KOY Banal has vowed to stand by Gee Abanilla as the rookie coach takes on the challenge of whipping an underachieving Petron team back into championship form.
Abanilla, recently removed as La Salle coach, has been tapped to replace Olsen Racela at Petron in a coaching shuffle among coaches of the three PBA teams under the San Miguel Corp. umbrella that has also seen Banal moving from San Mig Coffee to the Boosters side.
“I told Gee that he can ask me to do anything and I’ll be there to support him,” said Banal.
Banal said Abanilla’s transition may not be an easy one, considering that the Boosters have just learned to adjust to Racela’s system during the Commissioner’s Cup after having Rajko Toroman at the helm in an 'active' consultant role during the Philippine Cup.
Banal, too, is undergoing a period of adjustment after spending the past nine seasons as an assistant coach with the Purefoods/San Mig Coffee franchise.
“Matagal na rin ako siyempre sa San Mig, since Purefoods days pa. Nine years din ako. Pero eto ang will ng Diyos sa atin ngayon. Tatanggapin natin ito,” added Banal, who has won three PBA championships with the San Mig Coffee franchise.
With a talented core of players led by many-time top defensive player Arwind Santos, guards Alex Cabagnot, Marcio Lassiter and Chris Lutz as well as rookie big man June Mar Fajardo, Banal said the challenge now for Petron is on how to turn that talent into success on the playing court.
“Very challenging talaga ito, pero again, magandang team ito for Gee. So kami naman, we will really help him in anyway," said Banal of Abanilla, who has spent 10 seasons as an assistant at FedEx, Red Bull and San Miguel/ Petron before getting his big break.
Banal said he also has ties with the two other members of Abanilla's coaching staff, guaranteeing camaraderie.
"Si Leo (Austria) nag-abot kami nun sa PABL (Philippine Amateur Basketball League) nung 1984, tapos si Biboy (Ravanes) naman contemporary ni Joel (Banal, Koy’s brother) so maganda itong staff namin,” he said.