AFTER working with San Mig Super Coffee in practice for the past five days, visiting former NBA coach Tom Newell said he is convinced that the Mixers are “the best team he has seen in his 45 years of teaching basketball in 47 countries."
Newell, who has worked with the Golden State Warriors, the New Jersey Nets, the Milwaukee Bucks and the Dallas Mavericks in various capacities in a long coaching career, is in town for a week to help the PBa's reigning gran slam champions prepare for the upcoming PBA season.
What struck him the most, Newell said, is the chemistry of San Mig as well as the respect each member has for one another.
“If you take a look, San Mig did not get any draft picks (this year). They picked up a couple of players from free agents and they kept the team intact,” noted Newell.
“I’ve been around this game 45 years, all over the world, coached at the highest level and this is the best team I have been around, in terms of chemistry, in terms of respect for one another, in terms of listening to the coaches and of wanting to get better,” he added.
Newell said he’s impressed with San Mig’s core of James Yap, Peter June Simon, Mark Barroca and Marc Pingris from his recent visit last June, when the Mixers were playing the Talk ‘N Text Tropang Texters in the Governors Cup semifinals.
The former Japan national coach said he feels San Mig remains as a solid title contender because this same core will be back for the upcoming PBA season, wiser and more confident.
If there is one area he hopes to help the team, it is only in its execution, Newell said.
“I told the players, ‘Fellas, it’s not about you working harder, it’s about you executing better so that when you practice, you practice with purpose. That you make your layups, you finish, that you make good passes, not sloppy passes,'” said Newell, who has been in Manila from 1998 to 2000.
“Those little things that I can bring with a fresh voice and new eyes, that will help them aspire and continue to demonstrate the championship level of play and that makes the other teams better too, because they talk amongst themselves, ‘Wow James Yap and PJ and Rafi and Ping, they really are intelligent, they play smart basketball,’” he added.
“That’s what you aspire to be and that’s what you want, to play like they do.”
Before becoming a globe-trotting coach, Newell served as scout for the Golden state Warriors, before joining the Indiana Pacers as their director of player personnel in 1984.
He eventually became an assistant coach for the New Jersey Nets and Dallas Mavericks in the late 1980s and early 1990s, before moving to Asia to handle Japan’s men’s basketball team in 2000.