October 01, 2007

Go UE!

That was the reaction of one of my friends, diehard blue eagle that he is, last night after the Ateneo loss to La Salle. I had texted him to condole with him after the loss, knowing that he would be at the Araneta Coliseum screaming his head off and egging his beloved blue eagles on, and was afraid that he would take it badly (one time during a particularly bad loss to La Salle, he was disconsolate and could not be spoken to for a week). This time around, his only response was, "Go UE!"

I was not able to watch the game--whether on tv or at the venue--as I had a planning meeting that started at 12 and ended past 8 (but through persistent texts bugging my friends from both sides, blue and green, I managed to get an almost instant play by play; funny though, the color commentary differed depending on which friend I texted). I could have gotten a ticket though if I had wanted because one of the head coaches is my former client (I'm not telling which) but the thing was I would then be seated with the side I was not rooting for (and that can be hazardous to my health).

I claim no affinity to either school, though I am closer to one of them, having been trained in its ways. I can be objective though when it comes to UAAP Basketball because I don't belong to either school (though I cheer more for one of the two; hint: it is not the team that both my current RAs cheer for) and I can objectively say that yesterday, the better team won.

Now, before the blue eagles lynch me, I base this on the more consistent and more passionate play of La Salle. Ateneo had the advantage of having played competitively last season but squandered that advantage by their inconsistent play (I mean, how could they have lost to NU?); La Salle, on the other hand, having been suspended last year, managed to put together a competitive team despite lack of UAAP competition and managed to win when they had to.

The benches of either team are practically equal, same with the fan support.

The key point, I believe, turned on the coaching.

Norman Black is a PBA grandslam coach and an Asian Games coach (with San Miguel) and before that, he was a great player--Mr. 100% himself. But one key thing that he lacks when coaching which Franz Pumaren has is "out of the box" thinking--the oido thing that the Maestro himself Baby Dalupan (former Ateneo and Crispa, Purefoods, Great Taste coach) had. The ability to pull surprises and to react quickly.

Franz was Black's player at San Miguel and learned from Black. The irony of it is that he appears to be now the better coach (better even than Derrick, his elder brother and Black's former assistant Coach at San Miguel, when Black was a playing coach. The jury's still out as to who is better between Franz and Dindo).

Norman is a more pattern-type coach while Franz is better at reacting to what's going on at the moment. And very often, you can see that in how Black substitutes and reacts to what's going on; having been a big man, Norman is quite understandably biased towards having a big line up and coaches from the perspective of a big man. Franz, on the other hand, having been a point (and even a 2) guard with a great 3 point shot, coaches from the point of view of one who is used to moving the ball around and getting it to the open man.

In a game decided by passion and fueled by adrenaline, the coach who can think "out of the box" generally will have an advantage. And that's why I think La Salle had an advantage there.

Objectively, the better team and the hungrier team won. So congrats to La Salle (now, if we could only get their pep squad to spell correctly) but, "win or lose, its the school we choose" and so, "GO UE!"

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