Coach Caloy Garcia is out to prove that he is a worthy successor to the ever popular Louie Alas when he debuts for the Letran Knights this Saturday in the opening of the NCAA at the Mall of Asia Arena.
While he admits to feeling the pressure of taking over a proud institution, Garcia declared that he and the Knights are now ready for another tough ride despite some manpower woes.
"When I got this job, I already understood that there will always be pressure. Pero that's what we're being paid for, the pressure of getting your school wins," said Garcia, who previously held coaching jobs for College of Benilde, Welcoat and Rain or Shine.
"It's a new system so we'll just have to rely with each other first," he added.
Under Alas watch, Letran missed the final four only twice since being named head coach of the team in 1998. In five final appearances with Alas, the Knights won twice.
Regardless of the big shoes that he's trying to fill in, Garcia is more concerned of the health of his team, specially his main gunners like Kevin Racal and Jojo Belorio.
Both are still trying to regain their fighting form with Racal out for the entire summer due to a foot injury. He's still waiting for the results of his medical exams if he'll be given the green light to play.
Belorio, on the other hand, aggravated his wrist injury during a summer tournament and is declared day-to-day.
"Yun ang mahirap sa amin, two of our starters didn't play (much in the summer tournaments) so di pa nila gamay yung mga bagong players, so that's going to be our problem at the start of the NCAA season," said Garcia, who is one of Yeng Guiao's assistants at Rain or Shine in the PBA.
Regardless of the injuries, Garcia remains confident they can match up well with all the teams, even with the Red Lions.
Expected to lead the team is the diminutive court general Mark Cruz, vastly improving Raymund Almazan and some new recruits led by Jamil Gabawan, McJour Luib, Fidel Castro, Ford Ruaya and Kevin Buenaflor. "The nice thing about this team is that they know what's important right now. Whoever's playing, whoever's healthy will be given the chance to play so they'll just have to be ready," Garcia said.