FOR someone who almost sat out a season to pursue a chance to play under Robert Jaworski at Ginebra, news that the basketball icon is interested in coaching Gilas Pilipinas is music to Benjie Paras' ears.
Paras, the PBA's only rookie-MVP, said a return to the national coaching job is the perfect swansong for the Big J - perhaps the final chapter in the unfinished career story of the country's most celebrated basketball icon.
“Sa akin, it’s about time. Alam ko naman kasi na he really loves basketball, he really wants to come back and ito siguro 'yung best way for him to come back and coach the national team,” said Paras, a member of Jaworski's all-pro Philippine team that won the silver medal in the 1990 Beijing Asian Games.
“Remember, siya yung nag-coach sa amin noon and we won silver. And sa tingin ko siya pa rin ang deserving,” he added.
Paras said he was so inspired by Jaworski's leadership during that Asiad, the reason he sat out a few conferences with Formula Shell in 1991 just to force a trade to Ginebra.
“Bukod kasi sa magaling siya makitungo noon sa coach-and-player relationship, magaling siya mag-motivate ng player,” said Paras. “Kaya nung narinig ko na nag-express siya ng openness to coach Gilas, masaya ako. Kumbaga, para sa akin, welcome back.
“Bigla siyang nawala eh. Walang paalam. Kung makakapagpaalam siya, siguro ito na 'yun,” added the father of Batang Gilas star Kobe Paras.
Asked if the former Ginebra playing-coach can still keep up with today's coaches considering the 68-year-old has been away from basketball for 16 years, Paras said Jaworski can easily catch on while bringing other intangibles to the national coaching position.
“Siguro naman kaunting adjustment lang 'yun, I am sure malaki pa rin ang maitutulong niya rito,” he said. “Katulad ko at dun sa ibang players, I am sure they really wanted to play for him and 'yung respect nila sa kaniya… I’m sure iba yun.”
Paras’ longtime teammate and now Hapee coach Ronnie Magsanoc agreed.
“Anytime an ambassador of the sport steps forward to offer his services, that spells good vibes for the program,” said Magsanoc. “Just the basketball knowledge alone that Coach Sonny has in playing and in coaching, really brings a lot of positive things, 'yun ang foundation na dapat laging tignan.
“Hindi naman nawawala ang kaalaman sa basketball eh. Sigurado nakatutok siya and I’m sure people will always remember the things he brought not only to Philippine basketball but also to the national team, at iyan ang aking pinaniniwalaan na makakatulong,” added Magsanoc.
Watch the video of full interview of Benjie Paras and Ronnie Magsanoc:
Magsanoc also shared his most memorable moment playing under Jaworski in the 1990 Asian Games.
Jaworski's leadership was simply different, he swore.
“The mentorship that he brings is something different. Malalaman mo lang yan pag na-experience mo eh. He brings out the best in people,” said the former Shell star.
“Yung Sonny Jaworski, synonymous yan sa Philippine basketball eh. Just to be a part of the team that he handles is always a privilege,” he added.
“Masarap kasama si coach Sonny. He puts humor into his coaching and that always relaxes the players. I will remember him as the most charismatic player ever. Kilala siya ng tao hindi lamang dito sa Pilipinas kungdi pati sa abroad.”
Former Ginebra guard Dante Gonzalgo is also all out in supporting Jaworski for the Gilas Pilipinas job.
Now based in Sorsogon, Gonzalgo claimed that no matter how long Jaworski has been away from the game, he will still find a way to succeed because of his experience and motivational skills.
“Pwede pa naman si Coach Jawo eh. Sa experience nya, ang dami niyang dinaanan, ma-i-share niya yun,” said Gonzalgo, known as ‘the Bicol Express’ during his time.
“Iba pa rin yung ma-i-mo-motivate niya yung players. Si coach Jawo, andami ng experience niyan. 'Yun ang mas magiging mahalaga 'pag nasa laban ka na… ang pigain ang pusong lumaban ng players,” he added.
“Sabihin na nating medyo naiiwan siya sa technology ng basketball ngayon, madali namang saluhin ng mga assistant coaches yun!”
Magsanoc, however, said he trusts officials of the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP), especially the newly formed six-man search and screening committee, to make the best choice for the national team.
“The intention (of Jaworski) is there, but of course there is the body that governs and makes the decision, if they decide on bringing him over, then by all means if they meet together, good things are bound to happen,” he said.