TWO veteran coaches handling new teams lock horns as Meralco and Barako Bull clash on Wednesday in the PBA Philippine Cup at the Araneta Coliseum.
Gametime is at 4:15 p.m., with Norman Black calling the shots for Meralco and Koy Banal leading the Energy.
Black, who won the last of his 11 PBA titles in the 2013 Philippine Cup with Talk ’N Text, was shipped to Meralco in the hopes of boosting the team that didn’t have much success in four seasons under Ryan Gregorio.
But while Black was moved to the Bolts in a midyear coaching shuffle that put Meralco assistant in charge of Talk’ N Text, Barako Bull named Koy Banal chief tactician only a couple of days before the new season.
[See Uichico set to coach TNT, Black moving to Meralco as Gregorio takes new career path in MVP shuffle]
Banal succeeded Siot Tanquingcen, who handled the team only during the Governors Cup last season and through this offseason before being fired unceremoniously.
Black said he did nothing unusual in the offseason, except to harness the individual defensive energies of his players for this season.
“From the stats last year, San Mig is No. 1 in in defense, Alaska is No. 2, and Talk ’N Text was No. 3, Meralco No. 4. But what I found out immediately when I took over, was they were good on defense individually, but has not been that good as a team,” Black said.
“So I’ve been trying to take the individual talent on defense and trying to make it more of a team defense. So far, we’ve been solid in the preseason.”
Meralco won five straight games in the preseason before forcing a draw against San Miguel Beer two weeks ago.
Meantime, Banal inherited a team that only won a total of 10 games in all last season.
The positive sign was the Energy ruled a pocket tournament in the Visayas last month featuring Barangay Ginebra, Goldstar team from Davao and another Cebuano team.
Denok Miranda, one of the team’s veteran guards, said the Energy’s immediate goal is to make it to the quarterfinals, and hopefully, pull off some surprises in the playoffs.