WILLIE Miller said he’s open to start a new career as coach, but insisted he will not apply for the head-coaching vacancy at his alma mater Letran.
The 38-year old two-time PBA MVP is currently playing out the final years of a great career with the Pilipinas MX3 Kings in the Asean Basketball League (ABL), saying he is giving himself two more years as a player.
“Naglalaro pa naman ako ngayon eh. May mga liga pa naman akong nilalaruan, pero sabi ko nga sa 'yo, two years na lang siguro akong maglalaro, tapos after nun explore na ko ng iba pang option,” said Miller.
Asked if he is interested to take a shot at the Letran Knights job left vacant by his former teammate Aldin Ayo, Miller paused then smiled.
“Kung aayain nila ako, okay sa akin. Pero kung sasabihin mo na mag-aapply ako run ng ako lang, hindi siguro. Mahiyain ako saka takot ako ng nate-turn down,” he said.
In the latter part of his colorful 14-year PBA career, the Olongapo native said he has paid particular attention to guiding young players, particularly at Barako Bull where he oversaw the development of youngsters like Carlo Lastimosa.
“Hindi naman na tayo bago sa coaching, actually nung araw tumutulong rin tayo at nagbibigay ng input sa mga coaches natin,” Miller said while mentioning coaches Bong Ramos and Siot Tanquincen as some of his mentors.
“Yan si Carlo, nung rookie pa yan sa Barako, bago siya na trade sa Blackwater, inalalayan ko 'yan. Kasi batang-bata pa siya nun,” he added.
“Dati kasi gigil si Carlo sa paglalaro, tapos may immaturity pa kaya minsan hindi ganun ka-hard sa practice. Gagawin ko nun, before at after practice, yayain ko siya ng shooting at one-on-one, sasabihan ko ng, ‘Hoy, halika rito, papawis tayo,’ sumusunod naman,” he said.
The result: Lastimosa is now one of the most promising scorers in the PBA, averaging 17 points, 3.25 rebounds and 2.67 assists per game in the Philippine Cup.
“Hindi ko naman sinasbai na ako naghasa sa bata, magaling naman talaga si Carlo. Kaso binigyan ko lang ng advice kasi iba ang laro sa PBA kesa sa collegiate. Ako naman pinapasa ko lang sa kanila nalalaman ko at sinasbai ko mga naging mali ko na dapat nila iwasan during the game,” he said.
Lastimosa was not the only player who Miller has taken under his wings. He has also previously guided Kevin Louie Alas, Emman Monfort, Reil Cervantes, Rob Labagala and even former Knights stars Mark Cruz and Kevin Racal as the witty 2001 top draft pick overall usually attends Letran practices during PBA offseason.
Back when he was still the coach of Barako Bull, Ramos said he often allowed Miller to guide their pool of backcourt players.
“Kala mo lang komikero si Willie, pero pagdating sa practice at laro, napakaseryoso nyan. Isa nga siya sa mga tumututok sa mga gwardya namin kaya medyo magaan sa amin ang development ng guard spot,” said Ramos, looking back at his time with Barako.
“Maayos si Willie, alam niya sinasabi at tinuturo niya sa mga players. Hindi ako magugulat kung one day after his PBA career, maging head coach din siya,” said the now Blackwater Elite assistant coach.
“Ang maganda pa kay Willie, makarisma siya. May factor siya na nakikita ko na kaya niyang i-psyche up 'yung mga kausap niya. Alam niya makibagay,” he added.