MANILA, September 13, 2003 (STAR) By Joaquin Henson  - It was a marriage that was doomed to failure.

FedEx team manager and Air21 president Lito Alvarez said yesterday letting go of coach Derick Pumaren was inevitable with three months left in his contract because of irreconcilable differences in philosophy and "the element of distrust."

FedEx inherited Pumarenís contract from Tanduay when it acquired the Lucio Tan franchise in the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) last year. It didnít make sense to bring in a new coach with Pumarenís salary guaranteed up to the end of 2003 so Alvarez struck a modus vivendi with the 40-year-old former La Salle cager.

Pumarenís agent Mike Gonzalez told The Star he broached the option of a buyout when FedEx took over Tanduayís franchise. But FedEx decided to honor Pumarenís contract instead.

Gonzalez said Pumarenís exit was expected. "We never entertained the possibility of a contract renewal even if it was the last job on earth," he said. "The parting of ways is healthy for both parties. Derick is finally out of an uncomfortable situation. To us, it was good news that FedEx decided to end the relationship which was turbulent from the start."

Alvarez didnít initially intend to terminate Pumaren. The other day, he offered to reassign Pumaren as consultant for Bonnie Garcia to coach the Express for three games as a sort of pahiyang. Pumaren rejected it, insisting his contract is specifically for a coaching job. Pumaren then asked to be paid a lump sum for the rest of the year. Alvarez decided he would still be paid his monthly salary until the end of the contract.

Alvarez lauded Pumaren for his professionalism in trying to do his best for the team but complained that he wouldnít obey instructions from management.

"We asked him to submit a written gameplan so we would know what he has in mind," said Alvarez. "He never did it. We didnít see a sense of purpose or direction in his practices. It was like he conducts practices by oido. In viewing tapes, we didnít see the effort to point out where we could improve. (Team owner) Mr. (Bert) Lina couldnít see an identity for the team. He has always wanted a fastbreaking team, playing pressure defense all the way and making use of all the players on the roster."

Although FedEx took third place in the recent Invitationals, Alvarez said Lina still couldnít appreciate the evolution of a team that wore the FedEx colors. "Thatís why he hardly watches the games," added Alvarez. "Maybe, with Bonnie on the bench, Mr. Lina will watch more often."

On the matter of distrust, Alvarez said Pumaren probably thought no matter how he performed, his contract wouldnít be renewed. "Iíve always told Derick the bottom line is whatís importantĖthat we would consider renewing his contract if he earned it," explained Alvarez.

Gonzalez confirmed Pumarenís refusal to submit written gameplans to keep his "trade secrets" close to his chest, considering he was on the way out anyway.

Gonzalez said Pumaren resented his inability to hire and fire players, particularly imports. "Ang sakit ng ginawa sa kanya, parang binastos kami kasi walang siyang say sa team makeup," noted Gonzalez. "It was the start-wrong, end-wrong principle. It was never a smooth relationship. But like a pro, Derick did his job to the best of his ability under the circumstances even with a rag-tag lineup that he had no hand in putting together."

Alvarez admitted he recruited Vergel Meneses and Roger Yap but said Pumaren brought in Yancy de Ocampo, RenRen Ritualo and John Ferriols. As for imports, Alvarez said FedEx sources players from the United States Basketball League (USBL) because of a special arrangement with Pennsylvania Valley Dawgs coach Darryl Dawkins.

"I tried getting imports from Gonzalez before but nasunog kami kay Rhodrick Rhodes kanya ayaw na namin kumuha sa kanya," said Alvarez.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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