Someone asked me how my blog and newspaper column came to be titled "Bleachers Brew". It's like this, it's an amalgam of sorts of two things: The bleachers area in the stadium/arena where I used to sit when I would watch baseball, football, and basketball games and Miles Davis' great jazz album Bitches Brew. That's how it got culled together. I originally planned on calling it "The View from the Big Chair" that is a nod to Tears For Fear's second album, Songs from the Big Chair. So there.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Anatomy of a meltdown

Anatomy of a meltdown
Figuring out why La Salle crashed out.
by rick olivares photo by brosi gonzales

During the summer, while helping preparing the college preview issue of Rebound, I figured Ateneo to play La Salle for the 2011 UAAP Men’s Basketball title.

Why was I so high on that finals match up? And the light of what befell their campaign, what happened?

Watching them over the summer, there was that confidence that they finally had the players to match up not only against Ateneo but also the taller teams in the league like Adamson and FEU. They did not make the finals of any summer league but there was that hunger and the gut feel that they just had to put it together come the UAAP.

How was this team put together?

There’s no lacking in homegrown pride with a number of DLSZ players in Simon Atkins, Joshua Webb, Luigi dela Paz, and Arnold Van Opstal and Martin Reyes from LSGH. They have key recruits such as LA Revilla, Roldan Sara, and Alfonso Gotladera from San Beda; Jarelan Tampus from Letran; Samuel Marata and Maui Villanueva from UP; Almond Vosotros and Yutien Andrada from San Sebastian; and Norbert Torres from Canada.

A number of players on the squad were in the RP Youth Team and many of them won championships in high school so they know what it takes to win.

So what went wrong?


Dindo Pumaren (coaching record 8-7 in Season 73 with a Final Four berth and 5-8 so far in Season 74) Cumulative record: 12-15.

When dissecting a team, the first one you look at is the coaching. In Dindo Pumaren’s first year at the helm, he took a team that wasn’t expected to make to the top four right back in the playoffs. It was there where the lack of a strong inside presence ultimately told on their chances when matched up against Ateneo and FEU.

Pumaren tried to insert an up tempo game to make up for the lack of ceiling and earlier this season, the Green Archers continued to be a fastbreaking team. But when teams slowed the Green Archers down and LA Revilla in particular, they were forced to play halfcourt and they were not a particularly as adept despite the presence of Van Opstal, Gotladera, and Torres in the middle.

Van Opstal has potential and a year of experience under his belt will make him a better player. But Torres really is a small forward being asked to play the five-spot. Having him there is like asking Gary Cherone to replace Sammy Hagar as lead singer of Van Halen. And when opposing teams knew that the bigs weren’t particularly dominating the slot, they took it to them inside. 

Through this decade, La Salle has had good outside threats in Renren Ritualo, Jayvee Casio and TY Tang to name a few. Samuel Marata had the makings of another deep threat a few years ago while Dela Paz, Atkins, Revilla, and Torres also have the touch from the outside. However, when their outside game isn’t clicking then not much else is.

But if La Salle scored 37.4 points in the paint in the first round and 30.3 in the second round, how are they not an inside team?

Simple. That was because of their fastbreak offense where they scored 11.9 ppg in the first round and 9.7 in the second. Those high percentage shots of LA Revilla and Almond Vosotros and the drives of Oda Tampus helped some.

Some say that their offense became predictable. And that on defense, you knew the 2-2-1 zone press was coming.

There is nothing wrong with the offense being predictable. Ateneo is predictable (dump the ball to Greg Slaughter or let Kiefer Ravena create). So is FEU (give the ball to RR Garcia and get the hell out of the way). Perhaps the only team that you have no idea what they are going to do is UE.

At the end of the day, it’s still a matter of execution and stopping it if you have determined, skilled, and intelligent players.

In certain spots, DLSU managed to spring their trap and get some turnover points.

Some question the rotation of the players. And speaking to a few players, they said that they as soon as they’d commit a mistake, they knew they were going to the bench. That made it hard to get their confidence going.

How could a supposedly talented team underperform? They did reasonably well in the first round. What happened? It seems that there were games where they did not seem motivated. More oft than not, once they fell into a hole, they stayed there. It was obvious from their body language that the beatings had taken their toll. It would be unfair to second guess the coaching staff on this as they declined to answer the question posed to them. So it would be interesting to note that in the first round, that 12 players (through the sixth game against NU) were averaging double figures in minutes played. Whereas in the first round, only nine saw that much playing time.

Maybe the coaches needed others to step up. Clearly, LA Revilla was not the same LA Revilla after the fifth game of the season.

And that bring us to the next.

Maturity? The team has one fifth year player in Atkins and three seniors in Jovet Mendoza, Joshua Webb, and Maui Villanueva. Marata and Andrada are juniors while the rest are sophomores. While players like Torres and Revilla are listed and 2nd year players and Van Opstal a rookie, Torres is at least two years older than the average freshman as he spent two years taking up residence. Revilla came back from a health problem while Van Opstal had to repeat his fourth year in high school. The other sophs missed out a year of play as they served on the national team. So theoretically, they aren’t exactly youngsters.

Some players who were key contributors in previous years did not shine – Mendoza, Webb, and Atkins. The shooting guard experiment on Atkins did not work as he only had one good game at the two-spot. When La Salle’s other guards faltered, it was up to Atkins to run the show.

There have been stories of discord and unhappiness filtering from the locker room and that is normal with teams that don’t win.

If you ask me, that hurt the team. With some players foregoing their final playing year (Rico Maierhofer, Ferdinand, James Mangahas, Bader Malabes) and some being jettisoned (Joel Tolentino), La Salle lost an opportunity to bring up the rookies slowly as they learn the ropes from the veterans. Instead, they were thrust into the starting position and forced to carry a team that wasn’t unified. Although that can be good as it gives the rookies a chance to shine right away but the pressure can be daunting.

If you look over at rival Ateneo, when the team lost Japeth Aguilar who went to the United States, the Blue Eagles did not have anyone right away who could step into the center slot. It took a year more before Ford Arao came of age and still another before Rabeh Al-Hussaini fulfilled his promise.

Save for Torres and Vosotros (Van Opstal was still the same with points scored), everyone else’s output sank.

During the second match-up with UP, there was a fire in La Salle’s eyes and style of play as they came back from 20 points down in the first half to win by a point, 73-72.

But in their penultimate game of the season, they fell flat. The only scored one point in the game’s final seven minutes as NU repaid them for holding them to 40 points several years ago.

And the elimination from Final Four contention will no doubt lead to off-season changes. And once the final whistle is blown, a few more things will come to light.

Now at 5-8, there’s one last bit of business left.



  1. No doubt DLSU slowly team got demotivated wth coaching style / philosophy! Rumors from DLSU are whispered of a drastic coaching change and already the coaching staff is preparing for an excuse to leave...just wait.

  2. Sa coaching talaga nagkaroon ng problema. Hindi na na-develop nang mahusay yung players, palpak pa pagdating sa paggawa ng strategy, no thanks to the obsolescence, predictability and ineffectiveness of the Pumaren basketball system. With SMC group rumored to be taking over, and Jack Santiago and Tonichi Yturri already PBA-bound via Shopinas, Dindo's days as DLSU head coach are numbered- and might even end as soon as the buzzer sounds to signal the end of the game tomorrow.

    Who will take over in DLSU? Probably either Jong Uichico or Juno Sauler since they are SMC guys. Tim Cone seems to be B-Meg bound already.

  3. Mr. Olivares, you posted on Twitter that Mr. Uichico is "already done" with coaching in DLSU. Does that mean that he is not interested to coach in DLSU anymore? If that is the case, then who will the SMC group, the entity rumored to take over DLSU basketball, tap for the job? Juno Sauler? Tim Cone himself? Or perhaps a non-Lasallian like Koy Banal?

  4. I have no idea who it will be. I saw Coach Jong at the game today with his son Johan and we spoke for a few minutes. I asked him if I will be seeing him on the sidelines of La Salle next season and he answered (exactly like this): "I am done with that. Tapos na. I cannot do that again." Who will it be? Have no idea. I'm sure the athletics department have their own short list. For all we know, they will stay with the present coaching staff.

  5. Rick, given the sheer anger of the La Salle faithful because of the way this season has turned out for them, I think it will be highly unlikely to see Dindo Pumaren and his assistant coaches getting retained, especially now that there is word that Jack Santiago and Tonichi Yturri have been tapped by Franz Pumaren to join his PBA team. Perhaps Dindo will also join his brother Franz in the PBA later on.

    With rumors that the SMC group will take things over in Taft Avenue, I will not be surprised if an SMC coach will take over. However, if Tim Cone is going to B-Meg and Jong Uichico, according to you, said that he's done coaching DLSU, who among the SMC coaches will take over? Don't be surprised if ever DLSU ends up having a non-alumnus as its head coach starting next season.

  6. Re: Boris Aldeguer, the guy may have a stellar record as head coach of Zobel, having won two championship titles there, and even the experience as an assistant coach of what was then San Miguel in the PBA but I doubt that he will be chosen to replace Dindo. The record that he had as the head coach of the Perpetual Help Altas could spell a big difference when it comes to his possible selection.

    I am still thinking that Tim Cone and Jong Uichico will be in the shortlist of possible replacements to Dindo Pumaren but that same shortlist might include the names of Gee Abanilla, Juno Sauler, Boris Aldeguer, Ariel Vanguardia and Koy Banal.

  7. Rick - Tim Cone has been quoted as saying that because he knows the triangle offense so well, it's likely that he continue to teach it wherever he ends up.

    I'm doubtful that he will go to DLSU but if he does, do you think a triangle offense will work in the UAAP? I understand that it takes time to master it (even at the pro level). And given that: (a) collegiate players are young and often impatient, (b) college ball goes at a faster pace, (c) the triangle depends on having certain types of players, which may or may not be present in the college lineup, I'm thinking it may not work consistently.

  8. If I am not mistaken, San Sebastian's Topex Robinson is using the triangle offense (perhaps a modified version of it). If it works in favor of the Golden Stags, then it might also work in favor of the De La Salle Green Archers supposing Tim Cone ends up as the head coach of the team from Taft Avenue.

    However, I still doubt that Tim Cone will go to the UAAP level. He might stick it out with the PBA as head coach of one of the SMC teams there. What DLSU might get could be one of the SMC coaches: Jong Uichico, Gee Abanilla, Juno Sauler and Koy Banal.

  9. San Sebastian? Triangle offense? Have we been watching the same team and basketball season?

  10. Sorry Rick. I am not really that familiar with basketball technical terms. Isn't San Sebastian doing the triangle offense since Topex picked it up from his former mentor, Tim Cone?

    Well anyway, it looks like DLSU has to keep on searching for a new head coach. Tim Cone is now said to be bound for B-Meg.

  11. San Sebastian does not run the triangle offense.

  12. ^ What play is Topex using for his team, if you won't mind me asking?

    Well anyway, I got independent confirmation that Jong Uichico already manifested his position that he does not want to coach DLSU anymore. With Tim Cone now officially the head coach of B-Meg and Jong Uichico not wanting to return to Taft anymore, it will be surely be a long off-season for DLSU as far as the search for the next head coach is concerned.