Someone asked me how my blog and newspaper column came to be titled "Bleachers Brew". It's like this, it's an amalgam of sorts of two things: The bleachers area in the stadium/arena where I used to sit when I would watch baseball, football, and basketball games and Miles Davis' great jazz album Bitches Brew. That's how it got culled together. I originally planned on calling it "The View from the Big Chair" that is a nod to Tears For Fear's second album, Songs from the Big Chair. So there.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Looking at Ateneo coaching history and why I am recommending Louie Alas as the next head coach

And so the search is on for the next Ateneo Blue Eagles head coach… unless there is someone already tapped for the job.

The past few weeks, we have heard a lot of people suggest who they think should be head coach. I wish some were realistic because some of the names floated simply are impossible to poach at the moment.

Should the candidate for the 37th Ateneo head coach be an alumnus? 

Let this guide you.

In the long history 92-year history of the Ateneo Blue Eagles, we have had 36 head coaches:
- 6 priests coaching the team (5 American & 1 Filipino). The American Jesuits were Fr. John Hurley, Fr. James Martin, Fr. Matthew Kane, Fr. Joseph Geib, and Fr. Denis Lynch. The Filipino priest was Fr. Cipriano Unson who picked up the slack in 1974 after baby Dalupan resigned due to a row with the school.

- 7 Americans (5 priests and 2 lay of whom both were products of Jesuit schools -- Al Dunbar of University of San Francisco where he played alongside the Russell brothers Bill and Charles, and Norman Black of St. Joseph's University).
- 2 UP Fighting Maroons - Joe Lipa and Bo Perasol

- 1 DLSU Green Archer - Perry Ronquillo who quit with 6 games to go in the season (because of pressure from Ateneo alumni)

- 1 JRC Heavy Bomber - Cris Calilan
- 1 Mapua Cardinal Joel Banal
- 1 former Ateneo de Davao Knight in Bong Go who coached Ateneo in its last year in the NCAA
- 21 former Blue Eagles who won titles when they were playing

- 2 who coached the team on three different times: Baby Dalupan and Cris Calilan

- 4 who coached the team on two different occasions: Jing Roco, Al Dunbar, Honesto Mayoralgo, and Mark Molina
- 3 who didn't finish their season: Bobby Littaua, Baby Dalupan, and Perry Ronquillo
- 4 who were former Ateneo team captains: Primitivo Martinez, Bing Ouano, Amador Obordo, and Ogie Narvasa
- 1 who was team captain of a title-winning squad and coach of a title-winning team: Bing Ouano
- 3 coaches won titles with other schools: Baby Dalupan with UE, Nilo Verona with Letran, and Joe Lipa with UP)

Norman Black was the longest-tenured coach who was on the sidelines for eight years. Rafael Roco and Baby Dalupan coached total of six years)

10 coached in the PBA: Baby Dalupan (Crispa, Great Taste, Purefoods), Bong Go (Great Taste), Ed Ocampo (Toyota and Pepsi Cola), Perry Ronquillo (Shell), Joe Lipa (Shell, Air21), Joel Banal (Talk N Text and Alaska), Chot Reyes (Purefoods, Coca Cola, Magnolia, Talk N Text), and Norman Black (San Miguel, Sta. Lucia, Pop Cola, Talk 'N Text, and Meralco), and Bo Perasol (Air21 and Powerade)

- 2 played in the PBA -- Matthew "Fritz" Gaston most notably with U-Tex and Crispa and Norman Black, the first ever recipient of the Mr. 100% Award
- 1 won a title while coaching the Blue Eaglets, Dodie Agcaoili
- 4 who won a title as a player and as a coach: Primitivo Martinez, Bing Ouano, Nilo Verona, and Matthew Gaston.

Three of the four coaches who have led Ateneo to UAAP glory and are non-alumni: Cris Calilan, Joel Banal, and Norman Black.

Now you know your Ateneo Blue Eagle history, let’s go back to the question, should the next head coach be an Ateneo alumnus?

It would be nice but not necessarily.

So in my opinion, being an alumnus SHOULD NOT BE PART OF THE CRITERIA in the search for the next Ateneo head coach.

I’d would like to humbly recommend that the criteria should include the following:
Must already possess a coaching background. The job is not for novice coaches. Ateneo is a high profile job. You do not learn on the job. If not, insert the candidate as an assistant so he can learn his way around.
Must be respectable and have a name because that will help in the recruiting.
Must have won a championship either as a player or as coach preferably in college, amateurs, or the pros. Because the knowledge of how to win will help in moving that team forward.
Must also have the reputation of being a teacher. In college ball where you are molding young players, it is good to have this sort of coach.

I am recommending Louie Alas who starred for Adamson in the mid-1980s (yes, I saw him play and he was a solid guard). Louie was drafted 21st overall in the 1990 PBA Draft by Purefoods but he sustained a career-ending knee injury during practice with the TJ Hotdogs forcing him to switch to coaching.
He has coached Letran to three NCAA titles with a budget that isn’t anywhere near the vicinity of Ateneo’s. Not even in the same neighbourhood. He was the first and only non-Letran alumnus to give the team a title and he won three.
He also won a championship with the Manila Metrostars in the MBA and one with the Philippine Patriots in the ABL. He’s been head coach of Mobiline/Talk ’N Text and has been an assistant with the Alaska Aces where he was a part of their14th title.

He specializes in defense and a relentless full court pressure that we saw with Letran and Alaska. Surely, you must remember that banner at the Moro Lorenzo Sports Center about what wins championships. Furthermore, he likes teaching young players. 

I have had numerous opportunities to be inside Letran’s locker room and to have attended a practice or two when Alas was head coach. He is an excellent motivator as well. In my most recent conversation with Louie that was yesterday, Sunday, he told me and his son, Kevin, that coaching a school like Ateneo or La Salle is going to the Dukes, Kentuckys, and North Carolinas of this part of God's green Earth and it would be an honor for him. 

I understand that two UAAP schools have made inquiries about his availability as well as another NCAA team. 

After Norman Black left for Talk ’N Text, I recommended Alas along with Alex Compton for the position. It will be impossible to pry Compton now but Alas remains a very good choice.

In a previous piece I wrote, I also recommended Vince Hizon for the position along with Boyet Fernandez.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Working on the NU Pep Squad book titled, RISE!

Some of the interior pages of the upcoming book titled, Rise: The Extraordinary Story of National University's Cheer Dance Team. The picture below is of the folks working on the book.

Six things we can take away from UST’s Game 2 win over FEU

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Six things we can take away from UST’s Game 2 win over FEU
by rick olivares

I had six thoughts following Game Two of the UAAP Men’s Basketball Finals.

One, Kevin Ferrer played like a MVP. On the day the league’s back-to-back Most Valuable Player, Kiefer Ravena, shared the spotlight with his long-time friend Kevin Ferrer who the former declared as “the co-MVP,” the King Tiger played exactly like that.

Ferrer tallied 29 points including an incredible three-point flurry, 10 rebounds, and two assists in drawing his team level in the championship series. In an incandescent third quarter performance where he notched 24 points, Ferrer hit six triples even with a hand in his face.

The last time he did that this season, he erased a deficit against Ateneo in the first round for a Growling Tigers’ win.

His barrage clearly inspired a Tigers team in need of a leader and in inspiration.

Second, UST’s Big Three finally showed up. Karim Abdul, Ed Daquioag, and Kevin Ferrer combined for 50 of their team’s 62 points. All three of them scored in double figures and led their team in the stat sheet.

Daquioag’s contributions were huge. In five championship matches dating back to Season 76, this is his first where he heavily contributed. Coach Bong dela Cruz hopes that now that he has the money, or Tamaraw off his back, he’ll continue his high scoring ways in Game Three.

It’s pretty difficult to stop a team with heavy scoring coming from three different people. The discrepancy between both team’s starters is jarring — 55 from UST to the 22 of FEU. You can make the argument that Mike Tolomia and Mac Belo are coming off the bench so the scoring may be uneven. But there’s the gamble. You’re hoping the promoted players hold the fort until the regulars come in. If they don’t and the cavalry fails to stem the tide then you’re digging yourself into a deeper hole.

Third, FEU played out of control. Medyo gigil if you describe it in the vernacular. They were getting in the lane but throwing up all sorts of wild shots that were hitting the rim or elsewhere. They could have closed out UST but there were vestiges of hero ball being played.

Case in point one: On a three-on-one break, with Roger Pogoy in the middle, he opted to take it all the way instead of passing to Monbert Arong who was a stride or two ahead. The result was a missed layup.

Case in point two: In the midst of a wretched shooting day, Mike Tolomia threw up a shot when Achie Iñigo was wide open. He bricked the shot and Iñigo looked at him with his arms spread as if to say, “I  was wide open.” More than that, Iñigo was shooting better than he was (50% FG shooting). Tolomia was 0-15 from the field with all his seven points coming from the free throw line where he was 7-8. 

FEU had chances to still upend UST especially after Ferrer tapered off. But they muffed so many chances from the free throw line and close range shots. Instead of cutting the distance that allowed UST to hold them off.

Fourth was, did FEU experience that eerie feeling of deja vu. These past two Finals, they won the first but lost the second. And we all know how Game Three turned out for them last season. That has to weigh even just a bit in their minds.

Five, should UST win this it will be historic for two Dominican schools will hold the two premier Philippine collegiate titles. That has never happened before. This past season, Letran won the NCAA title over San Beda in most incredible fashion. And now, UST’s on the cusp of a championship. That is going to be one grand celebration.

And my sixth and last thought…. Game Three is going to be one helluva finale to what has been a great championship series.

On Aldin Ayo’s move

This appears in the Monday, November 30, 2015 edition of the Business Mirror.

On Aldin Ayo’s move
by rick olivares pic from Letran's official Twitter account

The transfer of Aldin Ayo, former Letran Knight who led his alma mater to an incredible and most unlikely championship this past NCAA season over the heavily-favored San Beda Red Lions, to La Salle has been controversial to say the least. People from different sides of the spectrum bandy about arguments from opportunity to ethics. 

Before I offer my opinion on that, this isn’t the first time this happened and it will surely not be the last. The first person who came to mind was Pilo Pumaren who led UE to a title in the UAAP before not only making the jump to La Salle in the early 1980s but also taking with his his son, Derrick, who ran the point for the Warriors. 

There have also been jumps, not exactly lateral in movement — Chot Reyes from Ateneo to Purefoods in the PBA that left the Blue Eagles in the lurch thus sending some recruits away from Loyola Heights in 1993; Ato Agustin who led San Sebastian to a NCAA title in 2009 after which he was brought on board to coach San Miguel in the PBA; Boycie Zamar who helped in the revitalization of the Red Warriors after which he also received a call-up by SMB to join the coaching staff in 2013; and there’s more.

I can understand how Letranistas feel about Ayo’s departure. Over in Ateneo, after John Flores led the Ateneo Lady Eagles to a championship, his second, he was fired over a row in regarding how he handled the team. Flores resurfaced in La Salle Greenhills where he helped revitalize their program just as the Lady Eagles floundered until this season. While I will not take anything away from current Ateneo Women’s Coach Erika Dy, the return of Flores, unofficially helping the team this season, is hardly coincidental. There is synergy. 

And there was former UAAP Men’s Football Most Valuable Player, Vincent Santos, who under his guidance the Ateneo Men’s Football Team won a three-peat in the early years of the new millennium. After a row with school officials, he packed his bags for FEU where he worked his magic. The Tamaraws’ football program is probably the best in the country now (while Ateneo is struggling to win even in high school) as they have been winning one title after another with many of their alumni becoming fixtures in club and national teams.

The timing of Ayo’s departure was odd for sure. Letran was supposed to celebrate the monumental victory that will re-sound forever not only in the school’s annals but also Philippine sports history yet instead it turned into a somber send-off party with many upset.

Whether it was for money, opportunity, or a deal struck between each team’s officials as the rumor mill has it, one cannot begrudge another for moving. Everyone has their own concerns and their own ideas for their future. Furthermore, the move is a high profile one that can help Ayo’s career. 

If you ask any college coach, they want to move to the pro ranks which is why Norman Black wanted to badly go back to the PBA. That is why Jong Uichico refused to move back to college when he was removed from his Ginebra post. If La Salle is a step away from a pro move then why not?

It is also possible that if one takes a look at Letran’s line-up for next season, they will be missing a lot and will not be as strong whereas La Salle will look tantalizing with Jeron Teng, Thomas Torres, and Jason Perkins back for one more go around with junior Prince Rivero and Ben Mbala who will be making his long-delayed debut. The prospect of coaching a team like like that in the UAAP, backed up by that terrific support from management is too good an opportunity to pass up. 

Of course, there is a price to all that. One has to win. Alumnus or not, the price for failure is rather unpleasant (and that is an understatement).

Some wonder if a La Salle alumnus should have instead been asked to take over the head coaching job. As I previously pointed out, there was Pilo Pumaren before so it isn’t like this is the first time. The elder Pumaren didn’t win right away but his sons, Derrick and Franz, who played for the school as well, also led eventually them to titles. 

This past NCAA season, I wrote that one reason for the pick up in play by the teams was that they were manned by quality coaches from Jamike Jarin (even if San Beda didn’t win its six-peat you have a very good coach) to Aric del Rosario to Vergel Meneses to Topex Robinson to Jerry Codinera and Ayo. I had the opportunity to watch Ayo up close from the summer all the way to the season’s end and it was a masterful job. 

It is good to see that the coaches are recognized for the job they do (and not only the players). 

The days of alumni coaching their respective alma maters are done. There will always be alumni coaches and there will always be call-ups from left field. No one school has a monopoly on talent, smarts, savvy, and heart. The only thing constant is change. There are no right and wrong reasons. After all, you do have to look out for your own future. 

The sad thing is that Letran feels like they’re a victim of a heist. Maybe Aldin should have informed school management ahead of time instead of them learning about the possible move from others. But it’s done. The Dominicans, who showed an incredible amount of restraint and compassion, and Letran as a school, should take heart however that their team is one that knows all about impossible odds. They will be back for sure. Hopefully, after this, they take a long and hard look at their program and how it fares in this sea of change swirling around them. 

Friday, November 27, 2015

How about them UST Growling Tigers?

After the Game One loss to FEU, you'd think that the UST Growling Tigers were angry or even at each other's throats. Not at all.

Coach Bong dela Cruz could have read his team the riot act for their poor rebounding and poor play. Instead, inside the locker room, he asked some of his players why they were sad and down. He told them cheer up and that it wasn't their best and that they will mount a helluva comeback. That had what was a downcast team team very upbeat; one that couldn't wait to get back on court. And no, there was no finger pointing towards the direction of swingman Ed Daquioag who turned in a poor outing. Not at all. It was all encouragement. 

It was a remarkable scene and a very different one from the previous year where dela Cruz and his team struggled. Players had to get used to his system. The coach was dealing with the pressure of replacing a legend. The team's morale was down. Some grumbled demanding change. But Fr. De Sagon stood pat and solidly behind the coach. It was just a getting-to-know-you-phase, argued the Dominican. "It will get better," he promised. Well, what do you know but the man of the cloth must also be a seer.

You can easily say that winning cures all ills. Maybe. But that wasn't evident during the summer. It was a more relaxed dela Cruz who manned the sidelines for the summer tournament. Even with a different line-up since several players were unavailable, the Tigers fought and showed everyone that they were far from done. Come the UAAP season, the pieces -- even those unavailable previously -- began to fit in nicely. One can make a case for other squads most notably, FEU, being the paragons for offensive might. The Tigers whipped that ball around and had different players leading the charge.  They played fun and flowing basketball, a stark contrast to the tough and grind it out ball of the previous years. For me, watching them by the baseline was a joy. There wasn't much eye contact, just passes zipping here and there. Star players giving up the ball to younger ones who would take the shot. The only time there was some form of displeasure was when one wasn't in position or playing defense. I could only marvel in fascination. 

I remember dela Cruz really berating Louie Vigil the previous year. Going after him with such anger after poor play. This year that hasn't been the case. Well, he does get angry from time to time but not with that volcanic fury I saw the previous season. Even Kevin Ferrer has played much better; far more in control, and with less emotion. And I think that has made him a much better basketball player. 

The loss to the Tamaraws stung but the UST Growling Tigers left with a much more positive attitude than before they stepped onto the MOA Arena floor for Game One.

Whoa, boy. Game Two's gonna be a classic.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

UAAP Finals: Looking at FEU’s Game One win over UST

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Looking at FEU’s Game One win over UST
by rick olivares

How big was that Game One win by FEU over UST?

It comes at a big time especially after taking two losses to the Growling Tigers in the elimination round and two not so great performances heading into the Finals.

While one could say that they accomplished the same thing by taking Game One of the Season 77 Finals against NU (they lost the next two games), these are somewhat different circumstances.

For one, it arrested the assertion of their propensity to choke. This past season taught the Tamaraws many things - bouncing back from a terrible loss (that followed a big win), winning close games, comeback from deficits, and bucking poor performances from key players. It seems that Nash Racela’s boys have found the right ingredients for a championship recipe. Now if they can serve a winning dessert…

In their two elimination round matches with Bong dela Cruz’s Growling Tigers, I previously pointed out that there was no rhyme or reason to winning the rebounding battle etc. It came down to starter points, inside points, second chance points and UST’s ability to comeback.

How did that play out in Game One?

Starter points: UST outscored FEU’s 46-37 (the Tams’ first five scoring is down because Mike Tolomia and Mac Belo have been coming off the bench of late).

Inside Points: equal at 34 each (FEU’s Prince Orizu and Russel Escoto had better than 50% field goal accuracy inside)

Second chance points: FEU enjoyed a whopping 56-32 advantage on the boards with the Tamaraws scoring 17 second chance points (UST managed 11). Those six more points sure helped especially those rim rattling putbacks by Orizu.

Coming back: UST came back from the deficit but FEU successfully beat them back with their late fourth period stand. This is huge for FEU’s collective psyche that they held and answered the Tigers’ spirited rally.

Here are some things that turned the tide for FEU:

FEU received a lot of contributions. Five players scored in double digits beginning with Roger Pogoy’s 15 and followed by Mike Tolomia’s 14, Mac Belo’s 13, Russel Escoto’s 12, and Prince Orizu’s 10. It should be noted that this is the first time against UST this campaign where FEU’s Big Three of Tolomia, Belo, and Pogoy all scored in double figures.

FEU played better as a team. The Tamaraws tallied more assists, 13-5. That really helps when the ball is whipped around.

One other thing… Ed Daquioag was missing for UST. Ed, who has been a huge pillar of strength for the Growling Tigers this season, where he averaged 16.4 points, 5.6 points, 2.2 assists,1.1 steals versus 3.4 turnovers. In Game One of this year’s championship series, Daquioag compiled four points and five rebounds to go with four turnovers in an effective 24 minutes of action. He’s had consecutive tough outings in the last two matches including the Final Four win over NU. In those two games, he’s averaged 6.0 points and 6.5 rebounds. Not bad but poor by his standards. In fact, he’s struggled this second round as teams have geared up to stop those lane incursions.

That is the fourth consecutive Finals match dating back to Season 76 where Daquioag hasn’t done much.
Season 76 Finals Game One - four points
Season 76 Finals Game Two - zero points
Season 76 Finals Game Three - DNP

For sure Karim Abdul and Kevin Ferrer cannot do it alone. If they want to extend the series to a winner-take-all match, Daquioag must fire on all cylinders with the other two also making heavy contributions.

The two pertinent questions heading into Game Two will be: can FEU erase years of futility and close it out or does UST have another comeback in them? 

It is going to be even more explosive.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

UAAP Season 78 Finals Preview: UST Growling Tigers vs FEU Tamaraws

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UAAP Finals Preview: UST vs FEU
by rick olivares

It seems only right that the best two teams in the UAAP this year clash for the title. The University of Santo Tomas Growling Tigers was somewhat not expected to be here yet they are and are massive favorites to win their first championship since 2006.

The Far Eastern University Tamaraws were the pre-season favorite to annex their first championship since 2005, however, a late season slide, not to mention two elimination round losses to UST have placed them once more as underdogs.

Both finished identical 11-3 records but the Tigers got the first seed owing to their two victories over the Tamaraws. Both had contrasting wins in getting to the Finals but what is important is hey are here now.

A little history
The Season 78 championship will be the first battle between the two in the championship since 1979 when FEU defeated UST, 100-89 behind head coach Arturo Valenzona with his stars Anthony Williams and Bai Cristobal who currently assists in supervising the officials in the league in addition to being the current NCAA commissioner.

UST at that time was called the Glowing Goldies and were coached by Rogelio Serafico who had been around long enough to know heartbreak at the hands of Baby Dalupan and the UE Warriors. His version of the Big Three was Ed Cordero who played for Toyota in the PBA and is currently an assistant to Atoy Co in Mapua, and their backcourt combo of Frank Natividad and Edmund Yee. 

During that year, ironically also with UP as the host school, Cordero was severely weakened by the flu and that told heavily on UST’s chances in the finals.

A look at the UST Growling Tigers (12-3 including their Final Four win over NU)
They have their own Big Three with another 6’4” shooter like Ed Cordero in Kevin Ferrer. Unlike their 1979 counterpart that didn’t have a center, the current Tigers have Karim Abdul. And there’s swingman Ed Daquioag. They are ably backed up by Jon Sheriff, Louie Vigil, Mario Bonleon, and Marvin Lee. 

What you have to like about UST’s offense is how seamless their offense is. Even with Ferrer and Daquioag, the ball moves around quickly. They couldn’t really care who scores. Like their recent counterparts, they have solid players in key positions making them a tough match up for anyone. Marvin Lee is the pleasant surprise carrying over his scoring feats from high school as a FEU Baby Tamaraw. 

They are dangerous because they have five players who were their team’s top scorers for their high school teams so they know something about carrying their respective sides — Ferrer, Vigil, Mario Bonleon, Lee, and Renzo Subido. What I love about their system again is that they don’t mind giving the ball to other players to take shots. They are perfectly comfortable with what each one can contribute. Save for the post play to Karim, the do not need to make eye contact when passing the ball around. It just goes around and that is fun to watch when you root for them and enough for others to go, “uh on” if you’re for the other team.

They like to play a man-zone that switches to a 1-3-1 with Ferrer playing cleanup. Not a particularly deep team but as in years past, they have at least two of the best five players in the league with a solid center.

A look at the FEU Tamaraws (12-3 including their Final Four win over Ateneo)
They didn’t look too impressive in the last few games even if they fashioned out some big nail-biting wins. 

In all stats, FEU leads UST but that is a misnomer as the latter defeated them in their two elimination round meetings. So you know they have their work cut out for them.

During the first round meeting, UST squeaked past FEU 72-71 in a comeback win (they were spotted a late four-point lead). Their second round encounter also saw the Tigers of Bong dela Cruz erase an first quarter double digit deficit to win comfortably, 85-76.

FEU’s last couple of wins saw Roger Pogoy play heads up ball late in the game. If FEU wants to win, they need Mike Tolomia and Mac Belo playing terrific and consistent basketball.

They have a deeper bench but that so far hasn’t counted for much versus UST. To say in the vernacular, parang mas buo loob ng USTe.

But this is a darn good team. The question is can they put it all together here and now?

The match-up
Looking at the two match-ups, there are four areas that we can glean from the stats.

The first are the starter points. UST’s starting unit outscored FEU’s on both occasions: 54-43 in the first round, and 60-28 in the second round. Save for Roger Pogoy who fouled out in the second meeting no other Tam was in foul trouble each time. That means they were rather ineffective while on the floor. UST’s top three players heavily contributed in both wins while for FEU’s Big Three of Mike Tolomia, Mac Belo, and Roger Pogoy, one of them was missing in at least one match.

The second is the inside points category: UST came ahead both times, 40-28 and 26-20. The Tigers just love to attack FEU’s interior especially in the fourth quarter where the Tigers are a combined 7-14 to the 3-7 of the Tamaraws.

Third is second chance points category where the Tigers have done better: 11-4 and 6-5. In close matches, this counts for a lot.

And fourth and last is that UST knows it can come back. In the two matches, FEU posted leads that were quickly erased. Now that’s powerful. The Tigers know they can handle the early pressure and withstand the Tamaraws’ barrage. FEU so far doesn’t know if they can rally from a deficit. 

The odds on favorite to win it all is UST so the onus is on FEU to take Game One and try and close it out in Game Two. But right now, Kevin Ferrer and company are top faves to end years of heartbreak.

My suggestions for the next head coach for the Ateneo Blue Eagles

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My suggestions for the next head coach for the Ateneo Blue Eagles
by rick olivares

With the end of the season for the Ateneo Blue Eagles, the rebuilding process continues. Gone is Bo Perasol and some members of the coaching staff. There are some immediate questions — do they participate in the Philippine Collegiate Champions League and who will play considering some if not many of them will need to catch up with their studies. But the more important question is — who will be the 37th head coach of the Ateneo Blue Eagles?

While the search committee has yet to be formed, what would be ideal for the team is to have the new coach in place by January 2016.

Who are the possible candidates?

Your guess is as good as mine. Here are just some of my ideas on who I think could be tasked to steer the Blue Eagles through the next few years.

I eliminated the impossible such as Leo Austria and Olsen Racela who will not be easy to extricate from the San Miguel Corporation group as well as Alex Compton who is currently head coach of Alaska.

Personally, the criteria I would set are:
Must already possess a coaching background; doesn’t have to be a veteran coach.
Must be respectable because that will help in the recruiting.
Must have won a championship either as a player or as coach preferably in college, amateurs, or the pros.
Must be able to teach and work well with the players.
I do not believe he should be an alumnus because really — how many good Atenean coaches are out there and who are available?

Having said that, there are two former Blue Eagles who are currently not tied up with any team.

Chot Reyes
Former Blue Eagle star who was a Mythical Five selection in the UAAP (1983). Coached Ateneo in the early 1990s before he departed for the pros where he was an assistant with Alaska. Has since stuffed his resume with five PBA Coach of the Year awards as well as eight PBA championships with Purefoods, Coca Cola, and Talk ’N Text to name a few of his accomplishments. Has coached the national team on several occasions where they have won gold, silver, and bronze medals.

Why he would be an excellent coach? 
He understands what it is like to play and coach for Ateneo. Been there; done that. He is brilliant strategist and an excellent motivator. A winner. And with his resume — he will be able to recruit.

Any concerns?
Well, he is like Jose Mourinho who draws attention to himself and that can be very distracting.

Vince Hizon
Star swingman for Ateneo in the early 1990s. First game against La Salle, he scored a phenomenal 44 points. Turned pro after a year of college ball. Was on Purefoods’ bench but after a year was traded to Ginebra where he became a big star. Won one PABL, four PBA, and one SEA Games gold medal.

Was been an assistant for Adamson the past three years; first with Kenneth Duremdes and now with Mike Fermin. His contract with the school is expiring so he is available. Currently the Commissioner of the Filsports Basketball Association. Unsuccessfully ran for the post of PBA Commissioner after Chito Salud stepped down.

Why he would be an excellent coach?
Is a winner and is so filled with positivity. Did a lot of individual work with Adamson’s Papi Sarr and Joseph Nalos (not taking away anything from Mike Fermin who did a great job). The results are evident in their game. The two led Adamson this past season. 

Any concerns?
Not enough experience in coaching.

Louie Alas
Former Adamson star who won championships in the PABL with Tanduay ESQ and Army Junglefighters. Was drafted by Purefoods during its first year in the pros. Unfortunately, was unable due to a career-ending injury. Made a name for himself coaching the Manila Metrostars to the MBA title in 1999 where they won 22-consecutive games. He was named the MBA’s Coach of the Year. He joined Mobiline (later Talk ’N Text) where he led them to respectable finishes. Coached Letran to three titles (1998, 2003, 2005) and a couple of second place finishes. Led Toyota-Otis to a PBL Finals berth where they lost to the star-studded Harbour Center Portmasters.

Why he will make an excellent coach?
He’s been a winner all his life and he knows a thing or two about taking teams with nary a faction of the budget that Ateneo has and turning them into winners. Look at the players he has recruited — Kevin Racal, Aaron Aban, Mark Andaya, Ronjay Enrile, Rey Guevarra to name a few. So imagine if he had that working budget...

He’s also coached star-studded teams such as the Manila Metrostars where he had Alex Compton and Rommel Adducul as players. Now he plays a crucial role as Compton’s assistant in Alaska.

Any concerns?
Some people see the sheer physicality of the Letran Knights. Well, if you don’t have any budget, then you make the most of what you have. Has an eye for talent.

Boyet Fernandez
It is my media colleague and fellow Atenean Jasmine Payo who first broached the idea of tapping Boyet Fernandez as a possible candidate. We discussed that right before a UAAP match after which some others caught wind of the idea and wrote about it.

Went to Colegio de San Agustin in Bacolod where he starred. Was a star guard for the Sta. Lucia Realtors where he won as a player and as a head coach. Picked up the slack for Aboy Castro for the UP Fighting Maroons years ago. Joined San Beda where he won back-to-back titles and has won numerous D-League titles with NLEX. Now head coach of NLEX in the PBA.

Why he would be an excellent head coach?
Boyet is a patient and a gentleman of a coach. Very respectful and doesn’t like to call attention to himself. Has a very good work ethic. Loves to do scouting himself and works hard on game plans. Humble and a nice guy on and off the court.

Any concerns?
Too nice a guy! But that’s not such a bad thing at all.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

A last interview with Ateneo head coach Bo Perasol

Top picture with Bo Perasol on the day that he was officially introduced to the Ateneo community - December 12, 2012 12-12-12. That shot was at the ground floor of the MVP Center where the documentary that I worked on, The Drive for Five, was premiered. The photo below is roughly an hour after the Final Four loss to FEU right before I conducted the interview that follows. So I was there for his first and last day.

A last interview with Ateneo head coach Bo Perasol
by rick olivares

About an hour after the loss to FEU, I sat down with Bo Perasol in the adjacent dugout next to Ateneo’s for a post-season interview. 

Rick: Coach, what was running through your head in those last seconds of the game?

Bo: There were only two things on my mind, Adrian (Wong) was going to make the shot or he was going to be fouled. It was unfortunate, I don’t know if there was a foul or none at all. I am not sure I want to see the replay because what good will it do when it is over? Those were the things running in my mind.

When it came down to that last shot by Belo, in my mind, I quickly reviewed our game plan. It was a part of my pre-game huddle with them that rebounding was key and limiting second chances. And that’s what hurt us. And it really hurt us in this game.

Rick: You mean to say even as the game was over you were still thinking of the play?

Bo: A little. It was over very quickly. I knew that Belo’s shot counted. And my mind was thinking... part of it… well, hindi ko na sure what went on. I was thinking was it over? I have to make sure that I congratulate the other team and the people who I need to say thank you. To gather the team for the singing of the alma mater song...

Rick: Yeah, sometimes you aren’t prepared for those moments. I mean who is prepared? 

Bo: Oo nga. It was a blur those minutes. You want to remember each and every moment but your mind is trying to process what was going on.

Rick: Coach, how would you describe the past three years for you in Ateneo?

Bo: Time seemed so fast. There were days when it seemed to take forever and there were days like it was too fast. However, as I shared in the dugout after the game, if I had to rewind and knowing what’s going to happen in the next three years with all the heartaches and criticism and going back to the moment where I was asked to coach Ateneo, I would say, "a double yes.” Yes, I would still take the job. There is no difference in coaching in the professional or the college ranks, the criticism is always there. You just hope to do a good job.

For me personally, one of the best things was the journey that I went through.

It is different when you deal with the pro players than the student-athletes. The professional players are more or less finished products. The student-athletes, you affect their lives in a manner that they will carry in their individual lives. 

Having said that, I want to tell Hubert, Arvin, and everyone else that their time will come if you have the right attitude and continue to work hard. You are the best of your batch but you will have to prove it. Some times I wish I could do more, give more, help them… there isn’t all the time to do that.  In that aspect, I would like to think that I influenced them positively. I hope I did.

Rick: Unfortunately, coaching, and coaching any team for that matter, comes with its pitfalls like criticism etc.

Bo: It is the nature of competition to bring out the best and the worst. A lot of people will malign you but what is important is you realize their opinions matter to them but you shouldn’t let it affect you. If you can use some of those points that are made -- but you have to remove the hurtful words — and those points help improve what you do, then it is all good. 

It is unfortunate that I wasn’t able to deliver a championship. I know the winning is important too. But sometimes, not making it prepares you for the next phase in life. I hope the next coach will be able to build on what we’ve started though.

Rick: You brought us to within two baskets of making it to the Finals the past two years...

Bo: Yeah. (nods) I guess… it wasn’t meant to be. But my players were able to bounce back from all the distractions from this season and we managed to give FEU a good fight. We kept coming closer and closer to winning it. We have to take comfort that we played some great basketball in these years and that we brought in some key players who will help Ateneo in the next few years.

Rick: Talking about years, is there a highlight for you in these three years? Could be one or two or more. That depends on you. 

Bo: I think the best moment would be this year and this game because it models our resiliency. it is what I wanted to impart to our players. Of course, FEU is more experienced and more skilled at some positions. But we were able to claw our way back and that is what I wanted to do — to play grind it out basketball. And that is what I can say about my tenure, it is to compete and fight back when there is adversity.

Maraming aspects to consider when trying to accomplish what the community wants but we cannot have it all.

Rick: Do you feel that the Ateneo alumni were unfair to you?

Bo: Kahit saan naman meron expectations. In the pros, in UP, and Ateneo. And in other schools too. It would have been nice to have the alumni behind my back. Sometimes, I didn’t feel the support. But meron din. I told you this before. One of the best things to happen these past few years is the friendships I have made. I met people who I never met before and they are there for you.

Ikaw naman ang tatanungin ko, meron ba highlight para sa yo?

Rick: Oo naman. The shoe is on the other foot. (laughter from both)

Marami eh. This season alone is the best for me. Tama ka… yung resiliency. But one other that stands out for me is the La Salle game in your first year where you went after a couple of people in the crowd.

Bo: (laughs) 

Rick: Sabi ko, tangina, heto yung coach namin makikipagaway sa kalaban. Makikipaglaban din ako para sa kanya.

Bo: Alam mo naman tayong mga taga-Katipunan. Kaya tayo mga taga-Katipunan.

Rick: Seriously now… sorry I have to ask this… is there a low point too? Could be a game?

Bo: I think if there is an experience na masakit sa akin — only time will tell, ang anxiety ko is how will I be able to get the best of the players that I recruited because i was responsible for them. But my experience is it will take time. In the PBA you draft them they are ready to play. Dito parang gusto ma-meet expectations ng mga player because they have so much belief in what they can do but it doesn’t turn out that way. You feel for them but they should understand that real life is like this. You have to work hard and more often than not, work harder to get what you want.

Rick: How would you describe or sum up your time in Ateneo?

Bo: (pauses for about a minute) Eventful. Very eventful. That is the word. It didn’t have the ending that I would have wanted but on a personal note, it pushed me to grow some more. In these years, ilan beses na ako gusto itapon — after my first year, after my second year, in the middle of my third year. 

Rick: That sucks.

Bo: Well… as I said earlier, it is about resiliency. It isn’t simply terms of wins and losses because championships matter. But I am glad that the people who make the decisions realize the situation we were in and that I was doing the right thing. The direction is there. 

What a journey though.

Rick: So what is next for Bo Perasol?

Bo: Hindi ko pa alam what is going to happen next but I would really like to take time out and think of what to do. 

I just want to say this — marami pa ako nakilala who stayed with you. Isa ka na roon. It is your job to analyze what we do but it is objective. Thank you for that and the support. People who know me on a personal level know that is not about me but about the team and the community. I really wanted to help and I hope I did.

It didn’t end the way I wanted it to end. I would have been nice to have sent the series to a do-or-die match.

(pauses) But we did give them (FEU) One Big Fight.


Additional reading: Down from the Hill: My thoughts following Ateneo's Final Four loss to FEU.