Yeng Guiao, who has been coaching in the PBA for three decades, has had a storied career so far manning the sidelines.
Guiao talked with Charlie Cuna, Sid Ventura, and Noel Zarate on the An Eternity of Basketball podcast on Saturday to share some unheralded stories during his stints as coach with Swift, Pepsi, and Red Bull.
Beginnings attributed to 'pure luck'
In the late 1980s, after his stint as a guard with the UP Fighting Maroons, Guiao decided to try his luck with coaching and was eventually hired by the Philippine Amateur Basketball League (PABL) team Swift in 1989.
During Guiao's first year, he led RFM-Swift to the PABL 1989 Freedom Cup crown, mentoring some of the best amateur talents at the time, such as Ato Agustin, Elmer Cabahug, Bong Ravena, Vic Pablo, and Eugene Quilban. Ex-pros like Marty Tierra, Andy de Guzman, and Cadel Mosqueda also helped in ushering the team to the title.
Shortly after, franchise owner Joey Concepcion decided to apply as an expansion franchise in the PBA, which was granted by the league in 1990.
Guiao, whose father Bren was close friends with Joey Concepcion's dad Jose, was also elevated to the then-new Pop Cola Sizzlers franchise, attributing his rise to the pros to pure luck.
"I think, meron pa ring palakasan," Guiao said with a laugh. "It just so happened that we had a championship, and at the same time, we were close to the family. I think [Concepcion] was confident that I could handle the team."
The fiery Guiao and his Sizzlers, now under the Diet Sarsi banner, took the league by storm, making the best-of-five championship series of the 1991 PBA All-Filipino Conference against the Purefoods TJ Hotdogs.
However, an off-court incident would mar Terry Saldaña, one of his team's enforcers. Saldaña, known for being a blue collar type player, was almost arrested by police in the middle of the championship series, as revealed by Guiao.
"I think it was Game 3 or Game 4, and the police were out to arrest Terry Saldaña," shared Guiao. "I didn't know what was Terry's offense, but he was already in the dugout when police came. We just had to respectfully ask the arresting officers to accost him after the game."
Saldaña, recalled Guiao, was living a very "colorful" life back then and was affected by the police's presence at the game.
"He had a great game then. When police left, his play dipped," said Guiao, whose team lost the series in five games.
Eventually, RFM's lawyers took care of Saldaña's legal issues and paid for his bond.
'Like a dream': Tony Harris scores 105 points
Guiao was also remembered for handling one of the most memorable imports in PBA history, Tony "Hurricane" Harris, who is notably known for scoring 105 points, a league record, against Ginebra on Oct. 10, 1992 in Iloilo City.
Harris, as Guiao remembered, had a "dark side" to him. Much like previous imports, such as Billy Ray Bates, Harris grew fond of the nightlife, and was very receptive of the Filipinos' good treatment to him.
"[Harris] enjoyed the Philippines too much. He had celebrity girlfriends, and everywhere we went, people knew him. At the same time, he really was that good," added Guiao.
The fiery Guiao often clashed with the also-emotional Harris. But when it was time to play on the court, everything was harmonious between the two. Guiao said Harris had only one gear and was as intense on the court as he was in practice.
'Watching Tony Harris score 105 was like a dream'
Coach Yeng Guiao talks about his super import Tony Harris and what went on during his 105-point game.
During games, Harris had to bear the brunt of the bruising tactics of player-coach Sonny Jaworski. In the game before he dropped 105, the former 76er was simply a man on a mission, destroying the twine to the tune of 82 points.
Wanting to prevent the incident from the day before, "The Big J" sent all of his enforcers like Dondon Ampalayo, Dante Gonzalgo, Rudy Distrito, and Rey Cuenco to limit the virtually unstoppable import.
As recalled by referee Genaro "Bay" Ledesma to the Philippine Star's Bill Velasco in 2001, the game was "a hard game to call."
"In the first quarter alone, we already threw out a few players. So many things happened, and it was an out-of-town game. I don't think anybody liked any of our calls that day. If I weren't from Iloilo, they might have lynched me," the former official added.
Taking advantage of the hard fouls coming his way, Harris went to the line an absurd number of times. Harris attempted 53 charities, and made 43, both league records.
"I think the reason for scoring 105 points against the toughest team is toughness -- physically and mentally," explained Guiao. "All of his shots were met with hard fouls, sinahod, hinataw. Can you imagine getting fouled that many times and taking 53 free throws that game? It means they had to beat you up to get that many attempts."
Harris' efforts was a mixture of fantasy and reality to Guiao, who gave the import the keys to their offense that day.
"It was like a dream. Is this even possible? Is he really doing this?" Luckily, for his squad, Harris' hurricane-like heroics were enough to tow Swift to the 151-147 win.
"That was one of the more memorable games I've coached in my lifetime. To see somebody set the record, to set the record against the toughest team in the league," added Guiao. "I don't even know if somebody could score 100 points in the PBA again."
'Fearless' Red Bull gives Guiao unforgettable PBA return
Guiao coached the Swift franchise until 1994 when he was virtually traded for Pepsi's Derrick Pumaren. Pepsi was subsequently sold to Mobiline (now TNT) in the same year.
After leaving the PBA to become commissioner of the Philippine Basketball League, the successor of the PABL, Guiao also spent time in the broadcast booth as a color analyst.
In 2000, he made his coaching return with the Red Bull franchise. His first two conferences were marred by poor performances, before a third-place finish in the Governors' Cup. He led the upstart franchise to two Commissioner's Cup titles in 2001 and 2002, upsetting powerhouse teams San Miguel and Talk 'N Text.
Guiao admitted he was fond of his Red Bull squad which had players such as 2002 MVP Willie Miller, Mick Pennisi, Davonn Harp, and Kerby Raymundo.
'My Red Bull players were fearless'
Red Bull won two titles in the early 2000s with a roster that, according to Yeng Guiao, had no superstars.
"We had a really good core. But there were already established teams in the PBA like San Miguel, which had the two Dannys [Ildefonso and Seigle], and Purefoods [with Alvin Patrimonio]."
Guiao shared that most of the team's core still are still friends with each other, and meet from time to time. He said the main reason for their success back then was the strong bond between his players.
"They were able to maintain that brotherhood up to now because we had a very strong bond and chemistry. That is part of the winning formula that we were able to achieve. You don't coach that."
Also on the team were Junthy Valenzuela, Jimwell Torion, and Lordy Tugade, three probinsyanos who wanted to prove themselves at the national level.
"The only thing that brought us two championships where the team was really bonded and was together is that they were fearless," remembered Guiao. "We were able to take San Miguel by surprise, only out of the bigness of the heart of those players."
Some observers then even pointed out that the team drew close comparisons to the team Harris scored 105 on, Ginebra. Both squads had unheralded players who possessed the "never say die" attitude.
Guiao said that his players seemingly had endless energy when they were playing.
"They were just trying to prove themselves, and for my part, I used my philosophy from the Swift teams that if you practice hard, if you give it your all, if you earn your playing time, you will play."
Playing time not guaranteed
In relation to his Swift mantra, Guiao believes that everyone should get a chance at playing. He believes in the saying that his players should not count their minutes, but instead make their minutes count.
"I will insert you to the lineup for 3, 5, 6 minutes. Just make the most out of it. After that, if other coaches noticed that you deserve to play more, we will give that," explained Guiao.
He added that everybody, up to the 12th man, if necessary will play and is expected to provide meaningful minutes.
"We don't count playing time. We don't guarantee playing time. If you play well, you play more, but on the other hand, you leave somebody else trying to play for that opportunity."