A Baptism of Fire for Nash Racela: Is he ready to steer TNT KaTropa back to prominence?

Similar to life in general, the only permanent thing in the world of professional hoops is change. For cagers, the vicious cycle of getting drafted, playing, getting injured, traded and retiring are observed at a constant pace as the seasons come and go. The same goes with teams and its personnel, in which the practice of issuing of pink slips and shuffling of organizational structure from time to time is common. After all, pro basketball is a business, and management should do the things that it feels is good in keeping the fans satisfied and of course, the revenues flowing.

Alongside getting the right mix of talent on the roster is having a competent set of tacticians in guiding them thru every battle on the hardwood. Hence, there is also a constant rotation of bench presence in order to maximize the available talent, as well as introduce fresh philosophies with the end goal of claiming the top prize.

This is perhaps what the top brass of the TNT KaTropa had in mind when they decided to hand over the reins of the squad to Nash Racela last year vice veteran taskmaster Jong Uichico, someone who has led several PBA clubs to titles that includes a Commissioner’s Cup diadem for the KaTropa just a couple of seasons ago.

However, young as Racela may be in terms of experience in the PBA, he isn’t exactly getting his feet wet in terms of winning it all on the basketball court. Prior to this assignment, the younger brother of former PBA playmaker Olsen has successfully towed the FEU Tamaraws to a UAAP crown in 2015 as well as a Southeast Asia Basketball Association (SEABA) title the following year. And he already won at the professional level also, being the architect of the Batangas Blades’ championship run in the 2001 season of the now defunct Metropolitan Basketball Association (MBA).

UAAP - FEU vs UST - November 25, 2015 - 5

In his PBA journey so far, it can be told that he is making strides despite being considered as a rookie head coach. In his debut during the Philippine Cup, the KaTropa made it to the semifinals and were a whisker away from a Finals appearance, taking eventual champion San Miguel Beer to seven games before falling short.

 

But Racela need not wait long to have another crack at a PBA crown. In the following conference which is the Commissioner’s Cup, Racela piloted TNT to an 8-3 slate in the elimination round and convincingly dispatched top seed Barangay Ginebra in the semifinals to earn another showdown with the Beermen, this time for the midseason conference’s crown.

It can be told that for someone like Racela, a greenhorn pitted against the league’s coaching elite such as Tim Cone, Leo Austria, Norman Black and Yeng Guaio, he came to do the job that he was asked to do. Slowly but surely, he is steadying the team back to its formidable form amidst the traditional powerhouse franchises in the PBA.

With his side presently battling it out with San Miguel towards being named as the conference’s best by series’ end, Racela’s presence on the bench has invigorated the TNT KaTropa to play its best basketball after a somehow dismal 2015-16 season. Considered a legit title contender, the KaTropa only managed to reach the quarterfinal phase in the first two conferences. TNT did managed to grab the top seed of the Governors’ Cup entering the playoffs, but flamed out again in the semifinals wherein they were easily manhandled by sister team.

 

As he calls the shots in his inaugural PBA Finals appearance for TNT, the team’s first since 2014-15, Racela looks to build a solid foundation for his coaching profession in the PBA. Concluding this current campaign with a crown is just fitting and fulfilling for someone who’s enjoying a coaching career of 19 years and counting.

Yet, even if he does not win the title this time and exact revenge at the Beermen, Nash Racela’s dedication to his profession will certainly earn him the reward that he truly deserves. He already made his conquests both local and abroad evident in his track record in the UAAP, MBA and SEABA. It won’t take long until he receives his deserved due in the PBA and perhaps later on be mentioned alongside Cone, Black and Guiao, among others, in the PBA’s echelon of coaching greats. For now, at least one thing is assured. That TNT management wouldn’t have to worry about revamping its coaching staff for the time being largely in part to Racela’s steady hand so far.