Ato Agustin will no longer be part of the Petron Blaze Boosters coaching staff in any capacity next season. The 1992 PBA Most Valuable Player, who piloted the squad to two finals appearances and the Governors’ Cup title in the 2010-11 season, was replaced last week by Olsen Racela.
Agustin’s departure from the staff after a two-year tour of duty paves the way from team consultant Rajko Toroman to play a larger role with the team assisting Racela.
“I will be more active this time,” said Toroman, the former coach of the SMART-Gilas Pilipinas national squad. The Serbian expects the team to have a better showing with his former SMART-Gilas wards, Chris Lutz and Marcio Lassiter, returning to tiptop shape.
The two coaches are no strangers to working closely together, with Toroman serving as an informal consultant and sounding board for Racela during preparations for the Energen Pilipinas national youth team, for which the latter calls the shots.
Toroman said expectations are high for the Boosters, whose campaign last season was a letdown considering the talent of the lineup.
“We’re already a talented team and we have become more talented with the acquisition of new players,” said Toroman. He has high hopes for new recruits June Mar Fajardo and Alex Mallari, who were picked first and third pick overall, respectively, in last Sunday’s draft.
“Fajardo has a lot of potential. Give him some time and he will be one of the best players in the PBA,” said Toroman. “Mallari, on the other hand, is a versatile player, who can play multiple positions. We might try using him as a point guard and he will pose a lot of problems against smaller defenders.”