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.

Friday, December 14, 2012

The builder coach cometh: Bo Perasol arrives in a new era for Ateneo basketball.

This appears in

The builder coach cometh
Bo Perasol arrives in a new era for Ateneo basketball.
by rick olivares

How do you follow a multi-titled champion coach?

Dolreich “Bo” Perasol doesn’t know the answer to that but he will certainly give it the old college try in order to find out.

Perasol isn’t new to hardship or struggles. As a youngster growing up in General Santos City in the early 1980s, Perasol used to walk for several kilometers just to get to school. It would be so hot that by the time he arrived in school, his face was sweaty, his arms caked in dust, and his lips parched. He did this for almost every single day of his life until he moved to Manila for college.

When he arrived as a wide-eyed freshman at the University of the Philippines, he was a mere walk-in aspirant for the men’s basketball team. His coach Rey Madrid wasn’t even sure what to make of him. He was after all a Masscom student whose first choice was to go to the school of music because he liked to sing. But Perasol worked hard enough to moved up from Team B all the way to the seniors squad.

In his first ever PBA coaching job, Perasol saw his team trade away its top draft picks of 2005 in Anthony Washington and Mark Cardona. Yet somehow, Perasol led the Air21 Express to a third place finish in the Fiesta Cup. In 2008, Perasol steered the Express once more to the Fiesta Cup Finals this time against Ginebra. Even with spitfire behind Gary David and Arwind Santos, the Express fell in six matches. Not soon after, team management deal away his top players and the team fell into a period of mediocrity.

When Perasol moved to the Coca Cola/Powerade Tigers, he found himself in the same situation – lead a rag tag outfit of discards, draft a few top college players, compete for a PBA title, and then see them dealt away. It was while he was with the Powerade Tigers where Perasol considers his best coaching job to date as they battled Talk ‘N Text for the 2011-12 Philippine Cup.

With top rookies Jayvee Casio and Marcio Lassiter and pickups Doug Kramer and Sean Anthony to back up Gary David, the Tigers defeated two top seeds in B-Meg and Rain or Shine before falling to the Tropang Texters in six games.

Soon after, with the team headed for disbandment, players were traded away. Key players in the Philippine Cup run were gone. The championship contender that Perasol took so long to nurture and build was gone. 

That is why the move to Loyola Heights, although with the Ateneo Men’s Basketball Team clearly in a rebuilding process, is a welcome change for him. “All my life I played for or coached teams that had to be built up from scratch – Surigao (in the now defunct Metropolitan Basketball Association), Air21, Coca Cola, and Powerade... it’s nice to be a part of a program that is well-funded, well-supported, and has a winning tradition.”

That decision wasn’t an easy one to make though. After the Coca Cola/Powerade PBA franchise disbanded, Perasol was a cinch to become league newcomer Global Port’s first head coach. “There was that building from scratch job all over again,” smiled the coach.

However, when Ateneo patron Manuel V. Pangilinan asked him if he would like to coach the Ateneo Blue Eagles, he mulled over the offer. The first person he sought advice about the job was former UP and Ateneo head coach Joe Lipa.

“It seemed that more people warned me than congratulated me,” explained Perasol. “It is no secret about how demanding it can be coaching Ateneo especially with everything that they have accomplished and won through the years. But Coach Joe told me to focus on the task at hand and that maraming mabait na tao na tutulong sa yo.”

This was the tipping point. In the PBA, he was only answerable to the owner as his teams didn’t have large fan bases. Now, he knows it’s an entire community that he has to please.

In the recently concluded UAAP season, Perasol made his first appearance in the “blue” side during the first round Ateneo-La Salle match. “I didn’t just observe the game of Ateneo,” he recalled. “I went there to watch the crowd. You see entire families there – si daddy, si mommy, mga anak, pati si Lolo at si Lola. This was the kind of support the team got. It was a community event. And these are the people who you have to think about (aside from the players) when you take to the basketball court. Kapag natalo hindi makatulog; hindi makakain. That is how intertwined the Ateneo community is with the basketball team.”

During his time in UP, the Battle of Katipunan was the Fighting Maroons’ championship. And it still is. “Matalo na lahat wag lang sa Ateneo,” laughed Perasol at the memory. “We knew we didn’t have a chance against FEU that had Johnny Abarrientos and Vic Pablo, UST had Dennis Espino and an entire team that went to the pros. La Salle had Jun Limpot and a bunch of stars. Kami, we were down there with NU. Ateneo had lost its players who won championships to graduation and they were not the same. They were down there. Pero bale wala yan sa amin. Makaisa kami sa Ateneo, okay na. That was our championship. But of course, we wanted to win more. Rivalry lang yan. Ganyan din naman between Ateneo and La Salle.”

Now he is at the other end of Katipunan and wearing blue.

If Ateneans are worried about his loyalties, Perasol has this story for an explanation.

While growing up in General Santos City, there weren’t any malls back then or even the internet to stay updated with the times. To keep up with the PBA games, Perasol and his father would stay glued to a beat up transistor radio that was their lifeline to the fabled Toyota and Ginebra San Miguel teams of old when El Presidente presided over the lane and The Big J barreled right in.

It was a ritual consummated by the father and the son. The father wished his son would become a basketball player. Although Bo never did make it to the pros he discovered that even while playing in the UAAP, he enjoyed the other side of coin and that was coaching and teaching.

In his first ever game as head coach of the Surigao Miners, Perasol’s wards defeated his hometown SoCSarGen Marlins. The coach wept afterwards because his father had passed away unable to see his son make it to the pros albeit in a different way.

When he became head coach of Air21, he found it easy to coach against his boyhood favorite, Ginebra San Miguel. “You learn real quick to put aside sentiment or else your job is on the line. You have to be professional about things. And if Coach Joe could do it then so can I.”

And so Bo Perasol, “the builder coach” is the 36th head coach in Ateneo Blue Eagles history.

While watching the combined players of Ateneo Teams A and B practice, he couldn’t help but notice that there are many sons of players he once watched or played against. There are a couple of Ravenas and Capacios. An Adornado. A Cabahug. And a Black.

He looks forward to the coaching job. He knows with every team out there reloaded for bear for the sole purpose of unseating Ateneo, it will be a struggle. But he’s used to that by now. The hardship he faced as a youngster has served him well in his different head coaching jobs. He has no doubt that it will serve him in good stead in Loyola Heights. He paraphrased a quote from the late and legendary UCLA head coach John Wooden who he idolizes, “This isn’t just basketball. This is a game. About life.”

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