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.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Tab Baldwin is the head coach of the Ateneo Blue Eagles. What does this mean?

This appears in the Tuesday, December 8, 2015 edition of the Business Mirror.

Tab Baldwin is Ateneo’s new coach. What does that mean?
by rick olivares pic from the SBP's FB page

December 7.

It’s generally known as a day of infamy following the dastardly Japanese attack on the US Naval Base in Pearl Harbor in 1941.

However, if you went to the Ateneo de Manila University, on December 7, you can say that Christmas arrived 18 days early with the announcement of Tab Baldwin as the 37th head coach in Blue Eagles history

Much respect to Bo Perasol who brought the team back to the Final Four for two consecutive years after its string of 15 consecutive semifinals berths was snapped in 2013. In a college game that is increasingly looking more like a professional league, the need for marquee names on the sideline is huge. 

Baldwin is marquee as you can get (outside the Tim Cones and Leo Austrias of this day).

At one point in the UAAP, you had a smattering of former professional and high profile basketball players coaching universities: Leo Austria with Adamson, Norman Black with Ateneo, Glenn Capacio with FEU, Franz Pumaren with La Salle, Dindo Pumaren with UE, and Pido Jarencio with UST. Now these gentlemen were no slouches as players and as coaches. 

With the little known Aldin Ayo breaking through the national consciousness by leading Letran to a NCAA title over heavily favored San Beda and his subsequent hiring by La Salle, and the migration of Franz Pumaren to Adamson, you know that the quality of the coaching in the league has gone up. 

Now did Ateneo bag the big fish?

Baldwin first came to national consciousness as a consultant to the Philippine national team that won silver in the 2013 FIBA Asia Championships. He took over as national team head coach and piloted Gilas Pilipinas to another second place finish last September despite not having much time for a wholly new team to get used to his system. He also works with Talk ’N Text. 

For those who follow international basketball, Baldwin is a multi-titled INTERNATIONAL COACH who has worked wonders with the national squads of New Zealand, Lebanon, Jordan, and the Philippines. He is a four-time National Basketball League Coach of the Year in New Zealand. 

The man has enjoyed success almost everywhere he has been.

To be honest, I didn’t see this coming. Aside from concerns about BCAP (Basketball Association of the Philippines) approval, based on the conversations I had with him during preparations for the Sinag team during the last Southeast Asian Game, this isn’t something he wanted to do. But he took it so life is full of surprises.

For sure it will not be an easy UAAP Season 79 for Ateneo. Despite their disappointing finish this Season 78, La Salle will be the odds-on favorite to take home the trophy come 2016. They have a veteran crew who will be aided and abetted by the talented Ben Mbala.

As for the Blue Eagles, it is a young team bereft of battle-scarred veterans. The last of the left-over from the five-peat have rode off into the sunset. The past season has given the newbies experience but is it enough? In many cases, we see players only bloom in their last playing year. Not everyone starts as a freshman and contributes right away. And for all of the exciting CJ Perez’ prodigious talents, he still lacks experience. 

Nevertheless, there are tantalizing concerns and questions that will not be answered until close to a year from now.

I also wondered, why not get a coach who will stay longer? Is this a pull-out-all-the-stops move to win it? Or are we waiting for the return of a coach or looking to land another big fish? And how does that affect recruiting or players coming in? What do you tell recruits who will wonder if the coach who comes after Tab will play them or sit them and recruit his own players?

So the trigger has been pulled. We just have to be careful for what we wish for. Who knows what BCAP will say? More so the other members who are alumni of UAAP schools and will not want the blue and white with an ace up their sleeve. 

It would also be good to know that Baldwin is a no-nonsense coach. He knows this is not a pro basketball team but having said that, you cannot tell him, like someone did to Bo Perasol that you cannot compete in the summer leagues etc. 

You cannot interfere with the roster. He will put who he thinks is right for the job. If you have an attitude and some guys on the team do, you might want to check that ego at the entrance of the Moro Lorenzo Sports Center. Baldwin is frank with his assessments and will not mince his words. 

There should be some concern as his attention will be divided because the qualifiers for the Rio Olympics will take place from July 4-10, 2016. Should the Philippines advance, the Olympics will be played from August 6-21. And the UAAP season tips off during the first week of September. 

Baldwin used to be disciple of the triangle offense that he ran with many of his teams. With his addition to Gilas, he has since adopted the dribble drive offense that Chot Reyes ran to near devastating perfection. In his system, he expects his point guards to take charge. It would be interesting to see the scenario unfold with the logjam at the PG position in Ateneo. Without that post-up player in the Blue Eagles’ line-up what will he do?

And there’s the matter of the Talk ’N Text guys like Nash Racela and Josh Reyes who recently led FEU to a championship. The two are very familiar with Baldwin having worked with him since 2013. It is going to be like a chess match between them to see how they counter one another’s moves. 

Now, hopefully, someone will erase the whiteboard at the war room of the Moro Lorenzo Sports Center. 

You got your big name coach, Ateneo. 

Just temper your expectations.


  1. How does K 12 affect the entry of players from High School???

  2. Until Ateneo gets things cleared from BCAP, I won't be holding my breath. On a more positive note, this will give him the opportunity to experiment with some small-ball tactics.

    1. I doubt if BCAP will give him the nod as I spoke with Al Chua yesterday. But he will still lead as "active consultant." Just won't have the title of head coach." Like Toroman with Barako, Todd Purves with Petron, and Joe Ward with UP.

    2. Hope it works, given the performance of teams led by foreign coaches with the "active consultant" role (just being superstitious here)