GILBERT Lao and Aris Dimaunahan have been teammates going back to their days with University of Santo Tomas in 1997 and again with Blu Detergent in the now defunct Philippine Basketball League (PBL).
So it was no surprise that Lao was the first person Dimaunahan called when the latter became the interim coach of Blackwater, setting the stage for a reunion in the same Ever Bilena franchise where they started their PBL career.
“Of course, sobrang saya dahil basically, parang full circle na ako,” said Lao. “From my former boss, former teammates, ngayon nagko-coach. Umikot na mundo ko. Sila na naman ang pinagseservan ko.”
A former assistant coach with Far Eastern University in the UAAP and with TNT in the PBA, the 40-year-old Lao said he got a call from Dimaunahan when he was about to be named as interim coach of the squad.
“To be honest, I didn’t apply for it at first pero when I was on vacation, nasa States ako, coach Aris called me up na if ever magkaroon ng chance na may opening, for sure, ‘yung pangalan ko mauuna doon,” said Lao.
Lao said he is very close with Dimaunahan, who is even his ‘kumpare.’
“That’s way back in UST, 1997 pa lang, magkasama kami. We really work as a team. Walang hiya-hiya. I can say whatever I want, he can say whatever he wants. We are best together,” said Lao.
Aside from Dimaunahan, Lao was also former teammates with Pat Aquino, the Gilas Pilipinas Women head coach who is also the team manager of Blackwater.
“Hinahanap ko nga ‘yung picture namin for throwback na tatlo kami nandoon,” said Lao.
As head of scouting and defensive coach, the former UST center is immediately making an impact as the Elite’s defense has kept them unbeaten in the first three games of the Commissioner’s Cup.
Like Dimaunahan, Lao said he is determined to see a change in culture at Blackwater.
“Coach Aris brought me in to do the scouting. Ako ang ginawang head of scouting and they made me a defensive coach. I’m not taking all the credit na finally, Blackwater is finally playing defense. ‘Yun ang gusto naming iimplement, ‘yung mindset, ‘yung culture change, ‘yun ang unti-unti naming binabago sa Blackwater. And I think it’s showing,” said Lao.