[Third of a series]
2013 finish: tied with Lyceum in sixth spot (8-10 win-loss); missed Final Four
Key loss: James Forrester
Key additions: Isiah Ciriacruz (returning), David Ortega, Dioncee Holts, Jerry Codiñera (coach)
Key holdovers: Nard Pinto, Prince Caperal, Levi Hernandez, Keith Agovida, Jiovani Jalalon, Ralph Salcedo, Nico Bangga
IMAGINE the Defense Minister with an offensively potent squad.
It’s the right mix new coach Jerry Codiñera is hoping for as he seeks to lead Arellano in clinching an elusive Final Four berth in Season 90 of the NCAA.
A fledgling mentor who found little success in his collegiate coaching debut three years ago with alma mater University of the East, the 47-year-old Codinera has been given a new opportunity to steer the underachieving Chiefs in the country’s oldest collegiate league.
Codinera, a former PBA cage great and many-time member of the All-Defensive Team, posted just three wins in 11 games during his coaching stint with the Red Warriors, who finished second to last in his final season with the school.
The Chiefs, the only team which made a coaching change prior to the season, hope to finally advance to the semifinals after failing to do so in their first four years in the league.
And Codiñera, who replaced Koy Banal, will try to do it the way he knows best: defense.
But the nine-time PBA All-Defensive team member, is going to make full advantage of what he feels is the Chiefs’ main strength: their offense.
Despite the departure of athletic Filipino-Canadian forward James Forrester, the Chiefs have no shortage in firepower from their guards and wingmen alone, led by Nard Pinto, Levi Hernandez, Jiovani Jalalon, promising rookie David Ortega, and the returning Isiah Ciriacruz.
“I’m trying to keep a balance in our team,” said Codiñera. “Basically, medyo offensive team kami, Pero on the side, I try to infuse yung depensa sa kanila.”
It’s not only defense that Codiñera can offer as the 6-foot-5 former UE center lets his wards especially big men, bannered by Prince Caperal, Ralph Salcedo, Nico Bangga, Keith Agovida, and freshman Dioncee Holts, in on how he used to operate at the post.
“I try to teach them some moves, but the best teacher is still experience,” said the mentor, named one of PBA’s 25 Greatest Players of All Time. “We’ll see how they perform.”
Ciriacruz, who sat out last season after playing for the Chiefs in their first two years in the league, provides Codiñera an extension on the court.
“Technically, he’s a veteran presence for the other guys,” Codinera said of the returning guard, who tries to help the Chiefs improve on their 8-10 win-loss card last season, which the Legarda-based dribblers fortunately finished on a bright note by winning four of their last five games.
Now, both coach and team just hope for a fresh start and a better finish.