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.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

My thoughts on the UP coaching change

Management has replaced Ricky Dandan, UP’s fiery coach and former player. Taking over the coaching chores is Rey Madrid who was on board but as one of the team managers and not as an assistant. Madrid will begin calling the shots with six matches left on UP’s slate.

Was this coming?

Maybe it was. The team hasn’t been winning.

Was it harsh? Depends on which side of the spectrum you are coming from.

But one thing is for sure. This rigodon of coaches isn’t going to help the team long term. After Lito Vergara left after the 2006 season (he was promoted after leading UPIS to the Juniors crown in 2002), Joe Lipa took over for the third time. Lipa lasted only one year as his team went 0-14.

Aboy Castro, a UP alum with no prior head coaching experience took over. He didn’t even finish his third season. After three games, Boyet Fernandez replaced him on an interim basis.

The following year, Dandan took over.

When Coach Ricky took the job after the end of Season 73, he was clearing out his desk at the University Athletics Office at Blue Eagle Gym where he held office as head of the Ateneo Basketball Center.

“Are you sure about this?” I asked him. “It can be a very volatile situation. And you have a good job here.”

Dandan, who I had become friends with during Joe Lipa’s tenure as head coach of Ateneo, looked at me. “It’s my alma mater,” he said. “You would come running if she called no matter how difficult it could be.”

“But the politics?” I protested.

“That is something you will find everywhere even here in Ateneo. You just have to face it.”

In Coach Ricky’s time as head coach, I tried to help him by sending a coveted high school recruit (who never panned out because – that’s another story) who is now playing for a NCAA team. We oft talked about a variety of basketball matters.

With the Fighting Maroons headed for possibly another winless season, the axe finally fell. I recall as early as the third match of the season, the team looked listless and out of it. IN ONLY THE THIRD MATCH OF THE YEAR. It has been all that losing that got to them.

This season, they fight until about the third quarter or sometimes early in the fourth before losing it all. But of late, they go down after one half of good basketball. When I watch them play, they play a lot of one on one. When they turn the ball over, even if I am not a UP alum, you just want to gnash your teeth about how boneheaded some of those errors can be.

I think just as I have seen every Ateneo game in the last decade or so, I have also seen all of UP’s games (well for the matter almost every school).

It’s difficult to pinpoint what exactly is wrong with UP. For sure, it’s a multitude of things. It cannot simply be the coach. Every one has a stake in it. Heck, they even have good players. I like some of these guys. In fact, I wish some of them went to my side of Katipunan.

But it is what it is.

I just find it ironic that for Joe Lipa and Ricky Dandan who both helped lay down the foundation for the modern Ateneo basketball program (although it has changed to adapt to the times) were not able to get it done in UP. And that has to really hurt and cut deep inside.

A friend of mine who bleeds Maroon would always tell me, “When you’re down, the only place to go is UP (a pun on University of the Philippines and the direction opposite of down). Unfortunately, it’s taking quite a while now.

My friend isn’t smiling anymore. 


  1. This is just sad. I hope the UP Community can rally behind their sports teams. unfortunately for UP, basketball is very visible and if you've been finishing at 0-14 or 2-12; rallying can be very difficult.

    1. The problem lies in the alumni interfering too much in the school's basketball affairs. This does not happen in other schools.

  2. There's no denying that it was partly Joe Lipa responsible for (the rest a successful chemistry and 'fusion', if that's appropriate a sport word at all, of complementary skills in Magsanoc, Altamirano, Guanio, Paras, et al to bring) that fleeting success of UP in 1986 (was it?) before UE. Confidence was high and Ateneo's neighbor looked upon it condescendingly : "Bago kayo (kung mag cha-champion kayo at all), kame muna. At bagong salta lang kayo sa UAAP." So much so that when they had their lone championship, then Ue 2, and then Ateneo back-to-back, a new rivalry seemed to be brewing more on the geographical front of Katipunan and Diliman than anything historical. Then La Salle followed. Then UP was thrown into oblivion (as was UE). But what they, the state scholars, prolly cannot take is UE and NU (with an even longer drought) are now powerful forces in UAAP while they remain incompetent-tive (I just coined that lol).

    True, if it weren't for Joe Lipa, Admu wouldn't have prolly broken into the F4 sooner. But sad too, he couldn't weave his magic back to his alma mater despite the Gahols, Paolos, Boyets, Silungans, Romero's and some Eaglets blue chips, notwithstanding.

    Presently, Marata, Ball, Asilum, Gingrich, and Soyud are any school first fivers, heck even Ateneo's. You'd think they should be able to win a couple or 3 games by now. But they haven't. It's now a coaching problem. And it all showed as early as when Mikee left. All those talents to waste. And if they cannot solve their internal bickerings as in Deans and Alumni not on one page (Ateneo had been there lol), hey, it's their funeral.

  3. Is it the UP Alumni Association, or one particular frat that is responsible for this mess?

  4. My Dad is an alumnus of UP. His insight is that UP has never felt like a unified, united body the way Ateneo (in recent years at least) is. You have frats, orgs, and alumni associations of various frats and orgs, and then you have the central university one. You have different colleges trying to compete for the same funding. You have different campuses competing with each other. You only see them together as one with UP Fair and maybe the Lantern parade. There's no sense of "We're all one under this roof." It's all "you're on your own", and the fate of some jock is small to a UP student (who probably never gets to be classmates with any of them anyway).

    A culture like this is hard, dry soil to plant the seeds of a strong program that needs continuity. The basketball program's struggles show how there's going to be bickering and politicking behind the scenes. The result is rather than divert resources and energy into the team, you have people push and pull away. Any time a coach or team manager has good ideas, these backroom activities make them harder to pull off than they need to be.