JUNEL Baculi may find himself coaching the Philippine men’s basketball team to the Southeast Asian Games again.
The veteran mentor looms as the likely man at the helm of the team that will be seeking to retain the gold medal in the biennial multi-sport showcase set from June 6 to 15 in Singapore.
According to a highly-placed source, Baculi is the early frontrunner in the short list being considered for the head-coaching job by the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP).
Baculi, apparently, met all the criteria set by a five-man search and screening committee put up by the SBP led by executive director Sonny Barrios.
Other than the former PBA coach, also on the SBP radar are Alaska deputy mentor Louie Alas, Far Easter University’s Nash Racela and Eric Altamirano of reigning UAAP men’s basketball title holder National University.
If ever, this will be Baculi’s second time to handle the national team bound for the SEA Games, having steered the Harbour Centre-backed PH squad to the gold during the 2007 edition of the meet held in Nakhonratchasima, Thailand.
The same source who refused to be identified said Baculi was also a part of the search and screening committee as the UAAP representative, being the athletic director of NU.
But the champion coach later decided to inhibit himself after fellow members Fr. Vic Calvo of the NCAA, Cesafi’s Raul Alcoseba, and Dr. Jay Adalem of Naascu, put his name on the short list.
Experience of coaching in international tournaments and availability are the foremost criteria being considered by the search panel.
Alas actually was the closest to rival Baculi for the position, but his availability is an issue.
“Louie was also considered, but the search committee questioned his availability since he is very busy with Alaska,” said the same source.
At the same time, Baculi’s close relationship with mall tycoon and NU owner Hans Sy could work to his advantage.
“Maybe SM can help us bankroll this team,” said the same source, who also confirmed NU women's coach Patrick Aquino is also set to be appointed as head coach of the national women's basketball team.
The search panel is expected to present its recommendation to SBP president Manny V. Pangilinan before a formal announcement will be made next week.
Before the SEA Games, the team will see action in the South East Asian Basketball Association (SEABA) Championship to be held in Singapore this April, the meet being the qualifier to the Fiba-Asia Men’s Championship in September in China.
Naturalized player Marcus Douthit is expected to reinforced the team, whose roster may include the likes of Keifer Ravena, Mac Belo, Troy Rosario, Jeron Teng, Gelo Alolino, Mike Tolomia and Bobby Ray Parks.
Norman Black served as coach of the Sinag Pilipinas team that won the gold in the last edition of the SEA Games two years ago in Myanmar.