Olsen gets nod from former mentors

The Philippine Star

Posted at Aug 19 2012 02:53 PM | Updated as of Aug 19 2012 10:53 PM

TAIPEI – Olsen Racela’s former mentors firmly believe their former ward has vast knowledge of the game, smart and intelligent that he can be a successful coach as he was a successful player.

National coach Chot Reyes and assistant coach Jong Uichico were happy for Racela over the news back home that he had been tapped as new head coach of Petron Blaze.

“I’m proud for him. Everybody knows my history with Olsen. He first played under me in my PAYA aspirant team in his second year (in Ateneo High). I was the one who drafted him (with Purefoods) in the PBA. He’s gone a long way and I know he’ll do a good job,” said Reyes.

“He deserves it. He has the knowledge to coach. All he needs is the experience and I hope the management gives him the break,” said Uichico, Racela’s longtime coach in the very team Racela is going to handle in the coming 38th PBA season.

The news of Racela chosen over Serbian mentor Rajko Toroman to take over from Ato Agustin reached this far where Smart Gilas II was to start its Jones Cup campaign last night.

The word is that the players, especially the veterans, preferred playing for their longtime comrade, who for the longest time served as their team captain.

“He’s a leader,” said Uichico of Racela with whom he won no less than six crowns with the SMC flagship team.

Uichico also had Racela as his chief playmaker in the 2002 Busan Asian Games where the Philippines narrowly missed the gold-medal game.

His cunning and brilliance as a point guard could well help Racela become a successful bench strategist.

A recently retired player who had also played under other brilliant coaches Ron Jacobs and Tim Cone, Racela is currently in Ulan Bator, Mongolia, calling the shots for the Energen Phl team in the Asian under-18 championship.

Racela played at the age of 40 for the closing chapter of his fabled career in the 2010-11 PBA season.

From a mere second-round draftee, Racela rose to become a five-time All-Star, two-time Mythical First Five, three-time Mythical Second Team and one of the pillars of the league’s most successful franchise.

In the course of his 18th and last PBA season, he became only the fifth player to have played 900 games and sixth to have seen action at the age 40.