PBA ROOKIE COACH MORAN, WHAT'S HE UP TO?

MANILA, March 1, 2004  (STAR) By Joaquin Henson - Shell coach John Moran says it’s a revolutionary concept but insists his way of teaching basketball will pave the way for the Philippines to regain cage supremacy in Asia.

Moran, 58, is a rookie coach in the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) and after two games, has rocked the league’s foundations with his unorthodox style. He benched the year’s first overall draft pick Rich Alvarez in Shell’s opening game against Barangay Ginebra and introduced midnight practices that took players out of their sleep routine.

For what he’s done, Moran has drawn flak from critics. He says he forgives them for they know not of what they speak. "They’re just showing their ignorance," says the gruff Brooklyn native, who played basketball for the US Navy in 1963-64. "Some people told me Filipinos wouldn’t be able to do what I’ve asked them to do. Well, look at my guys at Shell. They’re enjoying it. They’re liking it. They’re eating it up."

Moran says the "pure motion" system he’s applying for Shell is different from what PBA fans are used to watching on the court.

"They’ve never seen it before," notes Moran. "But I gotta do what’s best for my team. It’s a rough road ahead. We’re rebuilding. But I’m confident things are falling into place just right. It takes time to master the system but in the end, I know Shell will turn it around."

Moran explains that his system involves a lot of freedom for players. "Look at what it’s done for Chris (Calaguio)," he points out. "In the Ginebra game, Chris shot 24 points. We don’t run set plays. Pure motion means no patterns, no two of the same things being done, like cuts or reads. That’s why you don’t see me calling plays from the bench. It’s all about players turning, twisting, cutting, adjusting, finding their spots, and getting creative. It’s a system that breeds intelligent players."

Moran says on the floor, the players must learn to fend for themselves and not look to the coach for what to do. "They’re on their own out there," he continues. "My job is to teach them how to adapt to situations on the floor. The players must take control on the court. At practice, I teach them how to move to the right spot, when to pass, where to catch the ball and all that. It’s like doing calculus. The mental focus in pure motion is demanding. Once we get the system going and we’re closer to being fluid, we can play with anybody out there."

Moran says his system is tailor-made for unselfishness. "It’s a pretty interesting system and I’ve gotten some good feedback," he adds. "Coach (Tim) Cone has noticed it already. I think it’s a system that can make the Philippine team easily beat Korea and Japan. If you’re selfish, you can’t play in that style. In the NBA (National Basketball Association), players have gotten to be too selfish and that’s why they struggle in international competitions against teams like Argentina and Yugoslavia."

As for his midnight practices, Moran says it was a bonding tool. "Conditioning was an aspect, too," he says. "I wanted to tax the guys mentally. We ran about eight of those practices, some from 10 p.m. to midnight, others from 11 p.m. to 1 a.m. Never more than two hours. We’d do twice a day practices. After the midnight sessions, the players would go to sleep with what they’ve learned on their minds. When they wake up, they’re mentally prepared to go at a higher rate of speed for the next practice. A lot of it was mental conditioning. But that’s over with now. The season has started so we’re doing regular schedules."

Moran says US NCAA Division I basketball teams start out the preseason with midnight practices. "They call it midnight madness," he notes. In the US, NCAA teams are not allowed to start practices until the opening of the preseason and some make an event of their first sessions, gathering boosters, students and faculty to the gym at the stroke of midnight.

On Alvarez’ benching in the Ginebra game, Moran says he did it for the rookie’s own good. "Rich came in from the PBL (Philippine Basketball League) and started practicing with us about seven days before our first game," he explains. "It just wasn’t enough time for him to learn our system considering the rest of the guys had been practicing for over a month. I didn’t want to rush him. He’s thanked me for it twice now. It was better that way. He’s an intelligent kid. He’s like a sponge, absorbing everything he can from practice, taking home videos and studying them. He’s always asking questions because he’s eager to learn. He works hard. Now, the nervousness of playing in the season opener is gone. It will pay off eventually because I know he’s going to be a great PBA player."


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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