ROBERT Jaworski is one of the best situational Filipino coaches the pro league has ever seen.
So said Leo Isaac, the likely coach of PBA expansion team Blackwater Sports who played the best years of his pro career under Jaworski under the fabled Ginebra teams of the eighties and early nineties.
“Iba ang dating ni coach Sonny. Kasi in almost every situation, alam niya kung ano ang dapat gawin. Kasi most of the time, galing na siya sa ganung sitwasyon,” Isaac told Spin.ph.
“Kaya andami naming games na talo na, naipapanalo pa,” he added.
The former Mapua star recalled how the Big J would always give the team motivational lines to lift the players’ spirit especially whenever they are down.
“'Pag 'yung Jaworski ang nagsalita, ibang-iba. Makikinig ka at talagang titibay ang loob mo,” said Isaac, who was thankful to get the breaks at Ginebra starting in his rookie year in 1986.
“That time, Great Taste nag-draft sa akin nung 1985. Fifth overall ako, kaso di ako pumirma kasi limited lang playing minutes ko dun. The following year, kinuha ako ni coach Sonny. Dun na nagsimula lahat,” said the Ginebra shooting guard known for clutch shooting and tough defense.
During the Big J’s stint with the league’s most popular team, Isaac said scouting and video viewing were still not part of game preparations.
“Laro lang talaga kami noon. Pero 'yung Jaworski, alam niya ang gagawin. Kilalang-kilala niya ang kilos ng kalaban at mga players ng kabila,” said the 6-foot-2 guard from Project 6, Quezon City.
“Individually, scouted niya 'yung mga players, 'yung mga kalaban.”
Asked if Jaworski can still match up with the new breed of PBA coaches in the event he attempts a comeback with Ginebra, Isaac quickly replied, “Oo naman. Kaya niya. Maraming tatalunin.”
“Yung latter part namin sa Ginebra, meron ng scouting, may viewing na. Pero pag nagsalita ang Jaworki matamis ang dila, makikinig ka talaga. Tignan mo yung Gilas,” said Isaac, referring to Jaworski’s pep talk to Gilas a few days before last year’s Fiba-Asia Men’s Championship where the national team finished a surprise runner-up.
“Maski ikaw 'pag kinausap ka, malilimutan mo pangalan mo dahil magaling mag-salita at mag-motivate. May charisma,” he said. “May pinanggalingan kasing basketball pride si coach Sonny.”
Eighteen years after playing for Jaworski, Isaac admitted trying to emulate the Big J’s motivational power and coaching style.
“Yes I try to be like him on some occasions, especially when our team is down,” said the current Blackwater Sports coach in the PBA D-League. “Was it my inspiration when I led Blackwater Sports to the championship of the last D-League Foundation Cup? I can say yes.
“'Yung natutunan ko kay Jaworski, sine-share ko rin sa mga players ngayon. Yung ibang players ko nagtatanong, ‘Paano ba mag-coach si Jawo?’ Ang sagot ko: ‘Yung mga sinasabi ko sa inyo ngayon, `yung iba galing kay Jawo,'” he laughed.
Apart from Blackwater’s upset of powerhouse NLEX in the D-League Finals, Isaac also pulled off another Jaworski-esque title conquest during the 1998 season of the defunct Philippine Basketball League (PBL) when he steered underdog Dr. J Alcohol to the championship over pro-bound Tanduay Rhum.