MULTI-TITLED coach Jong Uichico returns to the local coaching scene via the Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League (MPBL) where he is joined by fellow ex-PBA coaches Bong Ramos and Chris Gavina.
A nine-time PBA champion coach and one of the few coaches to win championships with three different teams, Uichico has been appointed as the new mentor of the Bataan Risers succeeding Jojo Lastimosa, who led the team to the top seed and a semifinal finish the northern division last season.
Uichico, who spent the past few years working in different capacities as an assistant coach of Gilas Pilipinas coached by Chot Reyes and also as head of the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas’ Coaches Commission, will be back in the sidelines for the first time since coaching Talk N Text in the PBA in 2016.
“I think the MPBL is good for me. Sometimes you just have to get out of your comfort zone and take on a new challenge. The level of competition in the MPBL is different, but I know I’m going to learn from this league,” said Uichico.
Like Uichico, Ramos and Gavina are also looking forward to new challenges.
“Ganun pa rin naman 'yan, limahan pa rin. Yng concept naman hindi binago, kailangan mong i-shoot yung bola and dumepensa. In the end, it’s still basketball, the game that we all love,” added Ramos. “Whatever level it is, coaches are still driven by that purpose of teaching, learning and imparting his knowledge.”
Ramos coached three different PBA teams – the Air 21 Express, the Barako Bull Energy and the Blackwater Elite, but last season, the former Mapua standout was seen on the sidelines, working as a consultant of the Pampanga Lanterns.
He will now assume the head coaching post of the squad replacing Aldrin Morante, who has moved on to Bacoor to help out Gavina.
Gavina is taking over a team that is now stacked with talent.
The Strikers made key acquisitions in the offseason to help out MVP Gab Banal, bringing in All-Stars Michael Mabulac from Laguna, Ian Melencio from Imus and Paolo Castro from Parañaque and welcoming Chris Sumalinog, who finished his duties with Alab Pilipinas.
The Strikers had also acquired collegiate standout Michael Canete from Arellano and will also have Matthew Aquino, to partner with his dad, Marlou Aquino, in forming the first father-and-son tandem in the MPBL.