With five straight trips to the PBA finals, there’s no question that the Talk ‘N Text Tropang Texters are doing something right these days.
Some would argue that it’s simply a matter of superior talent. That isn’t surprising, considering how stacked their roster has looked of late.
“You know a lot of people are making a big fuss about the talent on this team,” said Talk ‘N Text coach Chot Reyes. “But they forget that even before I got here, there was even more talent on this team.”
In 2006, two seasons before Reyes took over from Derrick Pumaren, the Talk ‘N Text Phone Pals did boast of a star-studded roster that had Asi Taulava, Willie Miller, Jay Washington and MAc Cardona, alongside current Tropang Texters Jimmy Alapag and Harvey Carey.
It was a team that performed well, but never came close to what this current batch of Tropang Texters has accomplished.
“They had really great talent here. But very conveniently forgotten are the other things outside of talent,” Reyes said. “In one word, the best I can describe it, is really: culture.”
It’s difficult to put an exact definition on Talk ‘N Text’s winning culture. Those from within, though, try to put into words what the culture stands for.
Reyes points at accountability as a key principle within their organization.
“We hold every person accountable for his performance. And sometimes I’ll get a lot of flak after a loss, the media will ask me why we lost and I’ll say ‘Well, Jimmy didn’t make a shot,’ or I’ll tell them sometimes ‘our big men are missing.’
“And then a lot of so-called basketball ‘geniuses’ will say talo na ‘yung Talk ‘N Text because the coach is blaming the players.
“They don’t understand our culture. It’s a culture of performance. You have to come out and do your job. And if you don’t do your job, you’re going to be called out on it. And our players know that.”
Reyes recounted a specific instance in Game Three of the previous conference’s semifinals when he called out Ryan Reyes in the postgame press conference for a defensive lapse that led to a game-winner for Alex Cabagnot to put Petron Blaze up, 2-1, in their series.
“Remember that? They said I was blaming him. I wasn’t blaming him. We don’t blame people. I was just stating a fact, and that’s part of the culture of accountability,” said the coach.
“In the same manner, they can tell me when I’m doing something wrong. The players, you’ll see it all the time, we shout at each other. I don’t mind. That’s part of the culture.”
Reigning Most Valuable Player Jimmy Alapag names hard work as another core principle that is instilled deep within the team culture.
“The group that we have, guys take pride in hard work. We know how important that has been to our success as an organization and as a team. And so guys take it upon themselves to come in everyday and push themselves. And this is before practice starts,” he said.
Alapag takes it upon himself to lead by example, making sure he’s always one of the first guys in the gym and never wavering in his work ethic. He also comes to the game venues early on occasion, taking some time to do practice shots with assistant coach Jamike Jarin.
“And once practice does start, the competitiveness comes in and guys go after each other to bring out the best in each other,” Alapag added. “We’ve had a lot of success these last couple years and it’s really a credit to the guys coming in and doing the work.”
Reyes agrees with the sentiment, and adds that every member of the team takes responsibility for themselves.
“For us, it’s called the principle of shared leadership,” Reyes said. “It can’t be me all the time leading the team. Everybody knows Jimmy’s a big part of it. But again, part of it is the self-leadership of the players. They don’t wait for people to tell them what to do.”
Reyes pointed to Talk ‘N Text reserve Bambam Gamalinda, who was running laps on the elevated track oval right after practice ended for Talk ‘N Text at the Moro Lorenzo Gym Sunday night.
“You see him running up there, nobody told him to do that. The other day it was Jimmy and Jayson (Castro) and nobody told them to do that either. That’s part of the culture.”
“It doesn’t happen on its own,” Reyes said about the Talk ‘N Text culture. “First of all, you talk about it. Then you consciously do things that reinforce it. It’s not by accident.”
Some pundits, including several PBA coaches, have questioned the hunger in the Tropang Texters, who are shooting for their fourth title in the last five conferences. But the winning culture that Reyes and the Texters have fostered isn’t likely to allow them to just roll over because the other team is further away from their last title.
“People are entitled to their opinion and they can say a lot of things, whether B-MEG being hungrier and so on and so forth,” said Alapag. “We’re up against a great team with a coach who’s a legend here in the PBA. So it’s going to be a great series.”
“But at the end of the day, we know what we do on a daily basis. We understand the commitment that we have to each other as a team and as a family.”
Five straight trips to the finals, and it isn’t hunger that drives them. Not anymore.
“That’s all we have, I think,” said Reyes. “Culture.”
That culture has them shooting for a fourth title in five conferences.
Must be doing something right.
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