This Day in PBA History: Yeng Guiao debuts as Pepsi coach, recalls ‘learning experience’

Rey Joble

Posted at Sep 27 2021 01:48 PM

After giving the RFM franchise 2 championships in 1992 and 1993, Yeng Guiao’s future with Swift looked uncertain in the 1994 season. No one from management had approached him as the season was about to start the third conference.

In the All-Filipino Conference, the Mighty Meaties made another good run all the way to the playoffs that the entire team challenged themselves to shave their head clean. That bald statement changed the fortunes of the once struggling squad, as the team went all the way to the semis only to lose to bitter corporate rival Purefoods Tender Juicy Hotdogs.

The Commissioner’s Cup was a more turbulent campaign and, although the team ended up in third place, the Mighty Meaties had a 12-11 win-loss record that conference. 

Looking back, Guiao felt uneasy about his coaching situation as no one from management approached him to settle it.

“Medyo mag-iisip ka rin kung interesado pa ba ang team sa iyo, you also have to be on a lookout as well,” Guiao told ABS-CBN News. “Until I was approached by Cito Lorenzo to coach Pepsi.”

Guiao went on to coach Pepsi and replaced Derrick Pumaren, who took over his place at Swift.

The fiery mentor clarified that it wasn’t a coaching swap as what basketball fans perceived, but it just happened that both he and Pumaren were in similar situations.

“Ganu’n rin pala halos ’yung situation ni Derrick sa Pepsi. He was waiting for a renewal from the management, so he looked elsewhere and ended up with Swift,” Guiao said.

On this day, September 27, 1994, Guiao coached his first game with Pepsi and won 117-116, on a game-winning basket by Gido Babilonia, who hit a banked shot to give the team its first franchise victory right on its opening game of the conference.

During the season-ending conference of the 1994 season, Guiao turned around the squad’s fortunes.

Under Pumaren, Pepsi had a dismal campaign in the All-Filipino with a 3-7 win-loss record and finished seventh. In the Commissioner’s Cup, they played even worse, ending up at eighth place with a 2-9 card.

Behind import Ronnie Coleman, who emerged as the Best Import of the season-ending conference, and local players headed by Dindo Pumaren, Boy Cabahug, Eugene Quilban, Vic Pablo and Babilonia among others, Pepsi went on to finish third place.

“I remember Ronnie as one of those low-key imports. He was not as high-profile as the other imports, not as skilled as the others, but he made up for that using position basketball and he was efficient. Not flashy, but very efficient. I think we had a good run with him,” Guiao said.

But Guiao didn’t have much success thereafter.

In 1996, he brought in Al Solis, who was given an offer sheet by Pepsi, and Yoyoy Villamin, who was acquired in a trade with Alvin Teng as well as Jack Tanuan, picked up from Purefoods in a trade with Pumaren.

“With Pepsi, it was more like a learning experience for me,” said Guiao. “I came from a team that is pretty stacked in Swift and had success there, then I transferred to a team that is on a rebuilding phase. But then again, you learned from it. The harder you struggle, the stronger you will become.”

Unlike the others teams he coached where he won championships — Swift, Red Bull and Rain Or Shine — Guiao’s stint with Pepsi made him more creative and resilient.

“Pupunan mo lang talaga and gagawaan ng paraan,” said Guiao. “Starting center ko si Gido Babilonia, then mga forwards ko si Vic Pablo and Cadel Mosqueda. So hahanapan mo talaga ng paraan para manalo.”

“But one good thing about the Lorenzos, they’re decent, straightforward people. Hindi ka nila lolokohin, hindi ka bobolahin,” he added.

When the Piltel Group took over the franchise of the Lorenzos, Guiao moved on to embark a new career: as commissioner of the Philippine Basketball League.

Rey Joble is a sports journalist who has been covering the PBA since 1998, and followed the league as a fan way before that.

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