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Chico Manabat named CEU head coach as Jeff Napa passes the baton

Jeff Napa has passed the head coaching duties of Centro Escolar University to the person he trusts the most — Chico Manabat. 

In a quick turn of events, the 41-year-old lifelong assistant coach will step up as the chief tactician of the Scorpions in its campaigns in the PBA D-League and the UCBL.

But it came as a surprise for Manabat.

“Siyempre natuwa ako kasi big bro ko siya e. Sabi niya sa akin nun, ‘It’s time na lumabas ka sa pagiging Robin mo. Ni-recommend kita sa mga bosses ng CEU.’ Natuwa naman ako na tinanggap ako ng mga boss sa CEU,” said Manabat.

“Siyempre bata pa ako sa situation na ganito, pero matanda na ‘ko sa mga pinagdaanan namin ni coach Jeff.

Napa, who took over the post left by Derrick Pumaren last January 13, had to give up his post. He currently has plenty on his plate already, as an assistant coach for Northport and consultant for Letran.

“Sobrang laki ng tiwala ko kay Coach Chico. Confident ako na kaya niyang gampanan ‘yung binigay sa kanya na opportunity na ito,” said Napa, who is in the PBA Clark bubble.

“Siyempre, sobrang excited ako para sa best friend ko. Hindi lang best friend — brother from another mother ko si Coach Chico. Happy ako na nag-level up na siya to being a head coach.”

This will be Manabat’s first time acting as head coach.

Nine years after graduating from National University, Manabat joined Napa’s staff in Nazareth School of National University from 2009-2016. Napa also brought Manabat to Letran from 2016-2018.

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In 2019, Manabat took a coaching break to accompany wife Dindin Santiago-Manabat in Japan. She played for the Toray Arrows, then the Kurobe AquaFairies.

When he came back, Letran head coach Bonnie Tan gave Manabat the job of head coach of Grace Christian College.

With Napa no longer around for CEU, Manabat has tapped three of their assistant coaches in John Necesito, Max Encilla, and Roy Billanes to join him with the Scorpions.

Being head coach of the Scorpions comes with plenty of pressure, though. Both Egay Macaraya and Pumaren have brought the program to new heights.

For Manabat, he’ll begin with the basics first, since the one-time UCBL champions are still reeling from the loss of so many players from last year’s squad — including Malick Diouf.

“‘Yung naabutan namin na team, bata talaga. Nakakuha rin naman kami ng player na nahawakan ko na dati, like dating Bullpups at Team B namin sa NU na gusto ng break. Wala rin kaming foreign student-athlete din ngayon pero we are working on it,” he said.

“Ang sabi ng bosses [JJ Yap and Jepet Plaza], i-develop ko muna ‘yung mga players. ‘Yun muna ‘yung immediate goal namin ngayon. Focus sa development and sa aral.”

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