08 March 2011

Axing Gregorio Could be a Smart Move

Meralco Coaches
It is very palatable right now for Meralco Bolts fans to put all the blame on coach Ryan Gregorio for the team's skid. The Bolts are 0-3 in a very short elimination round of the Commissioner's Cup and it seems that the downward spiral will not end soon. Public forums are full of haters that are out in force citing that Sol Mercado and Macmac Cardona are not a great match on the court if there are no viable designed plays.

The latest evidence comes in the form of a 1-point heartbreaking loss to San Miguel Beermen. The loss was very bitter to many Bolts fans because less than a minute to go in the game, Meralco is still leading by a point. However, they failed to call a time-out or set the offensive pattern and hurried on a three-point attempt, which obviously did not went in.

The game was well-fought from the opening tip with no insurmountable leads and the euphoria only picked up when the Bolts led by 7 points against last conference's finalist with about 3 minutes left in the game. After that, it was like watching a fat kid at a buffet – both disgusting and painful to see. And it seemingly happened all too fast.

So, what happened? People will cite the lack of preparation, the lack of energy, the lack of a reliable and consistent post presence. All of it is bunk. This team knew what to expect – they are now almost halfway into the elimination round and have seen how other teams are coming out gunning for them every night. It doesn't matter who they play.

When you have the league's highest scoring guard combination, not to mention a dominant slotman in Asi Taulava, you don't expect performance anxiety. Yet, this team did fail when it had a pretty good chance in the 4th quarter with just under 1 minute to go. The Bolts are in a good position to get their first win. What they did next was telling – they failed to execute a decent play and it is still doubtful that they have one designed for such a situation.

Gregorio brought this team together using trades with the focus being on defense. That was the foundation of this team when it was still known as Sta. Lucia Realtors – defense and getting the ball into transition. He was right in this aspect, but he failed to execute it properly. This team is simply playing confused and with no sense of identity.

As the coach, this is something Gregorio needs to address. Many feel that assistant coach Boyet Fernandez would have a strong enough personality and message to get this team to buy into the identity and, from him, can be forged the path upon which this team must walk. This may be true, as Fernandez was instrumental in giving the defunct Realtor's its last championship, but that isn't something this team doesn't already know.

Mercado and Cardona are the de facto leaders of this team – despite what ink may be spilled over Asi Taulava's presence. They both have lead their former teams in scoring and know what it takes to get there. Is there a chance that this work in progress is coming along more slowly that anticipated? Yes. Might the fans be suffering from the overhype? Yes. Do people have a right to be concerned about Gregorio’s ability to guide this team? Yes, they should.

Gregorio has the credentials to be a fine basketball coach. He even has the personality you would like to see in a young coach. He can relate to his players and even help them get their games where they need to be. However, Boyet Fernandez is definitely a better coach and could get things moving in the right direction. At least for this conference.

In many ways, axing Gregorio is not a huge mistake for this franchise. It could be the beginning of a new era with a new story and a new voice. Gregorio should go because he simply is not capable of basic set plays and many fans can see this. In fact the dissidents are growing in number and their voice is growing loud that even his brother, Patrick Gregorio of SMARTS Sports, may not ignore it for long.

This is a tough situation. Fernandez has the promise to be a very good coach in this league. The question is, can he guide this new team to a championship or even a decent showing? Is he ready to do so? His task is now less about strategy and watching film as it is about forging an identity and seeing it through. He has to sell this team on what it needs to do and to do it. Now, more than ever, when the chips are down. The spotlight is on this team. The doubters are having their say. This is the ultimate test for a Meralco and its ultimate obstacle. Every story has its protagonist, its antagonist. There is always tension and a release. The question is, will the release bring about a happy ending or not? Fernandez will figure to be an author, perhaps the author, of this drama.


  1. Nice article. I also believe that Boyet would be the better coach, he has the better technical grasp of the game, although he is not as articulate Ryan, he knows a lot more of the X's and O's of the game. Ryan's strength is his communication skills but there is more to the game than being able to articulate well. Ryan is also known to be a good motivator but lacks the natural feel for the game, which Boyet is better equipped. Ryan can still continue running the basketball operations of the team, but not as the head coach, where he can make full use of his excellent communication and motivation skills. I think it would be better for Boyet to take in the reins and take full control of the sidelines. Poor Ryan, he is being given the free hand by management and is being able to get the players he wants through trades and due to this, the expectations went higher.

    Some cases in point:

    1. Asi Taulava's strength is not being fully utilized.
    2. Beau Belga, during the time that he was still with Meralco, was not being properly utilized but look at the way he is being effectively used by coach Yeng.
    3. There is an obvious lack of control and direction on the backcourt.
    4. Ren ren Ritualo's talents are being wasted sitting on the bench and on the few times he is fielded.
    5. Mark Isip looks lost sometimes, coach Baculi was doing a better job maximizing his skills.
    6. More importantly, why did it it take 2-3 games for Ryan to see the obvious deficiencies of import Danridge. Were they not able to gauge his skills properly during the preseason? I watched Meralco's first two games and Danridge, while obviously a good dunker and open court player had very limited skills- driving to the basket (which can be effectively stopped by the opponents due to his suspect dribbling skills), his shooting's limited to medium range (he does not have the three-point range), lacks effective low post move and an average defender and rebounder. He is very good in the open court but once the team clamps down on him on defense and takes away the fastbreak opportunities, he becomes less effective. He does not have any passing skills at all and it is quite easy for opponents to scout him.

    I had been a follower of this team since its SLR days and I was excited when Meralco took over. I am disappointed that the bleak days of the SLR era seemed to have gone worst instead of progressing. The Bolts needed a better coach and while Boyet might be a better option, why don't the management look for other options (Baculi might be a good one).

  2. Good point Totikz. I can relate to your points, believe me. I hope you won't mind me publishing your views as a separate article.

  3. Thanks Sir Kirhat, please go ahead and publish my views as a separate article. I have a lot more views on our beloved Meralco Bolts team, I have been following this team since is SLR days and I can share more views in the future if it is alright with you.

    By the way, I read in Snow Badua tweet today that: "MERALCO coaching staff and management in early morning meeting today. What is being discussed? Stay tuned.... ". I also read that the coaching staff will decide today whether to retain Danridge as their import or utilize their new import Chamberlain Oguchi. Any news on this? Does this mean that Oguchi failed to make a good impression, probably the reason for their indecision?