AS he makes the big jump from coaching young amateurs to calling the shots in the pros, new Petron coach Olsen Racela is banking on the knowledge and experience of newly designated assistant coach Rajko Toroman to help him in the transition.
“Honestly, it is easier to deal with young players compared to the pros,” Racela told Spin.ph on Tuesday, shortly after running team practice together with former Smart Gilas coach Toroman.
The pro league is a whole new ball game for Racela, who for the past two years had handled receptive and impressionable young players under the Philippine youth program and as Petron coach is now basically dealing with 14 different egos and personalities.
Racela also acknowledged that the technical side of the game is also very different in the pros, which he handled with ease as a player but looks entirely different now that he is calling the shots.
“I’m still new to coaching. And basically, Coach Rajko is bringing with him his experience in coaching. And I’m learning from him, especially when it comes to paying attention to details,” said Racela of the Serb, who has been named assistant coach after holding the position of consultant the past season.
“Mula angle ng screen at saan dapat mag-screen tinuturo niya. Akala ko dati basta maka-screen ka lang okay na,” said Racela, who is turning 41 this November 1.
Racela said he appreciates Toroman’s new role in the team because his workmanlike attitude is somehow rubbing off on the all the Petron players after spending more than two weeks together in practice.
“It’s the discipline part that Coach Rajko has brought into the team that’s really important. Oftentimes kasi, people think when they reach this (professional) level, they can relax. But now, we want everyone to be consistent all throughout -- players, coaches and even utilities," Racela said.
“We keep telling the players na they can do anything they want before and after practice, pero kapag practice na namin for two hours, amin kayo. Makinig sila at sundin yung gagawin namin sa practice,” said Racela, an integral part of Petron’s (then known as San Miguel Beer) eight PBA championships from 1999 to 2011.
With a team loaded with talent that many felt was under-harnessed last season, Racela said one of his main jobs now is to ensure his players — from the starters down to the 14th man — get involved in the Boosters' bid to get back in the winning circle in the coming season.
Racela inherited from Ato Agustin a talent-loaded squad, beefed up even further this offseason with the addition of top rookie picks June Mar Fajardo and Alex Mallari.
“The system we put together for the team is something we constantly explained to the players. Kinausap namin sila and told them what their specific roles are,” added Racela.
From this point on, Racela said Petron’s battle cry will be, “Do everything for the team.”
“We’re aiming to be sharper and more solid as a team starting this season. Ever since the time of coach Ron (Jacobs), this has been a team that is noted for executing very well during games. So basically, ganun ang gusto naming mangyari ngayong season,” added Racela.
"We want everyone to understand that they play not for themselves but for the team."