When Dondon Hontiveros joined Phoenix's coaching staff earlier this month, he was met with a sense of familiarity and comfort that few teams could have provided in his first post-career foray in the PBA.
"The good thing is I was with former teammates in Vic Manuel, Chris Banchero, RJ Jazul and coach Topex (Robinson)," Hontiveros said Thursday on The Game on ONE News. "It favored me. I think they knew I'd be more comfortable if I was with the guys I've known for a while."
Hontiveros had a remarkable 17-year PBA career and carved out a legacy as one of the best Filipino shooters of all time. Five of those seasons were spent in Alaska where he won a title with Jazul and Robinson -- then an Aces assistant coach -- in 2013 before playing alongside Manuel and Banchero from 2014 to 2017.
With the Fuel Masters, Hontiveros said he will officially serve as a consultant.
"It's really more of a consultant basis since I won't be there the whole week. Our agreement was that I'll be there three days at most," he clarified.
The 43-year-old Hontiveros, who is currently a council member for the second district of Cebu City, has already participated in Phoenix practices and is still gaining a feel for the team's system.
"On my first day, I felt like a kid learning new things. Like, okay, these are the terms, these are the plays they're running, and it's really different seeing it from video compared to watching it first-hand," he shared.
"It's different first-hand. It feels like I'm also trying out and learning the system," Hontiveros continued. "Coach Jon (Jacinto) is very hands-on. Coach Topex's style is really good too since he allowed coach Jon to run the offense and coach Jamike (Jarin) to run the defense (in practices)."
Hontiveros said he was even part of the team's decision-making during the 46th PBA Season Draft and remarked how the team struck gold with its picks.
Phoenix went with big man Larry Muyang for its sixth overall pick before drafting Nic Demusis and Aljun Melecio back-to-back at No. 18 and No. 19 in the second round. Reymar Caduyac (No. 34), Max Hentschel (No. 44) and Jerie Pingoy (No. 52) were all selected as well.
"We help him make the right decisions, but he still has the final say," Hontiveros commented. "Just like what happened in the draft; we shared our thoughts on the players that we could get. I'd say we were happy with who we got because those guys were the players we were thinking of."
Moving forward, Hontiveros' main thrust is on developing players. The job includes working with Manuel on extending his range to the three-point line.
"Vic's mindset is to get higher percentage shots, which is in the post and in attacking his defender, may he be a bigger or smaller man. But he and coach Topex had a good conversation about unveiling a different Vic Manuel for us to see," he said.
Manuel, traded by Alaska in the offseason to Phoenix, averaged a team-high 15.6 points on 44.4 percent shooting, 6.1 rebounds, and 2.2 assists in 27.2 minutes per game. He has only attempted one three-pointer since the 2019 season, but that might change when he plays with the Fuel Masters.
And there may be fewer mentors better suited to help than Hontiveros, who ranks fifth all-time among all players in three-pointers made with 1,137 triples.
"One time, Vic was in our practice batch and had the license to shoot. So right after practice, we stayed for 15 to 20 minutes and I saw that Vic had a good stroke. I'm really excited for him," he said. "If we spend more time after practice, maybe he can develop the mindset of looking to shoot from the outside."