saw potential in him (to become a good coach). Ang nangyari lang, napaaga ng kaunti. Hindi siya nabigyan ng time to be mentored or work under a head coach where he will learn as an assistant. He never a had chance like that.”
Asked if a coching change will compel Racela to likewise leave SMC and join him in the MVP Group, Uichico gave an honest answer.
“It’s not me who has the say. He has to go through the proper channels,” said Uichico. “I have no say here in Meralco."
Talk `N Text board representative Ricky Vargas was also asked about the possibility since Racela’s brother, Nash, is one of the assistant coaches of the Tropang Texters.
Vargas said he’s not closing the doors on having Olsen in their fold, but maintains the same position taken by Uichico of having to go through the proper channel.
“If it happens, and if we require new personnel, we will evaluate it kasi kumpleto na rin kami ng coaches eh di ba?” said Vargas.