|That familiar fire: UP head coach Bo Perasol instructs Andrew Harris to bring it. And bring it he did.|
This appears in the Friday, May 13, 2016 edition of the Business Mirror.
Bo Perasol and that familiar fire
story and pic by rick olivares
Andrew Harris grabbed a defensive rebound, looked to pitch it to point guard Henry Asilum but had it picked off. FEU’s Wendell Comboy drove then dropped the ball to his teammate Prince Orizu. Harris who was still on the floor after he turned the ball over put a hand up and whether by a stroke of luck or by design, stripped Orizu of the synthetic leather ball. This time the ball successfully went to a UP teammate of his igniting a fastbreak.
The man animatedly gesticulated egging his wards forward. And forward they went, relentless and determined. By game’s end, UP had a 67-61 victory over FEU; its first ever against the Tamaraws in the Filoil Flying V Premier Cup, and first since… who can remember?
It was also Bo Perasol’s first win as head coach of the University of the Philippines since his official appointment two weeks ago (against one loss, a blowout against Perpetual Help University in their tourney opener).
“It’s big,” he he noted but with a lot of caution in his voice as he wiped the perspiration from his brow post-match. “But we haven’t done really much. It’s a good first step. Yes, that is what it is — a first step.”
Five months after the end of his three-year coaching stint at UP’s Katipunan Avenue neighbours, Ateneo, Perasol is back, this time with his alma mater’s senior squad of which he donned their colors over two decades ago.
“I’m old,” he said during a pre-game conversation. “But our desire? It’s there. It has always been there. Burning.”
When he was playing for the Fighting Maroons in the late 1980s and early 1990s, he played bigger than his talent. Euphemism for one who wasn’t so talented but got by because of smarts, heart of which he had lots, and fight. Ateneans got a glimpse of that fight when as Blue Eagles coach, he charged a La Sallian heckler in the stands after a heated match.
It’s there. It has always been there.
The losing. Being down at the bottom of the standings. Now that wasn’t always there.
“One of the things I have to figure out is how to rid ourselves of that losing mentality,” he said pre-FEU tip off. “We cannot win every game. We can’t even change things overnight. But what we can do is have small targets, short term goals before we take bigger steps. For example, against Perpetual Help, we were outrebounded (39-33) so in our next game, which is today against FEU, we wanted to see if we can win the battle of the boards.”
The Fighting Maroons were still edged, 40-37, by FEU.
“So that’s something we still need to work on. But we did shoot at a higher percentage,” he underscored. Against the Altas, his team shot a pitiful 32%. Matched against FEU and oft taking the ball inside, UP hit for 47% despite attempting fewer field goals than the Tamaraws (who had 71 attempts to the Maroons 57).
"That’s what won us the game — we took better and higher percentage shots. That and the intensity level.”
Perasol pointed out that they clearly lack a lot. But what they do have in abundance is loads of fight. Veteran forward-center Andrew Harris started out the match with two huge blocks including one on FEU point guard Jojo Trinidad. After the swat, Harris let out a primal scream of satisfaction right in front of Trinidad that it was a minor miracle that he wasn’t warned for taunting.
“Go! Go!” yelled their head coach as play resumed. The Fighting Maroons responded as they were literally in FEU’s faces all match long.
“More energy,” said Harris to no one in particular late in the game. Like some application that can be downloaded, the veteran forward-center nodded manically and rejoined the fray.
The intensity was infectious. Even Cameroonian center Lionel Tekoudjou who was somewhat flaccid in last year’s Premier Cup was getting in the faces of some of the Tamaraws. For the second straight match, Tekoudjou scored 10 points including an huge undergoal stab off a beautiful drop pass by Harris that made it 63-58, UP, with a minute to play.
“If they can be consistent,” postulated Perasol about both Harris and Tekoudjou, “then they will help solve our problems in the middle.”
However, Perasol has been in this game too long that one can’t overly celebrate things such as one win. “The key is consistency. When you win on a regular basis you can feel good about yourself. Unfortunately, we know the pattern here. We need a little time. Some people can be impatient. So I think that is part of the game. Then we make the most of what we have.”
Like smarts, heart, and fight.
Yes, it’s that familiar fire.