One Big Tab

Malate, Manila
December 5, 2015
One Big Tab

Welcome to the UAAP jungle.
Just a week after La Salle “unofficially” plucked Aldin Ayo out of Letran and rival NCAA and a few days after Adamson officially announced it has acquired former La Salle mentor Franz Pumaren as its new coach, you’re probably wondering how Ateneo, the only team left in the league with a coaching vacancy, will respond?
Olsen Racela?
Louie Alas?
Norman Black?
All big names and worthy successors to Bo Perasol, right?
But Ateneo has splashier things in mind–Tab Baldwin.
Some reliable sources apparently broke it to one leading broadsheet and mentioned “it’s 80 percent done.” Checking with our own sources, they confirmed the same. The difference is that we’re 99 percent sure it is happening. One source told us that Baldwin’s appointment will be officially announced on Monday in a press conference. The one percent that it will not happen is if the Ateneo people or Baldwin himself change their mind.
They won’t though.
The Gilas Pilipinas mentor will coach Ateneo.
It will mean good news for the Eagles, who had three failed attempts at a UAAP basketball crown, and bad to the opposition since Baldwin will bring his vast international coaching experience to local college basketball.
One question though, is a foreigner allowed to coach in the UAAP?
Yes, it’s allowed. Only, an applicant must meet certain requirements. American Joe Ward was supposed to coach the Maroons but couldn’t come up with the needed documents, allegedly forcing UP to name Rensy Bajar, a Filipino, as head coach instead. Norman Black’s case is different. He’s been living in the country for decades now and has a Filipina wife and a son, Aaron, who is playing for Ateneo.
We summise that Baldwin can comply with all the documents. After all, he coached Gilas Pilipinas, our national basketball team, correct?
And also, Ateneo has tapped a foreign coach before–Thai Tai Bundit–to coach Alyssa Valdez and its women’s volleyball squad whom he eventually steered to a pair of UAAP championships.
So Tab Baldwin it is.
Before we end, let’s make a UAAP headcoach count.
Ateneo, check.
La Salle, check (It will announce officially Ayo’s appointment anytime next week).
Adamson, check.
Reigning UAAP champion Far Eastern U (Nash Racela), check.
Losing finalist Santo Tomas (Bong dela Cruz), check.
National U (Eric Altamirano), check.
University of the East (Derek Pumaren), check.
UP (Bajar), check.
And the winner is…..?


I’d like to see how our local coaches will react. Pressure, pressure.

Follow me on Twitter: @JoeySVillar


(Photo courtesy of PBA


Kobe’s Legend

(Re-posted from the blog I wrote for Philippines on Dec. 1)
Kobe’s Legend
Joey Villar

Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers. (AP File Photo)
I’m taking a bow to Kobe Bryant.
One of the greatest basketball players of all time.
After two decades, Bryant has finally succumbed to the inevitable and announced in a poem that he’ll retire after the 2015-16 NBA season. His poem, which came out at The Players’ Tribune here, itself is emotional.
Truly, parting is such sweet sorrow.
The 37-year-old Kobe was particularly fond of his grandfather, who used to mail him videos of NBA games particularly of the Lakers where his obsession in the team began.
“…You gave a six-year-old boy his Laker dream
And I’ll always love you for it…”
Kobe Bryant is synonymous to greatness.
Five-time NBA champion. An NBA Most Valuable Player. 17-time All-Star. Two-time NBA Finals MVP. Four-time All-Star MVP. 11-time All-NBA First Team. Nine-time All-Defensive First Team. Three-time All-Defensive Second Team. Two-time NBA scoring champion. NBA Slam Dunk Champion. The Lakers’ all-time leading scorer. Two-time Olympic gold medal winner.
Kobe, who is drafted straight out of high school from Lower Merion, will also retire as the third leading scorer of all time next to fellow Lakers great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Karl Malone and ahead of no less than the Greatest Player of All Time himself, Michael Jordan. Or the player he was being compared to and considered as an Heir Apparent after being drafted in 1996. In essence, he almost became His Airness.
In other words, Bryant is a fierce, ferocious competitor.
But his one singular trait that only a few could boast about is his loyalty as he played all his seasons with one team, the fabled Lakers where his greatness was encapsulated.
All good things must come to an end.
His farewell season is not going to be Kobe’s liking as the Lakers are, to this writing, down in the gutter with a 2-13 (win-loss) record. Unless miracles happen and the Lakers went on to make the playoffs and dreamily win a championship, there will be no fairy tale ending though for Kobe.
Reading at Kobe’s poem though, it looked like he’s at peace with it.
He will miss shots that he usually makes. He will jump lower than he ever jumped before. His motor will also be a little slower. But make no mistake about it, Kobe will always be Kobe.
So I’m taking a bow to Kobe Bryant.
One of the greatest basketball players of all time.
Follow me on Twitter: @JoeySVillar

Foton of Gold

Cuneta Astrodome
December 5, 2015
Foton of Gold

This first paragraph is dedicated to my wife, Kristel. She is celebrating her birthday today. Iago, our two-year-old son, and I love her more than life itself. So happy birthday and wish her all the blessings and happiness in this wrold. Sadly, she’s working on her special day.
The rest of these paragraphs will show you why.
You see, the deciding Game Three of the 2015 Philippine Superliga Grand Prix Finals is set on this very same day. It’s Petron, the defending champion, vs. Foton, the worthy challenger. For the uninitiated, the Blaze Spikers forced a decider with en epic Game Two win while the Tornadoes stole the opener.
So it boiled down to this one game.
For all the marbles.
No tomorrow.
Do or freaking die.
Destiny or fatality.
Work on a birthday.
So what happened? Foton did the least expected. The Tornadoes beat the heavily favored Blaze Spikers. And they did it by a mile. If a quick, merciless 25-18, 25-18, 25-17 victory isn’t impressive to you, I don’t know what i.

In beating Petron, Foton has accomplished a lot of things. Not only did it claim its first ever title since joining the fledgling, soon-to-be-pro league, it also ended what could have a been a dynastic reign for the former champion, Petron.

And to think the Tornadoes are coming off an embarrassing fifth (of six) finish in this same import-laced conference last season, that is an impressive feat. Some of us call it a Cinderella finish. They proved that sometimes, fairy tales become reality. As is the case with this triumphant squad.

foton3But more than anything else, another historic feat happened today–Villet Ponce-de Leon just became the first ever woman coach in league history to steer a team to a championship. I mean it’s ironic that this women’s league doesn’t have a woman champion coach. And fittingly, de Leon ended and shattered the sexual barrier. So I applaud her for engineering this breakthrough. She proved that women coaches can coach to. And win championships. And I hope, from the bottom of my heart, that more women coaches would follow the path that de Leon threaded.
So I’d like to end this blog by greeting my wife, Kristel, a happy birthday again.
Time to blow the candles.
Follow me on Twitter: @JoeySVillar


(Photos courtesy of Volleyball Ph)