THE image most fans have of Yeng Guiao is of a fiery coach with a short fuse who often gnaws at referees and PBA officials and is always in the face of his players - and in some cases opposing players as well - during games.
Few have had the privilege to see his 'soft' side.
But as hard as it may be to believe, the temperamental Guiao is also one of the most likeable personalities in the business - an unlikely father figure who has built special relationships with his players in over two decades of coaching.
"People rarely see that side of me, but yes," the Rain or Shine coach told Spin.ph when asked if he ever shows affection to his players. "I'm not demonstrative or the showy type, but I show it in my own way."
But don't expect to ever see Yeng hugging one of his players after one big play. He's just not that type.
Instead, players who have played for him over the years have come to know that a tap on the back or a two-word 'good game' quip after games is tantamount to a bear hug from one of the most feared coaches in the business.
"I let them know when I'm happy with their performance, in my own way," Guiao chuckled, "in much the same way I let them know if I'm not happy with them. Diretso lang ako."
And how does he develop bonds with his players?
Guiao may be all business during games, but he swears Rain or Shine practices are the most 'enjoyable' in the league regardless of the circumstances, simply because he wants it that way.
Practice, in essence, is his bonding time with the players.
"Our practices are hard, but they are enjoyable. Masaya kami kahit nagtatrabaho. There is no dull moment during our practices," he said, pointing to 'resident clowns' like Beau Belga, Ryan Arana and - before them - Ronnie Matias as the players who can make teammates and coaches roll in laughter with one funny quip.
Guiao's teams have also earned respect from fans for their gritty play and 'no superstar' mentality, bolstered by the coach's famous threat to trade all of his stars during one rough patch last season - a stand that drove home his point that no one in indispensable at Rain or Shine.
However, Guiao admitted he can't help but grow attached to most of his players - the reason he considers trading players the toughest part of his job.
"That's the hardest part for me, just like most of us coaches," the congressman representing the first district of Pampanga said. "You can't help it. When you work with someone everyday and know that this guy played his heart out for you and the team, it's tough to let them go.
"That's why we at Rain or Shine make sure that if we ever trade one of our players, we make sure to put them in good situations. That's our promise to them.
Asked which players hold special places in his heart, Guiao drew up a long list.
"I've been with a lot of special group of players, and you can't help but be attached to these players," he said starting with his old dependables from his RFM Swift days, mentioning the likes of Vergel Meneses, Nelson Asaytono, Yoyoy Villamin, Al Solis and Rudy Distrito.
There, too, were players from the giant-killing days of Red Bull, recalling players like Junthy Valenzuela and Lordy Tugade as well as Larry Fonacier and Enrico Villanueva. And of course he has Belga, Paul Lee, Jeff Chan and Gabe Norwood from this Rain or Shine batch.
"When you work hard together and achieve something, I guess it's normal that you develop a bond," Guiao said. "That's the bond we share."