HE'S regarded as the man who rekindled the never-say-die spirit of Barangay Ginebra in the PBA. Now he’s trying to infuse the same attitude into Lyceum in the Pirates’ journey toward respectability in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament.
So far, Alfrancis Chua has done a remarkable job behind the scenes as the team’s consultant.
His influence may not reflect in the standings, where the Pirates are still in joint eighth place with a 4-8 win-loss record. But the Pirates’ rise to relevance is none more evident than in their conquest of two league giants in San Beda and Letran.
Composed of hard-nosed cagers who were either Team B campaigners or rejects from other top programs, the Pirates are the only team so far this season to beat last year’s finalists.
“If you look at the team, mahina talaga. Puso lang lahat,” Chua said in a chat with Spin.ph after the Pirates’ 80-76 toppling of the league-leading Knights last September 5 at The Arena in San Juan.
A perennial champion in the Inter-Scholastic Athletic Association, Lyceum decided to try its luck in the country’s oldest collegiate league three years ago. After a decent maiden season where they finished tied for fifth place with a 7-11 slate, the Pirates languished in the bottom last year, winning only thrice in 18 games.
Now in their third probationary year, the Pirates, particularly coach Bonnie Tan, decided to bring in a veteran figure as proof they are in the NCAA to stay and are making the steps to do it.
“Malaki (ang epekto niya),” said Tan of Chua, his coach in the 1990s. “Hiring him as a consultant is one thing. Yung nandyan siya, mas malaki pa. Great motivator siya hindi lang sa players, pero pati sa coaches.”
“Me and Bonnie, we’re trying our best to motivate our players in different ways and sinusuklian naman nila,” said Chua, who can be seen at the back of the Lyceum bench during games and occasionally makes in-game “suggestions” to Tan.
“I’ve been a coach for the longest time and yung mga suggestion ng assistant coach, mas effective kasi mas nakikita nila yung nangyayari,” Chua said, relating one late sequence in the Knights’ game where he suggested to a hesitant Tan to call a timeout when the Pirates lost the lead.
“Kaya nagtinginan pa kami ni Bonnie sa last timeout, sabi ko, ‘Call it’,” Chua said. “Ganun kami. Tinginan lang kami niyan.”
The timeout turned out to be fruitful as it led to rookie guard Jeremiah Taladua’s go-ahead triple that broke the hearts of the Letran faithful and eventually dealt the Knights only their second loss in 11 games.
“Sinabi ko sa kanila, ‘Wala tayong go-to guy, wala tayong star player. From afar, looking at you guys, it seems wala tayong team. Ang kaibahan lang, tayo ang lalaki ng puso natin.’”
From what he saw from the Pirates in the game against the Knights, Chua definitely sees a resemblance with the Ginebra Kings.
“Oo naman, ‘yung (puso) ang ina-apply ko talaga. What I’m doing sa Ginebra, I’m doing it to them.”