You steered San Beda to the last two of its three straight NCAA championships. How do you take criticisms that you just inherited a powerhouse squad?
Partly, they're right. It was a good team; a very strong team, for that matter. I was very lucky to be a part of it, to be their head coach. But if people think that way, what can I do? There are critics who say, “Kahit security guard ng San Beda ang mag-coach mag-champion pa rin yan sa lakas ng team.” But I really don't care about comments coming from the misinformed. I'm here for a purpose. I'm here with good intentions. And it's all about winning, and you cannot question a winner. Whatever they say, they cannot take those wins away from you. If they think I'm not a good coach, so be it. Shucks, I won two championships.
So the championships were a validation of sorts?
The first championship will always be sweeter. I was able to prove to myself and to a lot of people that I can coach. My second year, people already knew we could win. But in my first year there were questions because I'm a new coach. I heard all that stuff like “Sino ba ito? Marunong ba ito?” Eyebrows were raised.
You picked up another 6-foot-7 African-American center. Is Sudan Daniels set to fill the void left by last year’s MVP Sam Ekwe?
It's unfair to compare Sudan to Ekwe. Ekwe was more seasoned in his last year. But if I compare Ekwe and Sudan based on their first year, I think Sudan has more game. Offensively, Sudan can make shots. If we compare Ekwe in his last year and Sudan today, malayo sila. Mas magaling si Ekwe. But Sudan will get better. There's no other way but up. He can dominate the paint like Ekwe, given the chance. I think he'll be okay.
Don't you think it's an unfair advantage to have a foreign behemoth in your roster?
When Ekwe was here, we got criticized by some factions. Without Ekwe, we're still going to be criticized. So what's the difference? It will always be there. You do good, you do bad, you're going to get criticized. It's nothing new. You just learn how to live with it. In the first place, it's not an unfair advantage. He's a student. In fact, he graduated last March. It's not restricted. All the other schools can get a foreign student. It's just that we have one and they don't. I’m sorry for them.
INTERVIEW: JASMINE W. PAYO
PHOTOGRAPHY: PAUL MONDOK
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