YENG Guiao and Paul Lee were all smiles as they stood on center court on Wednesday night - balloons and confetti falling from the Araneta Coliseum rafters to mark Rain or Shine's first PBA championship in four years.
That was a world away from where coach and star player were less than two years earlier, when Rain or Shine owners were left with a big decision to make in the face of messy negotiations with Lee on a contract extension.
At that point, Rain or Shine was on the verge of losing its best player, after his adviser and agent, Lawrence Chongson, confirmed that Lee wants out of the team and is looking to be traded.
[See Paul Lee wants out of Rain or Shine, seeks to be traded, says adviser]
RoS owners Terry Que and Raymond Yu weighed the team's options but the clock was ticking on the team, with the rookie draft fast approaching and the start of the season just months away.
Guiao is usually not a coach who stands in the way of players wanting out - his almost three decades in the profession is proof of that.
But the fiery coach made an exception in Lee, imploring Que and Yu to do everything to keep the former Rookie of the Year in the team, to the point of making one bold promise.
“Boss, pilitin nating maibalik sa atin si Paul, ginagarantya ko sa inyo magcha-champion tayo kung maibabalik natin si Paul,” Guiao told the two team owners.
“We will need Paul if we want to win another championship,” Guiao said in that August 2014 meeting with his team bosses.
Negotiations between agent and team were getting out of hand at that point but Guiao stood his ground, convinced that Lee - a RoS player his entire PBA player - can still be convinced to stay put.
“Ako na bahalang kumausap sa kanya. Mabait si Paul, he will listen to me,” added the outspoken mentor who made Lee the second pick overall in the 2011 PBA rookie draft.
[See Alas, Banchero eyed as options as Lee continues to hold out]
Guiao turned out to be right.
Lee had a change of heart and agreed to stay with the franchise, signing a two-year maximum deal that, by the way, is set to expire at the end of the 2016 season.
With Lee back, the Asian Coatings franchise remained a title contender but struggled to get over the final hurdle, losing to Talk 'N Text in yhe 2015 Commissioner's Cup finals and failing to get past the semifinals in three other conferences while Lee struggled with knee injuries.
But once he became healthy, Lee was back in charge for Rain or Shine.
The 27-year old Gilas Pilipinas guard tallied 11.75 points, 2.75 rebounds and 3 assists in the semifinals to help Rain or Shine end San Miguel’s title defense and winning Finals MVP honors in the title series against Alaska.
Again, proving Guiao right.
[See Less pounds means more punch in Paul Lee' game]