IN the weeks after word leaked out that FEU head coach Olsen Racela was out of the Tamaraws basketball program, there was one question that kept propping up in the comments sections of SPIN.ph's social media pages.
Why not Johnny?
The questions only grew louder on Wednesday, after the school announced the appointment of former Tamaraws star guard Denok Miranda as the new head coach, with Johnny Abarrientos elevated from deputy to team consultant.
Miranda, a member of two FEU champion teams in 2003 and 2004, is the first former player to take charge of the Tamaraws program since Bert Flores in 2012. But that hardly silenced the clamor for an FEU legend to call the shots for his Tams.
The clamor is not surprising at all. Johnny A is one of the most revered figures in the school - a two-time UAAP champion in 1991 and 1992 who rose to become PBA MVP and one of the 25 Greatest Players in league history.
Besides that, the former national player has long been deemed ready for a head-coaching position after serving as deputy coach at Ginebra since 2007 and at both FEU and Magnolia from 2011 to the present while serving as understudy to top coaches like Tim Cone and Jong Uichico.
Contacted on Wednesday, FEU athletic director Mark Molina bared that Abarrientos and Miranda were the two names considered by school officials led by FEU trustee and longtime representative to the UAAP board Anton Montinola.
"We considered both [Miranda and Abarrientos]," said Molina. "Either of the two talaga, more so since Sir Anton wanted to give the position to a former player."
Abarrientos, Molina said, asked to be given time to consult his family and think the offer through but eventually decided that "he preferred to be team consultant."
Molina bared that as early as 2015, before Racela was given the FEU head-coaching position vacated by his brother Nash, Abarrientos was already 'at the top of the list' on school officials.
"Hindi pa n'ya gustong-gusto ['yung position]," Molina, who has been FEU athletic director since 2004, said when asked why Johnny A didn't get the job.
Still, Molina expects Abarrientos to play a bigger role in the FEU coaching staff in the coming season, saying the Flying A's experience will be valuable as Miranda takes on his first major coaching challenge.
"Olsen already had a lot of coaching experience when he came in, so I think Denok will need someone as experienced as Johnny in his staff," said Molina. "So i think Johnny will play a bigger role in the team this season."