MANILA, Philippines – Following a difficult stint with the Kia franchise in the PBA, Chris Gavina took on a new challenge almost immediately by accepting a head coaching position in the Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League (MPBL).
Gavina, who resigned from his post as Kia head coach late last year, will be coaching the team from Valenzuela. It is another tough task for the young mentor, who was unable to steer the Picanto to success despite his best efforts.
"The major difference is, you have more established players in the PBA with a greater deal of talent level and skill set," Gavina said on Monday during the official launch of the MPBL.
In Valenzuela, Gavina won't have as many high-profile names as he did in Kia. Instead, he will be coaching – and teaching – homegrown players, some of whom have competed at the collegiate leagues. He names former Colegio de San Juan de Letran stalwarts Ford Ruaya and Jom Sollano as some of his players.
"Since I took over maybe five days ago, I've seen a tremendous spirit in our guys," said Gavina. "It's the way they want to be coached, they want to improve, and they're looking forward to being led by somebody with professional experience."
"What I'm able to share with them, hopefully, can comprise to a winning mentality and culture in Valenzuela," he added.
Gavina struggled to bring that winning culture to Kia. The team made just one playoff appearance in the past three seasons, and often languished at the bottom of the standings. Before Gavina left at the end of 2017, the team had lost 14 straight games.
The coach is hopeful that he will find more success this time around, as he coaches less heralded players who are trying to make a name for themselves.
"I'll be able to imprint my style, and my mentality with this team," said Gavina. "I'm just looking to build a culture where everybody is held accountable, and has that championship mindset."
He believes they are off to a good start. Gavina famously called out his players in Kia for being "crybabies" in the wake of a loss in March last year.
So far, there are none of those in Valenzuela.
"I haven't had to throw anyone out of the gym," Gavina said with a grin. "I'll let you guys know when I do."
The MPBL opens on Thursday at the Araneta Coliseum.
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