NOVEMBER 3, 2006
(STAR) By Joaquin Henson - Ginebra San Miguel assistant coach Siot Tanquingcen said yesterday there is no substitute for teamwork as the key to bringing the Kings back on the throne in the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA).

Last season, Ginebra compiled an overall record of 25-24 to finish fourth in the Fiesta Conference and sixth in the Philippine Cup. Lack of depth was evident as the Kings failed to regroup after injuries struck down Romel Adducul, Rodney Santos, Jay-Jay Helterbrand, Andy Seigle and Aris Dimaunahan during the campaign. The previous year, Ginebra bagged two championships.

Now that Ginebra has fortified its fences with the addition of key players, Tanquingcen said all the more, the stress is on teamwork.

Ginebraís star-studded cast counts on Mark Caguioa, Helterbrand, Rudy Hatfield, Eric Menk, Billy Mamaril, Rafi Reavis, Johnny Abarrientos, Ronald Tubid, Mark Macapagal, Mike Holper, Sunday Salvacion, Seigle and Paolo Hubalde. Still in the injured list is Santos. Gone from last yearís roster are Adducul, Kalani Ferreria, Dimaunahan, Erwin Sotto, Allan Salangsang and Egay Echavez.

Tanquingcen explained that building a championship team starts from identifying the main men.

"In our team, we start with Eric, Mark and Jay-Jay," said Tanquingcen. "Then we surround them with guys who can make us better and help us improve in key departments like rebounding, inside scoring and playmaking. We mold our team and build a strong nucleus with a balance of good offense and good defense."

Tanquingcen, 34, said his demotion from head to assistant coach this year was an opportunity to show the Kings the value of playing as a team.

"When I was first told I wouldnít be back as head coach, of course, I wondered why," said Tanquingcen. "After winning two championships, I thought I wouldnít be replaced. But when I found out coach Jong (Uichico) was my replacement, I knew why. Itís managementís call and I support the decision completely. I know God has plans for me and itís for the good of the team. Basketball is a team sport and the team always comes first, not the individuals in a team."

Tanquingcen said no matter how valuable a player is, his contribution is relevant only in relation to the teamís goals.

"I took the opportunity to be an example to our players," said Tanquingcen. "I told the guys itís not about me. Itís about doing whatís best for the team. Itís about everyone doing his part and working hard to accomplish the teamís goals."

Tanquingcen said he explained the situation to his friends and relatives who were bothered by the demotion. "When they understood my point, they knew what the decision meant," he said.

Tanquingcen said his PBA history is a story of struggle. In 1996, he was one of only three rookie applicants not picked in the draft. The 5-8 guard didnít give up and finally got a one-month contract to play for Sunkist to replace an injured player. His contract wasnít renewed and Tanquingcen later showed up at a San Miguel Beer practice, begging for a chance. As a walk-in, he wasnít paid for playing. Eventually, he was signed up as a practice player and elevated to the regular roster. In all, Tanquingcen averaged less than two points in 39 games over four PBA seasons.

"I was a horrible player," said Tanquingcen. "Iím short and my hands are small. I canít jump and Iíve never even touched the ring. When I was in high school, I dreamed of playing not just in the PBA but in the NBA. I sat on the bench for two years at UST (University of Santo Tomas) then played more in my last season when we won the title in 1993. When I wasnít drafted, it was like my dream was shattered. I realized not every dream has a happy ending but if you try hard enough and donít quit, something good will happen even if itís not the way you planned it at first."

Tanquingcen, a certified public accountant, found a way to stay in basketball as an assistant coach at San Miguel Beer, then assistant and head coach at Ginebra and back as assistant coach with the Kings.

Working with Uichico at Ginebra reprises their relationship at San Miguel.

"Our basic concept is the same," said Tanquingcen. "Coach Jong is more mild-mannered and Iím more aggressive but our message is the same. We believe in teamwork. We motivate the players by challenging them. We may be strong on paper but weíve got to translate that strength to wins on the court. We set goals for the team and make sure everyone is on the same page."

Ginebra has a 5-2 record in the Philippine Cup and plays Purefoods next on Sunday at the Araneta Coliseum. Tubid, recently acquitted from Air21, will make his Ginebra debut against the Chunkee Giants.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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