PETRON Blaze head coach Olsen Racela has confirmed that former national coach Rajko Toroman is no longer part of the team, saying it was "management's decision" to relieve the Serb from his role as consultant.
"As a coach, I don't really have control over what management will do or say. They've been there for a long time, so whatever they do, I'm sure they will do what's for the best interest of the team," Racela told Spin.ph shortly after the team's practice at the Acropolis gym in Quezon City.
The longtime point guard-turned-coach said he called Toroman upon learning from management that the former Smart Gilas coach was no longer part of the team, putting a quick end to an experiment that had seen the two combining on the bench in a student-mentor setup.
San Miguel Corp. is not expected to make any formal announcement on the change since Toroman still has a live contract with the company and may be moved into another role in another team under the SMC umbrella. One such option is the San Miguel team in the Asean Basketball League.
"I called him (Toroman) pero I don't really know what his plans are. Management offered him a coaching role at ABL but I don't know what is in his mind," added Racela, who replaced Ato Agustin as Petron coach beginning this season.
Racela said he won't be making any major change as far as the team's system is concerned, considering that they only have two days to prepare for Globalport, which Petron faces Friday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Chris Lutz, one of Petron's top gunners, said he was surprised to learn on Wednesday that Toroman has been removed from any direct involvement with the team.
Lutz said he was clueless on why the 57-year-old Serbian national was removed but expressed support for Racela, saying the Boosters will thrive under their rookie coach.
"A lot has been said about coach Olsen, on how he lacks the experience to coach. But he's a great coach. I believe we will do better under him. He reads the defense well, even as a player when he was still playing the point for this team," explained Lutz, who was one of Toroman's designated shooters when they were still together at Smart Gilas.
Veteran playmaker Dennis Miranda, on the other hand, had mixed feelings upon learning what happened to Toroman.
"Siyempre, nagulat din ako, dahil sanay kami nandito siya sa practice. Pero, malaki tiwala namin magiging maganda ang itatakbo ng team kay coach Olsen," Miranda said.
No reason has been given for Toroman's sudden exit, but statements from players give hints on growing dissent within the team over the Serb's ways.
"Mahirap i-approach si coach Rajko. Siguro iba lang talaga ang kultura niya. Di gaya ng mga Pinoy na coaches. Mabilis kasi siya magalit. Pero kay Olsen, may kumpiyansa kami sa kanya. Mas free-flowing ngayon ang offense, Pero siyempre, sinasabi niya nga na magsisimula lahat sa depensa," said Miranda, the 2005 No. 3 rookie pick overall.
During the Boosters' first five games this season, Toroman acted more like the head coach than a consultant on the bench, presiding over huddles during timeouts and giving instructions to players during the game.
There was even a game when the former Iran national coach snatched the diagram board from Racela and went on to map out a play during a timeout.