It has been three years since Chot Reyes and the MVP Group parted ways.
Back in 2018, Reyes was silently removed from the Gilas Pilipinas program and as the president of TV5 Network Inc. – both of which were the consequences of the infamous Philippines-Australia brawl.
Still, Reyes and First Pacific chairman Manny V. Pangilinan never lost contact. The two would even still make phone calls from time to time.
But last February 7, Pangilinan had a question for Reyes that came as a shock even to the five-time PBA Coach of the Year.
“Chot, do you want to be head coach of TNT?”
Surprised, the 57-year-old mentor – who had been focusing on his businesses – asked Pangilinan for time to reflect. Just a “couple of days” to think this through.
“It wasn’t an easy decision in the first place because number one when Chairman MVP called, it was unexpected. I absolutely had no inkling. I had no idea,” recalled Reyes during Monday’s edition of The Game.
“We have always kept in touch, but when he called a couple of Sundays ago and brought that up… This is what I exactly told him, ‘Boss, I need a couple of days. I didn’t really expect this.’ That’s all I can say. I needed a few days.”
Of course, Reyes made sure to clear the current situation of erstwhile-Tropang Giga consultant Mark Dickel. Dickel and Reyes had become good friends through current Gilas program director Tab Baldwin.
“When they told me his situation was, I asked if he can continue and be part of the staff as a consultant. Mark and I are pretty close and we have a good working relationship. I really like him personally, but I think Mark had other plans,” shared Reyes, as Dickel has decided to remain in the States for the time being.
Last Saturday, Reyes accepted the offer. But with it comes pressure.
It’s been six years since TNT last tasted gold. Despite always having a loaded lineup and a payroll that could match any team from the San Miguel Corporation bloc, the Tropang Giga could not get over the hump.
Maybe Reyes, who steered TNT to four championships from 2008 to 2012, is the key right? Well, the eight-time champion coach is tempering expectations.
“Every time you accept a coaching job, there’s pressure that is attendant to it. That is why they call it the hot seat. But as coaches, we are used to it, if that is even possible. Certainly, if you accept a high profile job like TNT, there will be high expectations,” said Reyes.
“But like I’ve always said, there’s no pressure bigger than what I put on to myself and my work, to be able to produce. Part of accepting the job is accepting the pressure that comes with it.”
Since the last time he coached in the big league, the landscape of the PBA has definitely changed.
San Miguel and Ginebra have dominated the last seven years. Moreover, the game itself has changed.
“Oh yeah. The last time I coached in the PBA was 2012.
“There’s certainly a lot of changes that we’ve seen, not just the players but also coaches. The entry of younger coaches and the advent of new styles and new perspectives… As you can see, Philippine basketball is very progressive. The players play the game now are very woke – they are aware of the latest styles in the NBA and Europe. I believe that the players have evolved. The style of play has a lot of difference compared to the last time I coached,” admitted Reyes.
Still, TNT will have faces familiar with Reyes.
The Tropang Giga still have Jayson Castro and Ryan Reyes. And of course, he is familiar with another sage in Jay Washington. Then there are the likes of RR Pogoy, Troy Rosario, Poy Erram, Ray Parks, and Almond Vosotros, whom he handled in Gilas.
Also guiding Reyes back are his assistant coaches Bong Ravena, Sandy Arespacochaga, Josh Reyes, and his ex-player Ranidel De Ocampo.
That is why Reyes is calling his return “comfortably uncomfortable.”
“Comfortable with some players and the coaches, but the discomfort of working with new coaches and players. That’s always the challenge. But it’s not going to be easy,” he opined.
“This is not going to be a walk in the part and easy.”