Caloy Garcia ready to step out of Yeng Guiao shadow in new era for Rain or Shine
“James will play a major role in this team. He still has a few years left in him,” new Rain or Shine head coach Caloy Garcia says of new recruit James Yap. Jerome Ascano

SOMEHOW it helped Caloy Garcia to be on his own whenever he takes over for Rain or Shine in the times whenever the outspoken Yeng Guiao got ejected from games.

“Nasanay na rin naman ako,” he said of the countless of times Guiao was thrown out of the match that had him automatically taking over the coaching chores as the Elasto Painters’ top deputy.

“Ganun din naman si coach Yeng. Kalma na rin siya kasi alam niya naman kung ano na ang dapat naming gawin. Kabisado na namin yung sistema niya.”

When the PBA kicks off its 42nd season by November 20, Garcia will be at the helm of the Elasto Painters anew – this time for good.

So sudden, the former St. Benilde stalwart found himself thrust into the limelight when he was appointed head coach of Rain or Shine after Guiao took over the coaching job of NLEX.

Garcia of course, is nothing new to coaching in the pro league, having been the same man Guiao replaced when he took over the franchise in 2011.  To his credit, it was he – and not coach Yeng – who  steered Rain or Shine to its first ever semifinals stint during the 2009 Governors Cup, with burly Jai Lewis as import.

[See Beau Belga stays with Rain or Shine on three-year maximum deal]

But the young mentor is not about to deny Guiao his major contributions to a team that earned its own identity under the guidance of the many-time champion coach.

“Marami akong natutunan kay coach Yeng. He’s like a father to me, to all of us,” he said after presiding over Rain or Shine's first practice under him on Monday. “Binigyan niya ng character yung team, and made it to what Rain or Shine is today.”

Not all good things last, and Garcia knows it’s a reality he and the rest of the team will have to accept in the post-Guiao era.

ADVERTISEMENT - CONTINUE READING BELOW

Now, he has to start things over for an Elasto Painters side that additionally, lost key players in Paul Lee and JR Quinahan to trades, but gained two-time MVP James Yap and veteran big man Jay Washington in return.

“James will play a major role in this team. He still has a few years left in him,” he said of the former superstar guard of the Hotshots. “And si JayWash, hopefully, he’ll be injury-free dahil malaking tulong siya sa amin.”

[See Guiao no longer RoS coach, but he's excited to see Chan and Yap play together]

The Elasto Painters will have the core of Jericho Cruz, Raymund Almazan, Jireh Ibanes, Jeff Chan, Jewel Ponferada, Chris Tiu, sophomore Maverick Ahanmisi, and of late, big man Beau Belga back to their fold. Garcia hopes big guard Gabe Norwood would follow suit by coming to terms with management before the Philippine Cup kicks off.

As the man at the helm, Garcia has tapped former player Jolly Escobar and one-time team assistant Matthew Makalintal as part of his coaching staff.

“Jolly will be our big man’s coach, while Mat actually is making a comeback with the team,” he said of the former De La Salle stalwart, who was with them when the Elasto Painters won their very first league title in the 2012 Governors Cup.

With the legacy Guiao has left at Rain or Shine - two championships, six finals, and nine straight trips to the semifinals - is Garcia under a great deal of pressure to deliver?

“Yung pressure naman laging andiyan, even during nung time ni coach Yeng especially pag pinag-take over niya ako every time he will be thrown out,” he said. “Sanayan na lang."

Follow the writer on Twitter: @gerardmos