To regular MPBL fans, Jeff Viernes is best regarded as a hero playing for the Batangas City Athletics.
They are also familiar with Viernes being previously based in Malaysia, as he played in several leagues there.
What they didn’t know is the ex-pro is about to take on a bigger role, this time as part of the Malaysian men’s basketball team competing in the Southeast Asian Games.
Although he’s been active running the practices of the squad, Viernes wasn’t given a license to become an official part of the squad, which means he will stay behind the bench during actual games.
“Hindi ako nabigyan ng license para mapayagan ako mag-coach dito sa SEA Games, pero ako nagpapatakbo ng ensayo,” Viernes told FOX Sports Philippines in a telephone interview.
Nevertheless, Viernes will continue on his role as the man working behind the scenes while helping the Malaysian basketball team reach the medal round.
Competing in front of his countrymen, Viernes has found himself in a stranger situation, but he doesn’t mind the fact that he’s sleeping with the enemy.
For the veteran international campaigner, it’s all but part of the job. Now, as a coach, he is bound to follow the creed of helping the players get better.
“Trabaho lang naman ito,” Viernes said. “Nabigyan tayo ng career sa Malaysia na makapag-coach, kaya kailangan natin i-grab yung opportunity. Kasi, once matapos na yung career ko sa paglalaro, may opportunity pa rin ako makapag-coach sa Malaysia. Itong sa SEA Games, mas malaking opportunity ito.”
In coaching in the SEA Games, Viernes will get that chance facing the Philippines composed of stars from the PBA, but the spitfire guard is looking beyond that.
“Naka-grupo kasi kami sa Thailand, Indonesia and Cambodia, kaya naka-focus talaga kami muna sa group matches. Ang objective namin is to go to the medal round,” added Viernes. “Mga bata itong mga players namin, kaya ang objective talaga is magka-medalya. Tsaka na namin iisipin yung Gilas kapag nakarating kami sa medal round, which is possible naman.”