Coaching wasn't really the last thing on Joe Devance's mind, but he was understandably surprised when he learned that coach Tim Cone named him as one of his deputies for the 2019 Southeast Asian Games in December.
"I was shocked when he asked me. At first I thought he was playing. But he was serious and it's a great honor to be a part of something that means so much to the country," he said.
"I've always wanted to represent the country. I just thought it would be as a player and not as a coach, but nonetheless it's very exciting and I'm very honored to be a part of this team," added Devance.
The surprise eventually settled down for the 37-year-old forward, who went to work for the first time with the pool on Thursday after missing the first practice. Although he thinks the preparations aren't that different from his sessions with his mother team, Devance said this means a lot more.
"It was good. We didn't go too hard. He doesn't want to burn these guys out just because they have other engagements with their teams," he said. "I said it was nothing different than what I do in Ginebra. I'm just doing it for Gilas -- which I don't want to say means more, but to do it for the country means a lot."
"Just being here right away, just looking at all the players that we have, it's exciting to see what we could do. It will also be a challenge because we have a short amount of time to practice. So it's going to be a challenge. Yet I like challenges so we'll see," he added.
Right off the bat, Cone likes what he's seeing from his forward-turned-coach thanks to Devance's talent for communicating well with players.
"He's probably one of my most active coaches because he has relationships with every player in the league," described Cone. "You know Joe. He's a relationship guy, he gets along with everybody, everybody knows him. He's either talking socially or talking basketball, but he's always talking.
"He's always communicating to the players. He knows what we demand more than anybody. I'm just real pleased that he's here and helping us out. He's a great addition."
"I'm an everything coach. Offense, defense, life coach. I'm here to really just be the real extension of coach Tim. I know his system just as much -- or probably even more than -- the other assistant coaches, but don't tell them that though," Devance said, smiling. "But I do know his system the best. And again, I'll just be the extension of him."
Devance admitted that he's thought about coaching, but he said he's more focused on recovering from his current injury to help Barangay Ginebra grab another title in the near future.
"It crossed my mind every once in a while. But I was so focused on recovering from an injury or winning a championship. I haven't really thought about coaching as much like after I retire. I've really focused more about recovering from injury and trying to win a championship. But it has crossed my mind," he revealed.
For now, Devance is willingly cherishing the tag of 'Coach Joe' during the buildup for the regional meet.
"They're calling me Coach Joe ever since coach Tim asked me. They're like 'Hey, Coach Joe, what should we be doing?' I kind of joke around with the guys like, 'Where's my whistle? I'm going to put them on a line,'" he laughed. "I'm really going to cherish this time. I don't know if I'll have the opportunity to do this again, so I'm just going to have fun with it and really remember this time."