CELINO Cruz finds fulfillment in his new job as assistant coach of Far Eastern University high school basketball team in the UAAP.
Cruz returned to his alma mater for Season 77 of the league to become part of the coaching staff of the juniors squad mentored by Mike Oliver, who along with fellow assistant coach Ronald Magtulis, was his former teammate during his stint with the Tamaraws in the late 1990s.
“Nag-a-advice ako sa mga bata. Unang-una ‘yung mga point guard, binibigyan ko sila ng tips regarding sa decision-making, kung paano tumawag ng play at sa shooting. ‘Yun ang assignment ko,” said Cruz, when asked by Spin.ph on Saturday about his role with the Baby Tamaraws.
The left-handed point guard last played in the PBA for Barako Bull a year ago.
But when left without a team, FEU owner Anton Montinola came calling to ask if he’s interested to help the high school basketball program.
“Tinawagan ako ni Boss Anton kung gusto ko raw ba tumulong. Sabi ko, ‘Sige boss’ kasi tutal wala naman akong ginagawa,” said Cruz.
Cruz said it was easy to return for a coaching job with his alma mater, the same team he led to a UAAP title in 1997.
“FEU naman ako galing, tinulungan din naman ako ni Boss Anton noon, maganda naging samahan namin,” recalled Cruz, who played for the Tamaraws from 1997 to 2000.
In his first foray as a coach at any level, the former King Tamaraw said being a high school coach entails a lot of patience since he is dealing with young kids.
But at the same time, Cruz said he is happy for the opportunity to share his knowledge to the new breed of FEU cagers.
“Mas mahirap talaga kapag high school kasi sasabihin mo na eto ang gawin mo, minsan hindi nila nagagawa. Kailangan talaga ng repetition. Paulit-ulit. ‘Yun ang challenging,” said Cruz.
“Talagang sobrang happy ko rin na ‘yung nashe-share ko ‘yung natutuhan ko sa pro. Natutulungan ko ‘yung mga bata,” he added.
Still very much in shape, Cruz said aside from teaching, he sometimes play with the players during practices.
And despite being already an assistant coach, Cruz clarified he has not yet officially retired and is still open to the possibility of returning to the PBA.
“Kung meron pang opportunity, kung may tumawag,” said the 37-year-old Cruz, when asked if he is still open to returning to the pro league. “Nagpapakundisyon naman din ako at sumasabay ako sa mga bata.
“Kung may tumawag, nandyan pa rin ako,” Cruz said.