Joe Lipa sees Gavina potential as good college coach, vows to personally endorse him
Joe Lipa wouldn't be surprised to see former KIA coach Chris Gavina back on the sidelines with another coaching job soon. Jerome Ascano

KIA team manager Joe Lipa remained a firm believer in former coach Chris Gavina despite his abrupt exit from his post two days before the New Year.

Lipa said he has nothing but respect for Gavina’s coaching ability, so much so that he said he’s willing to endorse him to any team – especially in college – in need of a coach.

“Chris is a good coach and a great teacher of the game. His passion and work ethic are commendable that I would personally endorse him if I would be asked by a team, lalo na sa mga colleges, looking for a coach,” he said.

Of course, the veteran coach turned team executive knows where he’s coming from, having mentored the University of the Philippines in the 80s and 90s, and until today, remains the only coach to have steered the Fighting Maroons to a UAAP championship (1986).

For a while, speculations arose about Gavina likely to be considered for the head coaching job at La Salle recently vacated by Aldin Ayo.

But the rumors quickly died down after the Taft-based school named Ayo’s trusted lieutenant Louie Gonzales as his successor on the first day of 2018.

While the 38-year-old Gavina may not have succeeded in his first foray in big-time coaching, Lipa said he wouldn’t be surprised if the Fil-Am mentor would be back in the sidelines soon.

“A coach is like a teacher, too. And Chris is like that. He works very professionally. He said he’ll be going away from coaching for a while, but I know that wouldn’t be for long,” added the former national coach known for his baritone voice and the signature ‘pongala-ngala’ expression.

Gavina, who holds a chemical biology degree from Stevens Tech in Hoboken, New Jersey, said shortly upon resigning that he’ll concentrate in producing and marketing his own power drink brand called IMPAKT, which he launched late last year.

He stepped down from his coaching post after the Picanto lost their first two games in the PBA Philippine Cup in his first season as full-time head coach.

Previously, he served as the team’s lead deputy behind playing-coach Manny Pacquiao, whose frequent absence from the games had Gavina calling the shots for KIA most of the time.

In the five conferences that he called the shot from the bench, Gavina went 12-34, including the two losses this season.

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But to his credit, he managed to steer the franchise to its first and only playoffs appearance during the 2016 Governors Cup, where KIA lost to Meralco in the quarterfinals.

Meanwhile, Ricky Dandan, who succeeds Gavina, said he’ll still sit down with Lipa to talk on whether there is still a need to add one more personnel to KIA’s coaching staff following his promotion.

“I still have to consult coach Joe about the matter. We have to weigh in everything,” said Dandan, who currently has former pros Johnedel Cardel and Art dela Cruz as assistants.

Follow the writer on Twitter: @gerardmos