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Sports

No ill feelings, says Vucinic

Joaquin M. Henson - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines — Serbian coach Nenad Vucinic said yesterday he has no ill feelings in deciding to resign as Gilas and Meralco consultant, adding that it’s possible that in the future, an opportunity to return to the Philippines could come up.

“I spoke with Boss MVP (SBP chairman emeritus Manny V. Pangilinan), Boss Al (SBP president Al Panlilio), Boss Butch (Gilas team manager Butch Antonio) and Meralco,” said Vucinic. “I had a nice dinner with Chot (Gilas coach Chot Reyes). My decision has nothing to do with Chot and anything in media reporting otherwise is not true because I’ve only spoken to CignalTV’s Carlo Pamintuan and you. I’m thrilled by the way I was treated by SBP and Meralco. But I felt it was time to leave. I was brought in by Tab (Baldwin), a friend from way back and agreed to be a consultant. Then, when Tab was no longer Gilas coach, he asked me to stay and help the program which I did. I talked to Chot and we knew it was a difficult time with players unavailable and conflicts in schedule. I even became head coach for the Korea friendlies and the FIBA games against New Zealand and India.”

Vucinic said playing in the FIBA Asia Cup was a challenge. “We had five days of preparation yet we fought hard against Lebanon and New Zealand who were top three in the tournament,” he said. “We did our best to win. No excuses but we were a very young team in a high-level competition against experienced players. With Jordan Clarkson and Kai Sotto, they’ll make a difference. I would’ve liked to assist Gilas with them but I didn’t want to make a big deal out of leaving and it’s best I go now for the sake of the program leading to the World Cup. I’ll be going home to Serbia to visit family and studying my next options. Nothing is final at the moment so I’d rather keep the offers confidential.”

Vucinic said what he’ll miss most about the Philippines is the passion of the fans. “I admire the dedication of the players,” he said. “At Meralco, we punched above our weight and overachieved. I really got attached to the guys. We had height, strength and size issues against Ginebra but we beat them with Raymond’s (Almazan) three and we took San Miguel to Game 7. I thank SBP for the opportunity to coach in New Zealand where I’ve lived for 25 years. It was unreal to go against my friend and long-time assistant Pero Cameron who now coaches New Zealand.”

Panlilio said he encouraged Vucinic to stay but understood his situation. “I respect Nenad’s values and I understand why he feels it’s time to leave,” he said. “As Nenad mentioned, there may be another opportunity to work together in the future.”

CHOT REYES

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