Sunday, June 9, 2013

UAAP Season 76: La Salle Fails The "Marshmallow Test"

UAAP Season 75: Ateneo Blue Eagles vs. DLSU Green Archers, Sept. 29
Oh Em, Gee.
[Photo credit: Juan Benjamin Janeo for Inboundpass]

So Gee Abanilla has been sacked as head coach of the DLSU Green Archers after just one year on the job. The announced reason is that the Petron Blaze Boosters, the Philippine Basketball Association team where Abanilla was last an assistant coach, asked that he return to the pro squad. But is there anyone out there who's buying that? Unless he's going to take over as the Boosters' new head coach, there's no reason why Abanilla can't serve on the Petron and La Salle coaching staffs concurrently.

Let's get one thing straight: it's La Salle's team, so they can do whatever floats their boat (especially if it will bolster the championship bid of my favorite team). But that ought not to stop outsiders from considering the likelihood of that firing being a disastrous move, coming as it does a mere three weeks before UAAP Season 76 opens.

It seems, though, that the DLSU brain trust didn't learn from the fairly recent experience of traditional archrival Ateneo.

You may recall that for the 2005 season, ADMU relieved Sandy Arespacochaga as head coach after just one year on the job. His replacement, the great Norman Black who at the time already had ten PBA championships as a coach to his name, had to endure three years' worth of heartbreak before winning his first UAAP title with the Blue Eagles in 2008—when the first players he recruited were already in their third or fourth year in the league. Had Ateneo heeded the clamor of some of its alumni to replace Coach Norman at any point during those first three seasons, who knows if the Blue Eagles would still have completed their rare five-peat?

I think Franz Pumaren (DLSU, 1998), Joel Banal (ADMU, 2002), Bert Flores (FEU, 2005), and Pido Jarencio (UST, 2006) are somehow partly to blame for this. Those four showed that it is not impossible to win UAAP titles as first-year head coaches. As a result, we think nothing of changing coaches when they don't win immediately.

A few days ago I posted this:

[Image created using the GoT Join the Realm Sigil Creator]

I picked that as the DLSU storyline to watch out for in UAAP Season 76 based on a combination of the following factors:

A) It seemed to me that rightly or wrongly, Green Archers supporters think that this year they have the best team on paper, such that anything less than a Finals stint at least would be a disappointment. They forget, however, that basketball games aren't won on paper, otherwise the UAAP would just scrap the tournament altogether and award the trophy to whichever team appears to have the strongest lineup.

B) Allan Caidic, one of Philippine basketball's all-time greatest players and a former PBA head coach, has joined the Green Archers coaching staff in time for Season 76. Now correct me if I'm wrong, but there's no reason for a UAAP team to tap a former big-league coach except to put him in the top coaching spot within a year or two of their hiring—much like Ateneo did with Coach Norman—especially if (or is it when?) the team's performance under the incumbent head coach isn't satisfactory to the powers that be.

Little did I know that the reshuffle would come even before Season 76 started. I am surprised DLSU went with Juno Sauler, who has no prior head coaching experience in the UAAP Men's division, instead of Caidic to replace Abanilla. Nonetheless, I still expect that barring a La Salle championship this season, the Triggerman will be calling the shots for the Green Archers next year.

[17 June 2013 Edit] reports that Gee Abanilla will replace Olsen Racela as Petron head coach. So it seems it's the SMC group that has failed the marshmallow test.

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