TAB Baldwin may hate thank you speeches, but the Ateneo coach had to do it after the Blue Eagles’ surprise runner-up finish in the UAAP men’s basketball tournament.
“As a coach of 35 years, this has been a transformational one for me. This leads a greater purpose, of coaching young men,” said Baldwin after the Thanksgiving Mass at Ateneo’s Church of the Gesù on Wednesday night.
Taking over an upstart squad, Baldwin’s journey had a bumpy ride, as the Eagles recorded a 4-4 record in the first eight games.
After a stunning loss to University of the Philippines, the first against its Diliman rivals in seven years, Ateneo went on a six-game winning streak to finish second in the eliminations and dethrone Far Eastern University in the Final Four to forge a “Dream Finals” with fierce rival La Salle.
The Blue Eagles were swept by the Green Archers in the championship, but not without giving a fight, as proved by their narrow Game 1 65-67 loss.
“This team is good. They have elicited great feelings from their hard work and dedication,” said Baldwin, who also handled the Gilas Pilipinas team that competed in the Fiba Olympic qualifiers last July.
Gaining the needed experience, Baldwin is upbeat that a much stronger Ateneo team will compete next year, even with La Salle still brandishing a powerhouse roster.
“It is through this process, that to our fans, we will give you championships in the future. I know how you feel about this team, how accomplished they are,” said Baldwin.
“But I promise you, these well wishes will not weaken and deter us from becoming great players. We will fight for the Season 80 championship,” he added.
GBoy Babilonia is graduating, but the Eagles remain solid with Season 79 Mythical team member Thirdy Ravena, Adrian Wong, Anton Asistio and Mike and Matt Nieto leading the way.
Of course, there is slotman Isaac Go, who was impressive in manning the paint, especially in the second round when Ateneo’s starting center Babilonia went down with an injury.