Chot Reyes is excited to return to the PBA and TNT, the franchise he coached nine years ago. He is also realistic about how fast the franchise can become a title contender.
"It's exciting, but we want to temper it by just making sure that we are very realistic in terms of the expectations," Reyes said on Monday. "This is not going to be a walk in the park. This is not going to be an instant thing. ... Simply changing the coach is not a magic formula."
The eight-time champion coach steered the TNT franchise to five of its seven titles. His last title before moving on to handle Gilas Pilipinas was in the 2011-12 Philippine Cup, where his Tropang Texters handled the Powerade Tigers in five games.
Since his departure, TNT has managed to win two more titles. But the last one came in the 2015 Commissioner's Cup with current national team coach Jong Uichico at the helm.
Reyes understands the pressure that comes with being tasked to end a six-year championship drought.
"Every time you accept a coaching job, there's always pressure that's attendant to it. That's why they call it the hot seat. But us, as coaches, we are kind of used to it," he said. "There are very high expectations. But like I've always said, there is no pressure that is greater than the pressure I put on myself."
TNT announced Saturday Reyes would return. Reyes said it was group chairman Manny V. Pangilinan who reached out.
"It wasn't an easy decision in the first place," Reyes said. "It was completely unexpected. I absolutely had no inkling, I had no idea. We've always been talking, we've always kept in touch. But when he called a couple of Sundays ago to suddenly bring that up, that's exactly what I told him. I said, 'Boss, you need to give me a couple of days because I didn't really expect this.'"
Reyes, the only five-time Coach of the Year in league history, will be replacing active consultant Mark Dickel. Former head coach Bong Ravena will be one of his assistant coaches.
"My first thought was: how is Mark Dickel? What is the status with Mark? And when they told me what the situation was, I actually asked if it was possible that he could continue and be part of the staff as a consultant because Mark and I, we were pretty close. We had a good working relationship, and I really liked him personally. But unfortunately, Mark, I think, had other plans," Reyes said.
Reyes will have his son Josh, and his former star Ranidel de Ocampo as assistants. Jayson Castro and Ryan Reyes are two players from his last title team.
"The best way [to put it is that it's] comfortably uncomfortable, I guess," Reyes said. "Comfortable with some of the players, some coaches like Ranidel and Josh and Bong Ravena, we've all worked together before. But there's discomfort in working with new coaches and players."
Reyes said he's also looking forward to working with some of the game's biggest names today, like Roger Pogoy, Troy Rosario, Ray Parks and Poy Erram.
"We picked RR from relative obscurity when we put him in the Gilas pool. He was very, very unheralded. People knew that he was a solid player, but nobody expected him to be this good this soon. We're very excited to get back and take a look at how far and how much better he can become," he said.
"The same thing with Troy, the guys that we've worked with in the pool. Obviously there's a lot of excitement there. And then the fresh ones, like Jayson and J-Wash and Ryan Reyes. I think those two guys are even older than I am. ... I've worked a lot with Ray Parks in the Jones Cup, we put him in the Gilas pool. I am also looking forward to working with Poy Erram and the others there."
Barangay Ginebra coach Tim Cone, who had Reyes on his staff with the Alaska franchise in the early 1990s, is eager to mix it up again.
"Chot and I have been at it for a long time. I was really happy that he was coaching Gilas. I was great that he was gone, that made my life so much easier," Cone said. "I'm not saying I missed those wars -- I didn't miss them at all, because they were all tough and I got the short end of a lot of them. But it's good to have him back."
The PBA has changed a great deal since Reyes was last coaching there but Cone doesn't think Reyes will have a problem getting acclimated.
"He had that even better experience being outside the PBA and playing on the world stage, and that was where all the innovation was going on," Cone said. "So, if anything, Chot will bring a lot more innovation to the PBA. I don't think he'll be surprised by anything. He'll probably be more advanced than all of us."