Grateful Phoenix coach Ariel Vanguardia says Blackwater will always be 'family'
Ariel Vanguardia served as one of Leo Isaac's deputies at Blackwater before assuming the head-coaching job at Phoenix. Jaime Campos

ANTIPOLO CITY – Phoenix dealt the death blow to Blackwater in the PBA Governors Cup Wednesday night after scoring a 93-81 win at the Ynares Center here.

Fuel Masters rookie coach Ariel Vanguardia still considered the Elite as family.

“Very family oriented,” he said of the team where he once served as deputy to head coach Leo Isaac. “They embraced me when I wanted to return to the league at some point. Kasi ang feeling ko gusto kong mabalik, gusto kong ma-refresh, and they gave me the opportunity.”

Vanguardia said he’ll be forever be grateful for the opportunity given him by Blackwater team owner Dioceldo Sy, team board of governor Siliman Sy, and even Isaac himself, after working with the franchise for four straight conferences until the call from Phoenix came.

Unfortunately, he has a job to do for the Fuel Masters, who reinforced their playoff bid by notching their fifth win in nine games.

“They have a few struggles this conference, pero kita mo naman they have a fighting team. Hindi lang pinalad because of injuries and with changes in the lineup,” he said.

Vanguardia said even with him already on the other side of the fence, he still keeps in touch with officials of Blackwater. They were also among the first people he notified when he accepted the coaching job for the Fuel Masters.

“I really treat them as family,” said the coach responsible for giving the KL Malaysia Dragons their first ever Asean Basketball League (ABL) championship.

Although very familiar with the system of the Elite, Vanguardia said the seeming advantage appeared to have backfired on him.

“Mas pamilyar yata sila sa akin e,” he said laughing about his first ever encounter with his former team. “I think hindi nakatulong yung familiarity ko. Mas yung familiarity nila sa akin mas nakatulong pa sa kanila.

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“Kasi gusto ko ng run and gun, pero hindi namin nagawa at certain points of the game.”

Follow the writer on Twitter: @gerardmos