Ariel Vanguardia set to meet with Blackwater Bossing players to 'get pulse of the team'

Ariel Vanguardia, who once coached Phoenix, gets his second crack at coaching a PBA team. PBA Media Group

After meeting with Blackwater Bossing top brass on Tuesday, interim head coach Ariel Vanguardia said he will first be getting the pulse of his players on what went wrong during their disastrous 2021 PBA Philippine Cup campaign.

"We assessed the composition of the team. We looked at expiring and near-expiring contracts, injured players, for now. I don't want to jump to any conclusion on what happened last conference. I'd like to talk to the players one-by-one," Vanguardia told ESPN5 in an interview.

The Bossing dropped all 11 of their assignments in the ongoing season. That winless campaign came after they also lost their final eight games inside the "bubble" in Clark, Pampanga last year - making for a 19-game losing skid, which breaks a 40-year-old record set by Presto/Great Taste in the 1980 season.

Expressing his displeasure with the dubious honor, team owner Dioceldo Sy replaced the coaching staff led by Nash Racela and then named alternate team governor Vanguardia as the interim shot-caller. The veteran coach will be joined by longtime lieutenant Tino Pinat and the two of them will be on the sidelines through the next season, at least.

Sy admitted that he was disappointed after witnessing time and again how Blackwater had a good start only to falter in the second half.

"It seems (we) lacked fighting spirit in the end. I even joked with them by telling them, 'The game isn't decided in the first half. It should be done the whole game,'" Sy shared with News5's Lyn Olavario in Filipino.

"Because of what happened, I'm kind of disappointed because it's not a reflection of my personality. We're not losers, but I shattered Presto's record, the 0-19. I thought to myself, it was just like the UP Maroons that didn't win for two years. It's embarrassing," he added, referring to the Fighting Maroons who became infamous for going winless or having just one win in several UAAP seasons in the late 00s and early 10s.

At first, Sy narrated Vanguardia was hesitant in accepting the job since he was expecting offers from an unnamed Asian team. Still, the longtime sports patron insisted as he was very much impressed with how the 48-year-old tactician handled the iECO squad that played in the Asia League's Terrific 12 in Macau in 2018.

"IECO was a new team. He formed a lineup in less than two weeks and he was doing very well. I didn't know all the players, everybody was a (PBA) D-League player, wherever he picked them up from," remarked Sy.

"He was able to motivate the team. In fact, the first statement he said was, 'I want to change the culture of the team (Blackwater).' I was surprised when he said that," he added.

Prior to his new post with the Bossing, Vanguardia was the inaugural coach of the Phoenix Fuel Masters in the PBA.

He also guided the Westports Malaysia Dragons to the 2016 ASEAN Basketball League championship and brought the Jose Rizal University Heavy Bombers to the NCAA Season 84 finals, where they lost to dynastic San Beda. He had several stints as well as assistant for Talk 'n Text, Barako Bull, and the defunct Metropolitan Basketball Association team Manila Metrostars.

Meanwhile, Racela said he was "still thankful" to Bossing management for the chance to coach the team despite being abruptly dismissed.

"I know that I, together with the staff, did our very best despite the obvious limitations that we had," Racela said in a message. "Those who understand basketball for sure know that coaching is just one part of the equation. Player composition and management style play a major part in the success of any team, especially in our league.

"I'm still thankful to BW management for the opportunity the last two years. I understand their frustration and I'm aware they have the right to do what they think is best for their franchise. Looking back though, I just hope they talked to me first before rushing to announce to the press.

"I still wish them the best in the next conference and the seasons to come. I seriously hope they start turning things around under coach AV (Vanguardia) for this will really be good for the balance of the league."