BLEACHERS BREW EST. MAY 2006

Someone asked me how my blog and newspaper column came to be titled "Bleachers Brew". It's like this, it's an amalgam of sorts of two things: The bleachers area in the stadium/arena where I used to sit when I would watch baseball, football, and basketball games and Miles Davis' great jazz album Bitches Brew. That's how it got culled together. I originally planned on calling it "The View from the Big Chair" that is a nod to Tears For Fear's second album, Songs from the Big Chair. So there.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Bleachers' Brew #297 The Rajko Toroman era comes to an end

This appears in the Monday, February 6, 2012 edition of the Business Mirror.
With coach at the UAAP games.

The Rajko Toroman era comes to an end
by rick olivares

Rajko Toroman flew back to Serbia Sunday night just as the Talk ‘N Text Tropang Texters vanquished the hard-fighting Powerade Tigers to become the first repeat All-Filipino champs in 27 years.

His departure officially ended the Serb’s era as head coach of the Philippine Men’s Basketball National Team. Unlike his arrival that was announced to much fanfare, Toroman left quietly. He packed his few belongings at the Eastwood condo that served as his home the past three years and opted not to take any calls.

When he arrived in Manila the other week, he met up with his former players in Smart Gilas who had moved up to the PBA. Even from afar, he kept track of their progress and how they had taken the Philippine Cup by storm. To watch them play made his heart swell with pride. He even knew their statistics. Not that I am surprised. He was always good at things like that. “Like a father watching his children,” he joked.

Contrary to his reputation as a difficult man to please, I had seen Toroman break out into a smile on many an occasion. But the attempt at mirth and jocularity left me with a wide grin. Will wonders never cease? Rajko Toroman feeling sentimental and joking, I teased.

He shrugged that famous shrug of his while still smiling. The time away following Smart Gilas’ failure to win the FIBA Asia Championships at Wuhan had nursed him back to the pink of health. It wasn’t only him. His players needed to recover from the disappointment.

“You see the players on how they have made a big impact in the PBA?” he said like a proud father. “We can build a new Gilas. Fix the problems of the old and make it better.”

He went on for another five minutes rattling off names of collegiate players who could replace those who had moved up. He had a few ideas and a few plans.

I asked him how long he was staying in Manila and he said until Sunday. “But I can extend it depending on what happens.”

He said that he was going to get an offer from the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas that evening. “What if it’s a consultant position,” I pressed further.

“No. I am a coach. Not a consultant.”

I asked if he considered working for a local club – say Powerade of which feted him a dinner to welcome his two former wards in JV Casio and Lassiter. “No. It was nice of them to offer dinner so I can have a reunion with JV (Casio) and Marcio (Lassiter). But I work for the SBP and Smart Gilas.”

What if it doesn’t work out? “I can always find a job in Europe or Asia,” he answered.

We talked a little more and I asked him if we could meet the following evening. “Sure. In my apartment in Eastwood,” he said.

Only we never got to meet. The offer never came and he opted not to meet up.

In the early days of Smart Gilas when I used to run around with the team, he used to borrow my laptop to check on the sports scene in Serbia and Europe.

When he watched basketball games in the San Juan Arena, he would always drop by (former La Salle Green Archer) Marko Batricevic’s Balkan Express restaurant nearby. “I need my slice of Serbia,” he once told me as we munched on some terrific food at Batricevic’s restaurant.

When Vlade Divac arrived in Manila for the first NBA Asia Challenge, he met up with his former player (on the last unified Yugoslavian national team) to catch up.

When compatriot Milan Vucicevic joined Smart Gilas for the 2010 FIBA Asia Champions Challenge Cup, he had another person with whom he could converse in his native tongue.

Yet as homesick as he was, he came to love his “adopted” country. He became a familiar sight at many a local sports event. When he wasn’t attending to trainings or practices of Smart Gilas, when there wasn’t a basketball game on television or played in any of the multitude of arenas in Metro Manila, he would walk around the malls. He was never one to turn away a person who asked for a photograph or an autograph. When he was back in Serbia, aside from going online to check out his players who had been scattered across the PBA landscape, he would search on news about the Philippines.

I never got to meet up with Toroman that Saturday. I tried to get through to Toroman but he said that he couldn’t make it. Suddenly, I had a feeling that the rumors about the next generation of Smart Gilas going on in another direction were all true.

I asked him that Friday evening if things were all right between him and SBP management. He said that he has been treated very well and he had only good words for all.

During the post-match interview with TNT’s Chot Reyes inside the pressroom at the Araneta Coliseum, one of the sports scribes asked the coach if he was going to be handling Smart Gilas. Reyes said that his only focus was the next PBA conference.

I knew right there that the Rajko Toroman era had really come to an end.

Sports like everything else in life is in a constant state of flux. But lost within the politics, the highs and lows, the backstabbing, and the tears of joy and pain is where the Philippines stands in the international basketball scene.

The country has gained a measure of respect and that is something that can never be taken away. And so is Rajko Toroman’s part in it.

Back in the day with Smart Gilas dreaming big before the wolves came out.

At the half of Game 4 of the PBA Philippine Cup Finals, I made my way towards Rajko Toroman who was seated at the patron section. We were supposed to meet up earlier but I arrived late because an office meeting ended late. He was seated next to football coach Zoran Dordevic and he stood up and made his way towards me when I approached. We shared a hug and a clasp of hands. And chatted for about 20 minutes before I let him go to enjoy the game. But before I did, I thanked him for coaching Smart Gilas and making the national team a better one. He thanked me in return and said that he wished that I could have been there for all the trips of Smart Gilas to cover the team. I looked forward to the meeting the following day. Only it never happened. At least I got to thank him.

44 comments:

  1. Toroman did a good job in smart gilas. Gold medal is never been closer than this. the game against Jordan its anybody's game, its not our day. and the game against south korea ? well again its a heart breaking loss. but Rajko Toroman did change the landscape of Asian Basketball not just with Iran but with the Philippines as well. Now I could say that Philippines is "serious" contender in asian basketball. China , Iran , South Korea and Philippines. now its up to next coach of philippine basketball team ,

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  2. how come they are not signing toroman again? he helped the country achieve something in basketball that none of the past teams did. This is sad. Is this how we treat someone who did something good to us? this is not right ... this is sad

    kiko

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    1. It's because of Politics, now the next gilas to be buildup, can take same power or strong as gilas 1? I don't thinks so but hopefully yes but it too sad if not.....I like the way toroman coach system .. thats all ..

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  3. That made me feel very very sad!! I like Coach Rajko.. and yes, he has done a lot for Smart Gilas! Haaaaaaaaaaaaay!!!!!!!!!!!

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  4. thanks for everything coach!

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  5. Awesome read sir Rick! Like many basketball junkies, I'm sad coach Rajko's gone. He was more than a big lift or a breath of fresh air. He was a game-changer, a mentality-changer even, for Pinoy hoops. Perhaps he's this generation's Ron Jacobs? He'll be awesome wherever he goes, but he'll always have a special place here in Manila. On most mornings of the past few years, I saw him walking around Eastwood. That's something trivial and ordinary I'll really miss. He was a stabilizing presence. Godspeed to you, coach Rajko! :)

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  6. Good luck to you, Coach Torero-man. Philippine Basketball will definitely miss you. Hoping that someday, we will get to see you again.

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  7. Wow. We just let go one of the best coach in the international basketball scene today.

    Who will coach next? Chot?
    Fvck

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  8. nakakatawa ito bro... what a waste of coaching talent ang pinakawalan ng pinas....

    ~ ritche rich

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  9. it was sad to lose a coach like toroman...we owed a lot to this great coach...

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  10. the end of philippine basketball

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  11. Philippine politics creeping into the basketball scene. There is no logical explanation why they did not extend coach rajko's contract. Idiots!

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  12. Thats the name of the business...SBP & Smart Gilas is backed by Private corporation & Sponsors, well MVP. Sino nagpapasweldo kay Toroman? si MVP di ba? Ganun lang din naman contract ang pinirmahan ni Toroman, it may extend or end. Malaki ang na i ambag ni Toroman para itrain ang mga Gilas Players at ang Pilipinas Basketball Team. Sayang nga lang kasi most of them nasa PBA na.Hindi naman basta hugotin mo lang just to play agad sa international competitions may conditions na yan. Sayang kung gusto nila talaga yang dedicated sa Team Pilipinas kahit mga 5years magstay at dapat din sana tumulong ang Phil. government sa ganito kasi pride ito nga bansa natin. Now,the ball is up to us. To the next coach of Gilas, si chot daw ata patunayan niya na kaya ng Pinoy na dalhin ang mga tinuro ni Toroman sa atin. I know one day makakaharap din natin si Toroman sa International competition, i knw di naman cguro sasabihin ni Toroman na tatalunin ko kayo dahil di niyo inextend ang contrata ko, im sure Toroman will be there to challenge us, if natoto na ba talaga tayo at kung kaya na ba talaga natin harapin at talunin ang mga powerhouse teams ng asia at middle east.

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    1. yes tama ka dre! Toroman did a very good job., sana naman yong susunod na coach eh hwag lang puro coaching ang ginagawa kundi tulungan din yong mga players na mag improve sa kanilang laro.. problema kasi natin is hindi marunong tumawid ng bola yong mga big men natin pati pag shoot ng free throw hindi man lang makashoot. We are known in Asia as the basketball power but dahan dahan ng nawawala yong supremacy natin.. kasi lazy and not patriotic na ang mga new generations na players ngayon...tsk tsk tsk wala man lang sumunod sa apak nina Samboy Lim, Allan Caidic, Alvin Patrimonio, Johnny Abarientos etc... these players are not big fellas but they are the most feared cagers during their time...they keep on improving their game day in and day out to offset their lack of size...they play the game inteligently...meron tayong big man na very versatile eh hindi naman assertive...haaayy Gabe N & Japeth A...hindi naman rugby yan ah para matakot kayo sa physical contact. you the height of a giant...use it to your advantage men...

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  13. Philippine Basketball: BACK TO ZERO

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  14. Ok hanggang top 8 na lang tayo sa fiba-asia di na tayo ulit aabot sa top 4..

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  15. its very sad to lose coach rajko. the philippines need a full time basketball coach. eventhough hes a foreigner, hes a filipino at heart. hes well respected at the asian scene. he always complain to the refs but not getting a technical foul. he knows the ins and out of fiba basketball. hope you reconsider your decision not to renew coach rajko's contract..... paging MVP......

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  16. It feels sad seeing a great person leaving, coach toroman you will always be one of the best coaches!!! you brought pride and glory to our country! maraming salamat po!

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  17. sayang naman si coach rajo. ang papalit ata sa knya ay si Jong Uichico, former coach of barangay ginebra . base yun sa mga nabasa ko. whew. malaki naitulong ni coach rajo. sayang tlga. he is a great great coach.

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  18. Rumours now say he'll be back under SMC block as Noli Eala had a meeting with him before he left.

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    1. yeah, may be your right, coz noli eala was the one who recruited coach toroman.

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  19. You're kidding me, right? There's no way in hell that is going to happen.

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    1. What if it does? Let's just wait and see what'll happen.

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    2. MISSION ACCOMPLISHED COACH RAJKO!! for making the philippine basketball back on track !! the philipine basketball salute and proud of you !! IT'S SAD !! but i think its time for the filipino coaches to proove they're worth!! we hope that the philipine basketball community see you again and were not hoping that one of the opponents in the gold medal match in fiba someday!! hahahaha!! im just kidding!! but then again thank you and good luck coach RAJKO!! we wish you all the best!! GO PILIPINASSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS!!!!!!!!! ;D

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  20. we should not lose hope inspite of the fact that coach rajko will not be calling the shots for smart-sinag pilipinas anymore. Im sure the one taking charge on what he left behind will be of big contribution to the team. They have new breed of talents alongside w/ battle-tested mainstays like chris tiu & greg slaughter plus more international exposure & support from various sponsors and of course from filipinos.

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  21. Desapointed about it...well and whose the next coach of Smart Gilas.... i wish its not chot reyes again... wise decision MVP Pangilinan......

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  22. rajko did a great job in phil basketball! will just see what will happen to the next batch of gilas! sana di tayo pagtawanan ni coach rajko if we end up losers.. losers na mas malala pa sa naachieve ng gilas 1.0 ! i think its only coach rajko can help us win that gold we always dreamd of.. - ateneo de davao #5

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  23. Ewan ko ba sa mga toh, masyadong mayayabang e hindi naman nila nagawa ang ginawa ni toroman.. tsk tsk kawawang basketball

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  24. a great coach with unique style of coaching.nakaka lungkot isipin.pero ganyan talaga.hindi mo malalaman ang importansya nang isang tao kung hindi siya mawawala.

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  25. Too bad MVP should have known better that it doesn't take just three years to form a gold medal team from an aged old debacle of the philippine basketball team, at least they could have given coach Rajko another 2 years to develop players for the national team too bad short term lagi ang tingin ng basketball officials dito sa Pinas, I doubt we can ever duplicate the achievement of Gilas 1 as most players here are cry babies and feeling superstar when in fact they don't get recognized internationally, coach Toroman broguht some discipline which doesn't sit well to most players though look at them now they're doing good in their PBA careers (eg. Casio, Lassiter Lutz) i think coach really has ahand with that

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  26. I cried while reading this..sad to know,....

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  27. Sad news. God bless coach! Thanks a lot

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  28. Pba type of coaching is very far behind in international competition. Rotation of players are poorly performed. Hopefully politics in philippine basketball will put us in the right direction which I doubt. Not just the era of coach toroman has ended but also the direction of philippine basketball also to international competition.

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  29. Mahal ang presyo kasi ni toroman..

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  30. Tanga talaga..... ano sino Chot sa Nationals?? WTF

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  31. These PBA coaches are great but not in the level of coach toroman. Especially in the international competition. We've seen how these coaches does it in international level, they perform very poor and that's proven and tested.Coach toroman made us beleive that the philippines can be a name to be recognize in asian basketball with the performance they had last time.

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  32. deserving naman si toroman kahit siguro mahal ang presyo nya, magaling naman talagang syang coach. specially sa international basketball

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  33. gaya nga ng sabi ni JAWORSKI , kailangan natin ng 7 footer na serbian player hindi serbian na coach

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  34. Sayang nga si Coach Rajko..Coach "K" of Asia pa naman xa para sa akin..

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  35. backstabbing is common in the Philippine soil., sarcastic and pretentious... coaches who are hungry for position and always claiming to be a winningest coach- when in fact malakas na yang TNT before Chot took over the coaching job...no respect to his players and very arrogant. we believed that Rajko Toroman is a victim of politics in basketball...shame on these people who are acting as if they own the players and using them for gaining fame and position...MAS MAGALING PA SI COACH ATO SA IYO...

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  36. POLITICS, POLITICS, POLITICS.

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  37. I read from InterAKTV that Rajko accepted a consultant position for SMC. But he said that he is "a coach, not a consultant". Oh I wonder what made Coach Rajko change his mind.

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  38. Toroman is back as consultant for the SMC owned companies.

    http://www.philstar.com/thedeanscorner/articlescontent.aspx?articleid=777670&publicationsubcategoryid=69

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