Longtime coach Yeng Guiao recently reflected on his three-decade career of mentoring in the PBA in an episode of An Eternity Of Basketball podcast hosted by Charlie Cuna, Sid Ventura, and Noel Zarate.
Guiao, known for his fiery style of tactics had also imparted anecdotes on his early coaching career, his best game ever, and much more.
'Intimidating' Jawo scared even the refs
Guiao revealed a list of coaches that had intimidated him over the years, including peers such as Tim Cone, Chot Reyes, and Norman Black, but no one was more awe-inspiring than player-coach Robert Jaworski of Ginebra.
When Guiao started in 1990 for RFM-Swift, "The Big J" was in the midst of elevating himself from PBA star to a basketball god. Having been the poster child of the "never-say-die" attitude of the league's most popular squad, Jaworski was almost worshiped as a deity whenever he would step on the court.
"I was still a young coach and my opponent was the most dominant personality in the history of the PBA," Guiao referring to Jaworski. "I was like a high school player and I faced the best PBA player out there."
As Guiao recalled, even the referees were intimidated by Jaworski, and that would usually spell doom for his side. All the more challenging for the rookie were the lieutenants of the floor general, who seemingly would do anything to appease their leader.
"Whatever he wanted his players to do, even if he said 'sakalin mo mga player na 'yan,' they will still follow his orders. It really was the intimidation factor when it came to coach Sonny."
What ticks coach Yeng off?
The first thing people associate with coach Yeng is his short fuse while in-game. Microphones propped in the different sides of the court sometimes amplify Guiao's profane tirades against his players or referees.
He would curse them or insult their intelligence during huddles or play, but he explained all of it is just part of his strategy. Before even making such outbursts, Guiao made it known that the tongue-lashing to his players was agreed upon when they signed their contracts.
"All of my players know it already. I already tell my players from the very beginning that I have a quick temper," explained Guiao. "I may cuss them out, shout at them. I explained to them that there were only two reasons why I get mad."
The coach enumerated two things players lack that make him blow his top - lack of effort and lack of "intelligence."
"If I see your effort is lacking, you're not giving out your best. That really grinds my gears. I see it and I know it. Nagpapanting na yung mga tenga ko," shared Guiao.
The other reason is when the players fail to use their better judgment, or in Guiao's terms, "plain stupidity."
"I really get mad when I see the ball handler know that he was already being harassed, and not pass the ball to the open man," recollected Guiao. "Then you are answerable for that decision."
Before he lets out his signature on-court outbursts, Guiao takes in to consideration the intensity of the game, including pressure from within the players themselves or from their opponents.
"There are time constraints, you are put under pressure. You expect that one will make mistakes. And I factor that in. But when you do something in practice everyday and not do it on the court, that ticks me off. That makes me curse and the players already know it," added Guiao.
Berating his players, mentioned Guiao, was a result of a prior understanding with his players, whether he be from Swift, Red Bull, Rain or Shine, or NLEX.
The players' family members watching on the court or the millions watching on television may hear Guiao seemingly stripping his players of their dignity, but he says his players understand his ways.
"I tell them that whoever you are, I will get mad at you. It's never personal. I just want you to become better and improve yourself. It is not disrespect. It's not because I want to rattle you. It's not because I want to humiliate you."
He compared in contrast his admonishments to an office setting, where things should be handled differently, explained Guiao.
"A basketball game is really a microcosm of life. You compress life to 48 minutes. It's not like when I'm a bank manager or a CEO of a company, I would speak to employees privately and give them a week to improve," opined Guiao.
"You can't apply such rules in basketball. You really need your players to find their bearings... but if I cuss you out in the workplace, at home, that's not right," he furthered. "I cannot take take you to the dugout during the game and lecture you there."
His favorite "shock absorbers" and most memorable players
Those with tougher personalities bear the brunt of Guiao's criticisms more than others.
Some of his "favorites", Guiao says, include Beau Belga, JR Quiñahan, Cyrus Baguio in the current PBA, and Vergel Meneses, and Nelson Asaytono during the 1990s.
"If I scold them, they already know why. They would take it upon themselves to tell their teammates to clean up their act."
More than a few of his players, remembered Guiao, stood out more than others for a myriad of reasons.
Like Meneses, Al Solis and Yoyoy Villamin in the 90s, Junthy Valenzuela, Lordy Tugade, and Ato Agustin in the early aughts, Chris Tiu and Gabe Norwood in recent years, these players knew how to take advantage of their limitations and got the appreciation of the coach.
Norwood, according to the tactician, is probably the steadiest player he has ever handled.
"He's not only intelligent, but his emotional quotient (EQ) is very high. That's the important thing. Open-minded, very coachable. I don't think that there's a player in the PBA that hates Gabe Norwood."
His top five players ever
Guiao has handled hundreds of players over his decades-long career, but these five locals were the best, according to him.
First off, Guiao said that he was lucky to have the bulldozing skills of Nelson Asaytono and the death-defying acrobatics of the Aerial Voyager.
Next was the 2002 PBA MVP Miller, whose guard skills were simply magical. Another one he appreciated the most was Miller's elder teammate Agustin, who also won MVP honors exactly a decade earlier.
Rounding out the team was Elpidio "Yoyoy" Villamin, who patrolled the interior during the 1980s and 1990s. Guiao grouped Villamin with Ramon Fernandez and Abet Guidaben, men that could change the complexion of the game by their mere presence inside.