By Jerome Lagunzad
If their stars will align, former Kia Picanto tactician Chris Gavina would like to give it a try in leading the University of the East men’s basketball program which has been struggling to keep up with its well-funded rivals in the UAAP for the past few years.
In a phone interview with Tempo-Manila Bulletin yesterday, Gavina, 39, confirmed that he’s been approached by a certain UE team official for the possible coaching gig following the departure of veteran mentor Derrick Pumaren last December.
“It is something that I would really consider if the opportunity arises. Of course, I said that I’m always open for it,” he said.
“Definitely the program was discussed with regards to their culture and where they like to take their program. I’m highly grateful that they’ve decided to put me in that shortlist of candidates that they have.”
Any talks, at least for now, will have to remain at an exploratory stage since Gavina stressed that his full concentration is on the Valenzuela Classic who are making a deep playoff run in the inaugural Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League Anta Rajah Cup.
“I’m a true professional and I let them know immediately that my full attention is on the MPBL. I asked them to allow me to get too deep into the playoffs and possibly win the title for Team Valenzuela before we can discuss the position,” he said.
For now, Lady Warriors assistant coach Melvin Reyes has been tasked by the UE management to lead the Red Warriors’ training session on an interim capacity with less than six months to go before the UAAP Season 81 men’s cage wars get going.
UE last hoisted the prestigious UAAP title in 1985 behind the likes of eventual pro league greats Allan Caidic and Jerry Codiñera. The Red Warriors last made it to the finals—and the Final Four round as well—back in 2009 when they fell prey to the Ateneo Blue Eagles in three games.
Giving Gavina the coaching reins should be a logical move for UE since the New Jersey-based Stevens Institute of Technology product has made the most of what’s been given to him, especially when he acted as the lead assistant of playing-coach Manny Pacquiao for the Picanto during the 2016-2017 PBA season.
If ever he gets the nod from UE officials, Gavina is determined to put his best foot forward. “I’m all about winning and it’s an opportunity for me to grow as a coach and help a program out,” he said.
“It will be a great challenge because it’s a greater level of development. And it’s something that I will be able to figure out along the way,” he added. “For now, I’m keeping my options open and I’d love to hear them (UE officials) out soon and see how things will be presented.”