Yeng Guiao formally stepped down as head coach and general manager of NLEX, a shocking move that came three weeks before the opening of the Philippine Basketball Association Commissioner’s Cup.
The Road Warriors made the confirmation, saying that they mutually parted ways with the 63-year-old mentor after they failed to reach a contract extension agreement heading into the midseason conference that opens on 21 September.
“It was a mutual decision between the NLEX Road Warriors management and Coach Yeng Guiao to end the agreement,” the Road Warriors management said in a statement.
“We thanked him for developing the team. In fact, we reached the semifinals twice and his showed how he professionalized the team.”
The Road Warriors also thanked the seven-time champion coach for his contributions to the organization and helping develop young stars like Kevin Alas and Calvin Oftana.
“We wish Coach Yeng all the best in his future endeavors,” NLEX said.
Reports have it that Guiao will be returning to Rain or Shine while the Road Warriors are looking at either Gilas Pilipinas assistant coach Jong Uichico or Meralco deputy Luigi Trillo as his replacement.
It could have been Guiao’s sixth season with the Road Warriors.
He left Rain or Shine in 2016 with the hopes of leading the Manny Pangilinan-owned club to its first title after two forgettable seasons under Boyet Fernandez.
Guiao steered the Road Warriors to a pair of semifinal appearances with the latest coming in the recent Governors’ Cup in which they pushed powerhouse Ginebra San Miguel to the limit before surrendering in their best-of-five duel.
But Guiao’s stint with the Road Warriors was also marred with controversy.
Guiao found himself in the eye of the storm when Kiefer Ravena walked away in the middle of his three-year contract to join Shiga Lakestars in the Japanese B. League.
Initially, the Road Warriors agreed on the condition of having Ravena return after a year in Japan, but it didn’t happen as the former Ateneo de Manila University star batted for just a one-conference contract so he could rejoin the Lakestars.
“He let Kiefer go because he knows that it’s for his future,” said the source, speaking on condition of anonymity for lack of clearance from either Guiao or the Road Warriors.
“But losing a good player didn’t sit well with him. Coach Yeng is a fighter. He really wants to win.”
The source added that Guiao was also hurt when he lost big man Poy Erram and the fourth overall pick in the recent draft to sister team TNT Tropang Giga.
Erram was young and untested when he joined the PBA as a second-round pick in 2013 but blossomed into a legitimate star when he played for Guiao and the Road Warriors in 2018.
In fact, he emerged as a member of the Mythical Second Team and PBA Defensive Player of the Year in 2018 before he was shipped to the Tropang Giga two years later in a three-way deal that left the Road Warriors with Anthony Semerad, Rabeh Al Hussaini and a pair of second-round picks.
Guiao was also said to be unhappy after losing the fourth pick to the Tropang Giga in exchange for role players Roi Sumang, Don Trollano and Maurice Shaw as well as the second-round selection this year.
The pick turned out to be Mikey Williams — the Filipino-American playmaker who made an instant impact by leading the Tropang Giga to the Philippine Cup title on his way to emerging as Rookie of the Year.
Now, Williams and the Tropang Giga are on the verge of another title as they are holding a 3-2 series lead in their best-of-seven finals series against San Miguel Beer. Game 6 is still ongoing at press time.
“Coach Yeng wasn’t pleased over these transactions,” the source added, saying that Guiao seriously wants to clinch his eighth PBA title.
“It is no secret that he really wants to win — and he can’t do that if he keeps losing good players.”