Barangay Ginebra, the PBA's most popular ballclub, yesterday demoted head coach Siot Tanquingcen and tapped former Sta.Lucia mentor Alfrancis Chua to take over the struggling franchise which missed the semifinals of the ongoing Philippine Cup.
Tanquingcen's departure had been in the rumor mills for several weeks after Ginebra began the PBA season opener at 2-0 then the team lost five straight. The team ended the tournament at 7-7 and lost to Rain or Shine in the quarterfinals.
Tanquingcen, who handled the Gin Kings for two seasons, will stay on as assistant coach.
Robert Non, San Miguel's chief of basketball operations, made the announcement yesterday and said there was nothing unusual or sudden about the change.
"We've done that before, we've done that in the past. Kumbaga pahiyang lang uli," he said.
"It's a continuing process in our effort to improve the team. Hopefully we can have a better showing in the next conference."
Indeed, over the years, it has been the practice of San Miguel to elevate an assistant coach to a head coaching job, replacing someone who has not done well in a given conference.
Having three teams in the PBA - Ginebra, San Miguel Coffee and Petron - San Miguel has made it a practice to rotate its coaches and assistant coaches.
For instance, Tanquingcen had previously replaced Jong Uichico at San Miguel and Olsen Racela took over Ato Agustin's coaching job at Petron.
But Chua's selection, also rumored previously, somehow was a surprise as the pony-tailed former mentor of Sta. Lucia and Tanduay Rhum, both defunct PBA teams, had no coaching job since leaving the Realtors in 2003.
He, however, had ties with San Miguel as a consultant the past several years.
He also does not have a winning caliber, having failed to give his previous teams a title.
On the other hand, he will be replacing a coach who has won three PBA titles in the past - two with Ginebra, one with San Miguel.
The team will resume its training Jan. 7 in preparation for the Commissioner's Cup, with Ginebra to be reinforced by former NBA player Herbert Hill, a 6-foot-10 who played college ball in Providence and had stint with the Philadelphia 76ers and the Utah Jazz.