KUALA LUMPUR – After winning the 2015-2016 ASEAN Basketball League (ABL) Championship, the Westports Malaysia Dragons will part ways with their head coach Ariel Vanguardia as he moved on to coach the Phoenix Fuel Masters in the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA).
Wesports Malaysia’s team manager Yakub Hussaini said that the management is grateful for Vanguardia’s contributions to the team and proud of his achievements.
“We are all happy for him. Ariel is a good and hard-working coach. Obviously, it saddens us to let him go, but we are proud to have developed a coach that is recognized by a team in the PBA,” said Hussaini.
“It is not all goodbyes. Ariel is still assisting us on a few things especially in the ASEAN Heritage imports department as well as the World imports scouting reports. That much he has promised me. He will always remain a Dragon,” Yakub added.
Vanguardia first joined the Dragons in 2010-2011 season as a scout before taking over as head coach in the 2012-2013 season.
During his four year stint with as head coach of the club, the Dragons made it to the ABL finals twice. They finished in second place during the 2014-2015 season with Vanguardia being named the ABL Coach of the Year. The Dragons won their first ABL title in the 2015-2016 season.
As for coach Vanguardia, he likened the the six years of his coaching stint with Westports Malaysia Dragons to studying in graduate school.
“My six years in Malaysia were my best of my coaching career thus far. It was like I was in a graduate school or a retreat for six years,” Vanguardia said. “It gave me time to reflect, work on my weaknesses, and to expand my knowledge. After practices, I watch games or training videos, read books, draw out plays, and scout players and that made me become a better coach.
“I will be forever be grateful to the Dragons for giving me that chance to grow with the team. Everything is just sinking in right now and I would like to personally thank boss Ruben Gnanalingam, General Manager Yakub, players, and friends,” Vanguardia closed.
The Filipino coach will leave the Dragons with a much stronger program than when he came in as he has introduced them to some of the best ASEAN Heritage and World imports in the past few years but also making sure that the development of the locals was a priority.
It all came together for them in the 2015-2016 finals where they defeated the Singapore Slingers in a hotly-contested five-game series.
When asked about the new coach, Hussaini said he is working closely with the Malaysia Basketball Association (MABA) to pick the best person to fill the position.
“As for a new coach for the ABL, Dragons and MABA are compiling CVs now. From there, we will filter and call for closed-door interviews. We will find the best to fill up that position.
“For now coach Goh Cheng Huat is our caretaker as he is also the coach of the Malaysian National Team. Since he is in charge and he will choose the players for the league. Our direction is to develop the players,” he said.
A decision on the head coach role of the Westports Malaysia Dragons will be announced in due time.