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Jojo Lastimosa's journey to becoming a PBA champion coach unexpected: 'I'm not supposed to be here'

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By Ivan Saldajeno

QUEZON CITY—Even when the final buzzer sounded at the Smart Araneta Coliseum on Friday night, the experience of Jojo Lastimosa winning his first PBA title as a head coach remained surreal according to him.

"It's incredible and unbelievable. Even noong nag-buzzer na—noong alam kong mananalo na—parang, 'My god, this is really happening!'" Lastimosa said in the post-game press conference.

What made it more surreal was that he won it all despite the fact that his coaching stint was never meant to happen.

"I'm not supposed to be here coaching this," said the concurrent team manager, who took over the head coaching chores as coach Chot Reyes focuses on Gilas Pilipinas' campaign for the Southeast Asian Games and the FIBA World Cup.

On why he took on the challenge, Lastimosa said, "There's no one else. They wanted a senior coach to step in, and I was the most senior. Sabi ko, 'Sige. Let's give it a go.'"

He then reiterated that he really wanted to be hands-on as a coach for the Tropang Giga just like his previous stint with the Bataan Risers in the MPBL.

"My deal was if I'm gonna coach, I'll coach it and I'm not going to be just a mouthpiece, and they agreed to it," Lastimosa further said, pertaining to a previous case where Bong Ravena was listed as TNT's head coach but it was active consultant Mark Dickel who is really mapping out the plays.

The team actually brought in an active consultant in Serbian coach Slavoljub Gorunovic, while also naming Reyes as a consultant—senior consultant, that is.

While Lastimosa insisted that he wants to call the shots, he has the rest of the coaching staff to guide him, and he expressed gratitude for it.

"The good thing about this setup is that sina Josh [Reyes], Sandy [Arespacochaga], and Yuri [Escueta], alam na alam yung system, which is running the same system as Chot. Nagkakaiba lang yung substitution pattern ko at timeouts ko, but generally it was an incredible job by the coaches," Lastimosa further said.

Follow him on Twitter: @IvanSaldajeno

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