Boyet Fernandez on NLEX’s first PBA conference
by rick olivares
The NLEX Road Warriors bowed out of Philippine Cup contention with an 82-78 loss to Alaska at the Cuneta Astrodome. The expansion club, that carried over from the now defunct Air21 franchise, finished with a 4-7 record. Despite a three-match slide, the wards of head coach Boyet Fernandez ended their elimination round on a high note by defeating KIA, 88-80, before facing Alaska in the quarterfinals. The Aces owned a twice-to-beat advantage.
Despite getting KO’d not by Manny Pacquiao’s Sorentos but by the battle-hardened Aces, Fernandez remained optimistic about his Road Warriors.
The affable Fernandez manned up to the finish. “This one is on me. It was difficult to adjust because I was also working with San Beda before and at the same time. I was able to fully commit to NLEX after the season started. And in between meron pa yung PCCL. But no excuses. This is on me. Hopefully, next conference we can finish with a much better result.”
Fernandez admitted transitions can be both easy and difficult. Referring to his first head coaching stint with the former Sta. Lucia squad, Fernandez dispelled any difficulty with his former teammates accepting his promotion or ascension in the ranks. “Yung sa Sta. Lucia, I already knew them as a player as well as their attitudes. Vice versa rin yun. My relationship with them -- magkaibigan or magkapatid kami. Magsing-edad or mas matanda ako ng konti ako sa ibang players like Dennis Espino and Marlou Aquino. Tapos we had rookies like Ryan Reyes and Joseph Yeo. They saw me pay my dues as I came up from the ranks as a player then as an assistant and finally as head coach.”
Fernandez parlayed that into a All-Filipino championship over Purefoods during the 2007-08 season.
However, Fernandez said that with NLEX this time around, the transition was little more difficult. “Sa NLEX, we have a different system as opposed to Air21 and a different set of players. They came from different teams with different systems so there is always a period of adjustment. Sometimes things click right away; sometimes they don’t. Syempre, wish mo yung former but you have to put in your work first. Ayaw mo i-assume na mahuhulog lahat in place.”
“Yung defensive system ko is different from what they used to do. And the adjustment was different because I came in late as I was in the middle of San Beda’s campaign for five straight. I really concentrated on the NCAA campaign first.”
While there is a theory that pro players easily latch on to their coach’s instructions because theoretically, they are supposed to be finished products, Fernandez mildly disagreed. “Sabi nga nila finished product na yung mga players ko so konting instruction alam na nila. But it will not be consistent with our system. We will win sometimes and lose sometimes. There were some games where we nearly won it. We were not consistent in following what we needed to do. So there is still that learning period.”
“Hopefully we will learn from this. As of now, I am happy with my players. Probably we are not winning right now but I am satisfied with what we are doing except hindi pa kami nagkakaamuyan. However we ended this conference, I put this one me. We’ll take it. And hopefully, next conference, we will see a different NLEX.”