THE STORY of Joseller “Yeng” Guiao – basketball coach, politician, public servant and loving father, not necessarily in that order – will never have a short shelf life.
That’s because the road to Guiao’s personality is a two-way street. You share a hearty laugh with him or listen intently as he stresses a point with the stoic face of a drillmaster.
Known for his volcanic temper in the Philippine Basketball Association, the 51-year-old Guiao, also Pampanga’s vice-governor, came on time for a one-on-one interview at the Club Filipino in Greenhills. And judging from the way he conducted himself, Guiao, son of the late newspaperman and former Pampanga governor Bren, was in the mood to bite the bullet, so to speak.
Without any hesitation, Guiao brushed aside talks that he has the nasty habit of instructing his players to hurt their counterparts. But he admits that he wants his charges to be tough not just physically but also mentally, which he said is a key ingredient for success in the topsy-turvy world of pro basketball.
“I want my team to have a premium on toughness, both physical and mental. But you don’t go out and play to harm anyone because that’s counter-productive and it will take you out of focus,” said Guiao.
A public figure, Guiao found himself embroiled in controversies, especially at the PBA where he started his coaching debut with Pop Cola in 1990. He won four titles, the last when he steered the now-disbanded Red Bull to the 2005 Fiesta Conference crown.
The year 2006 was particularly testy for Guiao. To be fair though, he was a victim of circumstance when Red Bull’s Mick Pennissi got blamed for the career-ending fall of Purefoods’ reliever Eugene Tejada. Guiao and now Smart Gilas-Pilipinas team manager Frankie Lim were both suspended after a heated exchange triggered by a highly-physical tussle between burly Carlo Sharma and man-mountain Asi Taulava.
Fans were also perplexed when Guiao elbowed Dondon Hontiveros after the ex-San Miguel Beer gunner sank a triple. This led to near fisticuffs with SMB assistant mentor Pido Jarencio.
In 2009, Guiao, then mentor of Burger King, was criticized when burly Wynne Arboleda lost his head and attacked ringside fan Alain Katigbac.
Guiao offered no apologies. He stuck to his guns. “You don’t want your team to be a victim of intimidation. I don’t want my players to take bullshit from anybody. If you allow that, you’re opening yourself to abuse. You stand up for what you believe is right. And the right thing is not necessarily the popular thing.”
Rightly so. Guiao spoke matter-of-factly about his views on officiating. His mantra is the same, whether as coach or politician. It’s all about doing one’s job right. The man served with distinction as commissioner of the now-defunct Philippine Basketball League from 1997-2000.
Guiao surprised many when, at the end of the Challenge Cup, he praised the conduct of the referees during the Talk ’N Text-SMB finals won by the Tropang Texters.
“There is no perfect officiating. I can be honest and give credit where it is due. There will be mistakes but I don’t want the refs to decide the game.”
Following the end of the 2010 season, Guiao became head coach of Rain or Shine, which he vowed to lead to its first pro title. As he predicted rough sailing ahead, Rain or Shine fell to a murderous Talk ’N Text crew, and suffered its first setback after posting a 3-0 card.
The 3-0 card was actually the finest start in franchise history but Guiao believes that his charges are still to be tested. “It’s good to have the winning feeling. I almost forget how to win,” Guiao said, half in jest. He knows a fiery start doesn’t automatically translate to a title.
“We have chemistry and the players are blue-collar workers. I am glad that team owners Raymond Yu and Terry Que gave me the authority to find players who are suitable for the team,” said Guiao. “I want my team to capitalize on transition, be aggressive and show defensive hustle. I also like the outside shots.”
But it’s not all basketball for this industrial engineering graduate from the University of the Philippines, where he also played on the varsity team under the likes of Nes Mayoralgo and Jun Bernardino, who would later excel as PBA Commissioner before his death.
He is proud to say that he never misses serving his constituents in Pampanga, even if it means driving daily after practice to the provincial capitol in the city of San Fernando.
“My father Bren taught me the value of hard work, public service and money. He worked as bus conductor, security guard and even sold pandesal to give us a decent life.”
He also remembers watching basketball games with his father at the bleachers of the Rizal Memorial Stadium. ”I knew that he wanted to become a basketball player but he was busy with his studies and work,” Guiao recalled.
For a moment, Guiao lit up as he talked about his family. Clearly, he’s a picture of contentment and pride when talking about his children.
Married to the former Jennifer Tablante, Guiao talked proudly of eldest daughter Cecilia Therese, a UP College of Law senior who will be taking the bar in November; son Jose Miguel, a senior Entreprenurial Management student at the University of Asia and the Pacific; and Christina Therese, a high school junior at Assumption College.
“We’re a very close family. I don’t think I am a strict father. We exchange jokes, discuss lots of things and watch movies together,” Guiao said. “I play no favorites. I also teach them the value of hard work and money.”