Learning from Cone, Perasol, Rizal’s Rodney Santos building own coaching career

When EMKAI Rizal Xentro Mall Golden Coolers head coach Rodney Santos guided his squad to its maiden victory in the Chooks-to-Go MPBL Invitational powered by TM, he even had to apologize to his players.

“I have to squeeze in all my schemes. I said, sorry, I’m asking for two much kasi kailangan ko ipasok lahat eh,” Santos said.

The Golden Coolers only had two weeks of preparation for the 13-day, FIBA-style tournament, which even included four days of tryouts.

But it was one of those moments that reflect the high standard of discipline and standard he has as a budding tactician in the basketball scene.

With six years of experience as an assistant under the legendary and winningest PBA coach Tim Cone, and a couple of more under UP Fighting Maroons’ long-time mentor of the previous decade Bo Perasol, Santos wants to carry the knowledge that he has and make a name for himself.

“Malaking bagay kasi ‘yung maka-experience ka ng coaching sa professional (level). I’m still learning sa mga coaches na nauna sa akin, seniors sa akin. I learn from them and every game situation,” Santos shared candidly after Rizal beat the GenSan Warriors on Sunday, 73-66.

And fair enough, the former San Sebastian Stags head coach got his share of a rude awakening naturally too, in the form of a 89-59 beating by the Manila Stars the next day.

Nevertheless, it’s one of those moments that the former Barangay Ginebra champion wants to take in and use as key learning points.

“Dito na ako magkamali as a coach, ‘wag lang sa (higher level in the future). Dito forgivable kasi nagsisimula pa lang ako as a pro. I am still a fan of the coaches na nauna sa akin,” Santos said.

“Dahil sa kanila, mas natututo ka eh. I may be a good player, pero iba yung player sa coach eh, so I’m still learning, and sa akin malaking experience ‘to. Very thankful ako.”

The tactician famously known as “The Slasher” during his playing days, Santos relayed how he translated Cone’s influences to his own coaching philosophy, particularly the triangle offense expert’s penchant for valuing discipline and attitude among players.

“Ang ini-implement ko sa kanila, ‘yung disiplina. Sobrang disiplina ni Coach Tim sa execution ng offense. Pagdating sa depensa, individually, minsan nagkakamali but you have to instill sa mga players you have to be patient and disciplined. Stay disciplined and don’t lose your focus,” Santos shared.

“‘Yung inadopt ko sa kaniya, ‘yung disiplina talaga. Sabi ko, bigyan mo ko ng players na mas maganda ‘yung disiplina, kaysa mga players na superstar. Madali ituro ang skills but the attitude will always be number one.”

When it came to Perasol, who helped lead the Fighting Maroons to multiple deep playoff runs in the UAAP, Santos said it was him calmness in handling and educating players in-game that stood out.

“Si Coach Bo, talagang sobrang bait eh. ‘Yung approach niya sa player, lagi niyang iniintindi ‘yung sitwasyon nila bakit sila nagkakamali. I learned from coach Bo how he handles players na medyo nawawala sa loob, or minsan kapag maganda (laro), nagre-relax… kung ‘yung iba, pipitikin, siya, malumanay talaga and that’s how I want to try to do it,” Santos noted.

“One of the things as a coach you have to learn is your personality towards your players.”

The 48-year-old Santos understands as a player, there is no question he’s had one of the better careers in the PBA.

But as a mentor he is still building on his own name and reputation for his coaching career — and leagues like the MPBL help him day by day to become successful in the field.

Photo from Chooks-to-Go MPBL

Levi Joshua Jr Verora

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