5 exceptional court generals who became great coaches

Great point guards can make great coaches.

Success isn’t a sure and absolute thing, but it’s really a huge possibility. Floor generals, after all, are extensions of their coaches on the court. They’re tasked with running the offense to perfection, getting everyone involved, making sure that everyone’s held accountable and identifying whether they should either stick to the playbook or improvise in a given situation.

In the NBA, seeing a point guard thrive as a coach wasn’t an often phenomenon. Lenny Wilkens, Avery Johnson, Mark Jackson, Scott Skiles and Larry Brown did have a taste of success in their respective ways, but more often than not we had guys like Magic Johnson, Bob Cousy, Isiah Thomas, Mo Cheeks and Jason Kidd who never really found their stride.

Here in the Philippines, however, it’s a pretty different story. Some of the best, most intelligent and well-renowned coaches in league history are point guards who were able to carry over their success on the hardwood to the sidelines.

Jimmy Alapag, who just recently won his first title as a coach with Alab Pilipinas in the Asean Basketball League, might someday see himself among these guards-turned-coaches – but whose steps is he following, exactly?

Here are a few guys.

Ronnie Magsanoc
Magsanoc was one of the brightest point guards in his time. Before becoming a seven-time All-Star in the PBA, Ronnie, along with Benjie Paras and Eric Altamirano, led UP to its last title in 1986. He was drafted by Shell and won two titles together with Paras and Bobby Ray Parks Sr.

“The Point Laureate” was also part of the national team that placed second behind China in the 1990 Asian Games.
He found luck in coaching in his rookie year with San Beda in 2013, where they edged Letran in three games for the title.

This year’s FIBA 3×3 World Cup will mark Magsanoc’s return to coaching, as he’ll lead the Philippine squad led by Christian Standhardinger, Stanley Pringle, Troy Rosario and RR Pogoy.

Ed Ocampo
The late Ocampo was one of the finest guards in early Philippine basketball history. He took home four championships with the YCO Painters in the Manila Industrial and Commercial Athletic Association in his career as a player, then won another one when he served as the team’s head coach in 1975.

He dived into PBA coaching when he took over for Royal Tru-Orange of the San Miguel franchise in 1978. A year later in the Open Conference, he led the team to its first ever championship. Ocampo later moved on to Toyota in 1981 and won three more titles.

Ato Agustin
Agustin is a proven winner. Drafted by San Miguel in 1989, he blossomed into a deadly combo guard and was eventually picked as the league MVP in 1992 – which was also the year he won his only title as a player. He was also chosen as the 1991 Most Improved Player and garnered Mythical First team selections from 1992 to 1994.

He first coached the San Sebastian Golden Stags in 2009, where they beat powerhouse San Beda in the finals. Two years later, Agustin got his second PBA title after he steered Petron in his first coaching job to a title in the PBA Governors’ Cup, where they hammered Talk ‘N Text in seven games.

Agustin is one of the few coaches to have won a title in their first year.

Boyet Fernandez
Fernandez was more decorated as a coach than as a player. He won titles with Alaska (1997) and Purefoods (2002), but really hauled more when he was holding that white board.

His first title came in 2007, where he coached the Sta. Lucia Realtors to the Philippine Cup title. That team had Kelly Williams, Ryan Reyes and Dennis Espino leading the charge. Fernandez then took over the reins in San Beda and piloted the Red Lions to back-to-back titles in 2013 and 2014. After a brief, unproductive stint in NLEX, he returned to Mendiola in 2017 and was once again successful after sweeping an earlier undefeated Lyceum in the finals.

Robert Jaworski
“The Big J” was the league’s first playing coach ever, and his body of work while leading at the helm for Barangay Ginebra is no small feat. His first title as lead strategist came in the 1986 Open Conference, where his team, which was also bannered by Billy Ray Bates and Michael Hackett, beat Manila Beer.

He bagged three more titles before he retired in 1998; Jaworski’s second one came against Ramon Fernandez’s Purefoods Hotdogs in the 1988 All-Filipino conference, then followed it up in 1991 against Formula Shell in the Open Conference. Ginebra then went on title-less years before 1997, where they won in six games over Alaska to clinch the Commissioner’s Cup title.

Jaworski retired to focus on politics.