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Picking this year’s best UAAP men’s basketball coach

UAAP coaches Bo Perasol (Ateneo), Nash Racela (FEU), Eric Altamirano (NU) and Derrick Pumaren (UE)

I’d say contenders for any UAAP Coach of the Year (should the league hand out this) award would find Ateneo’s Bo Perasol, FEU’s Nash Racela, NU’s Eric Altamirano and UE’s Derrick Pumaren in the debate. All four coaches have turned in great performances.

Here is how they finished after two rounds of hoops:

Perasol 11-3

Racela 10-4

Altamirano 9-5

Pumaren 9-5

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Should you take into consideration how team’s fared the previous year?

For sure! Some people tend to pass over a coach who is always successful because they think that they have such a strong program. But they conveniently forget that keeping the team sharp, focused, and ready year after year is a task and a half.

Nevertheless, let’s break it down.

Why Perasol?

Did anyone think Ateneo would finish the elimination round on top at 11-3? No one did. Honestly, I thought they would finish second or third with La Salle at number one.

Perasol went 7-7 as Ateneo missed the Final Four for the first time since 1998. This season, Perasol lost Juami Tiongson, Ryan Buenafe and Frank Golla. That’s three-fifths of the starting five plus three veterans from the five-peat teams.

Furthermore, the hallmark of all of Ateneo’s title teams since 1987 is that the title went through the man in the middle. The 1980s saw Alex Araneta, Danny Francisco and Eric Reyes play the five spot. The new millennium had Rico Villanueva and Rich Alvarez. The 2010 team is the one exception as Ateneans were treated to surprise performances from Justin Chua, Frank Golla and Jason Escueta, who bridged the Rabeh Al-Hussaini years to Greg Slaughter for the recent five-peat. Plus, it was a total team effort (highlighted by the fact that no Blue Eagle won any individual post-season awards).

This year, as much as you have to love what Alfonso Gotladera has brought to the team in the middle (along with cameo appearances by Arvin Tolentino when he feels like playing defense), Ravena has carried this team. This was way harder than his senior year in high school (at least he had Paolo Romero and Jay Javelosa playing up front with Von Pessumal in the wings).

But the Ateneo team is filled with few solid veterans (Ravena, Von Pessumal, Nico Elorde, and Chris Newsome) who log long minutes while role players and rookies battle a constant crisis of confidence due to the lack of minutes. The team has waxed hot and cold but has found ways to win.

Early this campaign, I exchanged text messages with Perasol and remarked that I saw glimpses of his Powerade Tigers’ system with Ateneo. He concurred but he said he was trying to mix it up.

Did they overachieve with their 11-3 elimination round record? He promised the Final Four or bust at the end of Season 76. In a way, but Perasol has them Bo-lieving they can achieve the impossible by making it back to the Finals and perhaps toppling the defending champions.

Who blossomed under Perasol? Kiever Ravena, Von Pessumal, Chris Newsome, Nico Elorde and Gotladera. And Arvin Tolentino.

Why Racela?

Racela finished 10-4 last season, the same record as this year, despite missing Terrence Romeo, RR Garcia, Gryann Mendoza and Christian Sentcheu. That’s two league Most Valuable Players plus two dependable role players. Yet, they have hardly missed a beat.

In fact, they have been playing better basketball than before by spreading the wealth before placing the ball in Tolomia’s hands with the game on the line. Furthermore, they have players like Ron Dennison and Raymar Jose chipping in. Even Jason David has had his moments. I’d say it takes balls to dig deep into that bench and have them produce.

FEU is among the top three in almost every offensive statistical category. But defensively, they need some work and its win-or-home time.

Who blossomed under Racela? Mike Tolomia, Mac Belo, Archie Iñigo, Roger Pogoy and Anthony Hargrove! And how about a finding a gem in Francis Tamsi?

Why Altamirano?

I’d say he is the top bet to win it. Altamirano lost Ray Parks, Robin Roño, Dennice Villamor, Emmanuel Mbe, Mark De Guzman, Jeff Javillionar, Cedrick Labing-isa and William Porter. That’s a former two-time league MVP, two Mythical Five selections, a defensive specialist and three starters.

His NU Bulldogs are led by players who were either scrubs last season or are not even the team’s leaders. They had one of the biggest flameouts in league history when UST roughed them up into submission.

At one point, they were even atop of the league. Even if they finished fourth in the eliminations, they are the top defensive team in the league and that says a lot about what Coach E has done.

Who blossomed under Altamirano? Gelo Alolino. So maligned. Some even wanted him off the team. Paolo Javelona. Seriously, you don’t know this guy but he works very hard and has an excellent attitude. Glenn Khobuntin! Troy Rosario. Tristan Perez. Top recruit in Rev Diputado.

And this is still essentially a classic NU nobody team.

Why Pumaren?

Pumaren got the job 10 days before tip-off of the summer tournaments. He inherited a team that lost Adrian Santos, Ralf Olivares, Jai Flores, JM Noble, Luis Pujante, JR Sumido, Lord Casajeros and Leo Guion. With not much time to recruit, he tried to change his team’s mindset as he installed his defensive schemes as they played so you know there was a lot of experimentation going on.

The result is a 9-6 record after they were bounced by NU in the playoff for the fourth and last seat in the Final Four.

Pumaren said that after the two rounds, his team was at only 85 percent efficiency. But

they were the second best defensive team after NU.

Who blossomed under Pumaren? Bong Galanza, Paul Varilla, Dan Alberto and Daryl Guiang.

Let’s grade them:

Coach

S77

Off. Ranking

Def. Ranking S

Player Development

Perasol

11-3

#1

#6

Ravena, Pessumal, Elorde, Newsome, Gotladera

Racela

10-4

#3

#5

Tolomia, Belo, Iñigo, Hargrove, Pogoy, Tamsi

Altamirano

9-5

#5

#1

Alolino, Khobuntin, Rosario, Celda, Javelona, Diputado

Pumaren

9-5

#2

#2

Galanza, Alberto, Guiang,

My take is it boils down to Bo, Nash and Eric. It would be easy to say that whoever wins it (along with La Salle’s Juno Sauler) would be Coach of the Year. Coach Derrick is knocked out because his team didn’t make it to the Final Four. Had the Red Warriors done so, I’d give it to him considering it is his return to college hoops.

Nash has done a great job of stabilizing FEU’s game. But he still has a lot of holdovers from the Bert Flores era.

Bo essentially has a new team; one he can call his own. Eric is working with a lot of scrubs.

I’d say the choice goes down to Bo and Eric.

For my choice, I’d love to give it to Coach E but he has studs in Henri Betayene and Alfred Aroga who have kept NU in the thick of the fight. Bo has achieved this with an all-local crew that isn’t even that tall or that talented to begin with.

So my UAAP Coach of the Year regardless who wins the championship, is… Bo Perasol.

***

Rick Olivares is a longtime contributor and blogger and for Unblogged Sports. His views are purely his own.

 

 

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