FOR someone who’s been with Petron for 16 years both as player and coach, it was but understandable for Olsen Racela to become emotional when he finally bid the team goodbye.
Appearing briefly at the Boosters’ morning practice Wednesday, Racela failed to contain his emotions when he said his farewell piece to a team he had led as head coach for two conferences.
Racela, who came over to Petron when the team was still known as San Miguel Beer in 1997, was among those affected by the major coaching reshuffle made by the San Miguel Corp. management Tuesday as he was shipped to San Mig Coffee to become one of coach Tim Cone’s deputies.
His transfer paved the way for Gee Abanilla to assume the head coaching job of the Boosters.
“Kanina mataas pa ang emotions eh. Medyo emotional siya (Racela) kanina,” recalled Abanilla of the moment when Racela made his farewell speech to the players, some of which were his former teammates.
“Then si DI (Danny Ildefonso naging emotional na rin), tapos lahat sila nahawa na after DI,” added the new Petron coach.
San Miguel Corp. basketball operations head and current PBA chairman Robert Non was also present during Racela’s final day with the team at the Acropolis gym in Quezon City.
Abanilla, who served as Racela’s top assistant this season, said until the official announcement came out, he really felt awkward about the situation.
“It was really an awkward situation. First, I explained to everyone that I didn’t know anything about that (coaching change). Pinaka-ayaw ko eh `yung tingin nila (players) na I’m in cahoots against Olsen,” explained the soft-spoken former De La Salle guard.
“I was very transparent to Olsen before this happened. There was a time, tawag ng tawag sa akin ang ilang mga reporters. Eh di ko sinasagot kasi, ano naman isasagot ko? I was thinking, less talk, less mistakes,” he added.
Now thrust in the spotlight, Abanilla spent his first day on the job talking to the players one on one as he tried to get everyone on the same page, especially since he’ll be dealing with a collection of individuals which has gone through four coaching changes in less than two seasons.
“I still have to fix a lot of things. Emotions and the mental aspect of the game, especially since this is gonna be a transition period,” he said.
“Parang bata iyan eh, who has gone through different yayas. It’s gonna be difficult for the players and of course, for management. Lahat naman tayo gusto manalo eh,” added Abanilla, who is expected to work closely with former Indonesia Warriors coach Todd Purves soon.
Purves, the American mentor who led the Warriors to the Asean Basketball League title last season and a runner-up finish behind San Miguel Beer recently, will be joining the team in a few weeks’ time to serve as Petron’s active consultant.