LIKE a good soldier, Ricky Dandan is not about to back down in this latest and most challenging battle of his long coaching career.
Dandan takes on the grueling task of handling a KIA Picanto team that has remain winless in the PBA the past six months, including an 0-2 start in the ongoing Philippine Cup.
He takes over the coaching post following the resignation of Chris Gavina just two days before 2017 comes to a close.
While there were hints Gavina is set to step down days prior to his resignation, Dandan admitted still being surprised when he finally came face to face with reality.
“Kabigla-bigla pa rin,” he told SPIN.ph on New Year’s eve, recalling the sudden turn of events. “Actually napag-uusapan na namin ni Chris 'yun a day before he decided to resign.”
“Ang bilis ng mga pangyayari. I was hired and came on board Nov. 2 to help out Chris as his first assistant,” said Dandan. “Siyempre empleyado lang tayo, kung ano yung sabihin ng employer natin, susundin natin yun.”
KIA has not won since outlasting Phoenix in overtime, 122-121, last May 21 during the Commissioner’s Cup, after which it absorbed a string of 14 straight losses, including going 0-for-11 in the season-ending Governors Cup.
But Dandan is not backing down.
“Very challenging ito,” he stressed. “If there’s one thing which is my priority, that’s the need for us to become a team first.”
Dandan admitted the Picanto have yet to really play as a cohesive unit, especially with KIA having seven new players in its roster in Jay-R Reyes, Ronald Tubid, Rashawn McCarthy, Dylan Ababou, Jonjon Gabriel, Jan Jamon, and Roldan Sara.
And that showed in the Picanto’s last game against Phoenix, where they were blown away by 23 points, 125-102, at the Ynares Center in Antipolo.
“Kitang-kita naman 'yun as evidenced by our last game against Phoenix. We’re really very disappointed,” said Dandan, who previously coached his alma mater University of the Philippines in the UAAP.
“Of course, we’re not taking away anything from Phoenix. Maganda naman talaga yung nilaro nila,” he added. “But just like them, nag-practice din naman kami, naghanda rin naman kami only to be beaten that way.”
Dandan, who served as assistant coach to Joe Lipa at FedEx, Bo Perasol at Powerade, and Glenn Capacio and later on, Junel Baculi at Globalport, will supervise his first official practice with the Picanto on January 2.
And expect no changes in the KIA system as Dandan is also adopting the team’s so-called ‘uncoventional type’ of basketball.
“In terms of basketball philosophy as team manager si coach Joe (Lipa) may gusto siyang philosophy na gustong masunod. Nagagawan naman yun actually ni Chris,” said Dandan. “Kahit ako naniniwala din sa sistema of playing uptempo and multiple positions for the players.”
He knew it could be done, although he’ll only have at least seven practices with the Picanto before they plunge back into action on January 10 against Magnolia.
“There’s a learning process to it,” said Dandan. “But first thing first, I have to make sure that we become a team first before we go about sa mga technical adjustments.”