A letter to Nash Racela
Anthony Divinagracia on Nov 28, 2015 07:05 AM
...right now, you are more than that. Perhaps it has something to do with the way you communicate your coaching principles. However, good coaches don’t just coach. They teach.
Dear Coach Nash,
How can I forget this word? For three years now, you have been greeting me with this, every time I’ll see you either at the FEU TAMBayan or inside the R.Papa gym to hold those pre-season interviews.
I must admit, the first time I talked to you I didn’t actually prepare, save for unearthing a little background about you: brother of Olsen, former San Beda and MBA coach (where you used to be long-haired if I recall right), and a mainstay in the Gilas and MVP teams’ roster of lieutenants. It is only recently that I learned you were from La Salle. Doing a little research is a mortal sin, a no-no in sports writing.
But despite my “improvised” questions, you gamely answered. That day, I learned something: Nash Racela, as colleagues have advertised, is really a hands-down good guy.
To some back then, “Mr. Nice Guy” Racela looked a misfit for an FEU squad oozing with basketball swagger – and talent. Yet you showed them that you can also “improvise” by preaching a team-first mentality at the time when RR Garcia and Terrence Romeo are jockeying for the role of Crocodile Dundee in a Tamaraw jersey.
No less than your predecessor Bert Flores acknowledged this in a pun-intended remark during a post-game interview back in the Season 75 Final Four: “RR, Terrence tapos na MVP race. Magpasahan na ulit kayo ha, (nasa) Final Four na tayo.”
You hate unhealthy competition.
That’s why you pushed for co-existence between the team’s two best players at the time, and they both heeded you, at least on the court. Others may have crucified RR and T-R for leaving FEU too soon but you did not. You understood them like the fine lines on your palm.
Convincingly but never condescendingly, you believed that even without RR and T-R, the Tams are legitimate title material built around a new core – Mac Belo, Roger Pogoy, and of course Mike Tolomia.
Last season, you started rallying behind that belief, not only to the Tams but to the rest of Morayta Avenue. I honestly thought you have succeeded, especially whenever I recall Big Mac’s Finals-sending buzzer-beating triple against La Salle. But you refused to call that success. Not yet. Instead you preferred “overachievement.” Seriously?
“We honestly felt that we overachieved last year. Nobody expected us to go all the way to the finals. It just so happened we didn't have that depth sa bench namin,” I remember you saying this to me.
“Ang hina-highlight ng lahat is we kept the core of last year. But what they don't notice much is that we have seven rookies. These are not really young rookies but they still have to learn the system and get the feel of the UAAP,” you said. “Hopefully umabot kami ng ten players sa rotation.”
And you did exactly that. But right now, you are more than that. Perhaps it has something to do with the way you communicate your coaching principles. However, good coaches don’t just coach. They teach.
With that, you have taught Mac to be humble, to keep himself grounded when everyone else are jet-packing their egos to limitless basketball skies. No humble brag or humble bola. Just be humble, period.
You have taught Mike that good players, despite their seemingly relentless offensive gifts, know how and when to share that ball.
You have taught RR (Pogoy) that he is not a third wheel to Mac and Mike. In fact there’s no first, second or third wheel to speak of in your team.
You have taught Achi to always find his teammates whenever they’re lost.
You have taught a young Prince Orizu that force knows no age and playing minutes underneath the basket. You are a force on your own.
You have taught Raymar, Monbert, Francis and the Escoto brothers that effort is the best statistic.
You have even taught yourself new things about the team, for instance: “Akala ko nga noon import si (Ron) Dennison.”
You have also taught opposing teams to respect your defense, no matter how “under-rated” it is.
Above all, you have taught FEU to keep the faith, because it has every reason to do so after that thrilling Game 1 finish. .
On Monday you’ll celebrate your birthday. I know you want a double celebration. That would definitely hurt for a UST alumnus like me. But if Nov. 28 is that Day, then by all means coach…
Congratulations and happy birthday in advance.
Next time allow me to ask first: Kamusta…..
…Ang champion? Fingers crossed.
From someone who used to teach in FEU