Saturday, February 18, 2012

Coaching Search: Replacing Norman Black

With Ateneo announcing Black's departure after Season 75, Blue Eagles fans have already whipped themselves into a frenzy over who his replacement should be. Black leaves a large pair of shoes to fill, especially if he exits with a fifth straight title in hand, so there's absolutely no pressure on the next guy (that's sarcasm, by the way). Who's available and how likely is that person going to be the choice? Here's a semi-serious look at a list of candidates, with some gambling odds thrown in.

 Olsen Racela: 2-1
After retirement, Racela was installed as the head coach of the RP Under-16 team which bagged fourth place in Vietnam last October, losing only two out of their eight games. You can argue if there's more pressure coaching a national squad or coaching Ateneo, but the point guard considered by many to be the best in the business back in the day would carry a lot of good will into the job, and perhaps more importantly, will be able to steer some of his U-16 charges towards the blue and white.

Sandy Arepacochaga: 3-1
Jamike Jarin: 5-1
If you're looking for continuity in the basketball program, the best thing to do would be to elevate one of these two Norman Black assistants to the big chair when he leaves. Arespacochaga can't be blamed for a third place finish in his one stint as head coach as that was the season Larry Fonacier went down with an ACL injury. Surely he deserves a second chance? Alternately, you could go with Jarin, who steered the Blue Eaglets to multiple titles, even before a kid named Kiefer Ravena became part of the squad. That said, Jarin could be eyed to take the San Beda head coach position should Frankie Lim incur an extended suspension, though things could change in the light of Norman's exit.

Leo Austria: 25-1
I put Austria on this list despite having no clue how many years he still has on his contract with Adamson, but here are a few things I do know: Austria is possibly the most brilliant tactical mind in the UAAP next to Black, and has done great things with an Adamson team that doesn't have near the resources of an Ateneo. More importantly, he seems like the type of person Black would wholeheartedly endorse after the two coached a mix of Falcons and Eagles in Hong Kong two years ago. Plus, his other son Ged Austria, is presumably enrolling in Katipunan this upcoming school year so who knows?

Ricky Dandan: 40-1
Despite currently employed as the head coach of the UP Fighting Maroons, Dandan has quite some links to the other university on Katipunan. He used to be an assistant for Joe Lipa when Lipa was head coach, and then became the director of Ateneo's basketball program up until he left for UP. Perhaps he gets lured back to his old stomping grounds, this time as the head coach?

Yuri Escueta: 75-1
The current head coach of Ateneo's Team B could in theory move up to Team A, and Escueta was coached by Black in the past, so he could conceivably implement Black's system. However, let's not forget that Escueta has just a year under his belt at this very moment of coaching said Team B. Perhaps if Black was leaving in five years, not one.

Chris Tiu: 100-1
Well, Tiu doesn't seem interested at all in the PBA, and he was quite the disciple of Black, so maybe he makes the leap to coaching? He could probably help channel talent from Xavier School to Ateneo, and younger brother Charles could even be an assistant, splitting time with his duties on the Powerade staff.

 Chot Reyes: 150-1
Maybe we've got this MVP coaching carousel all mixed up and Reyes becomes the odd man out in the big leagues, sending him back to the collegiate game. While part of him might relish the idea of piloting his alma mater, it seems like he's destined for bigger things like the National Team, so this one feels like a bit of a reach.

Jong Uichico: 200-1
Uichico used to be part of Black's coaching staff in Magnolia, and is currently not doing anything besides consulting for Meralco. Plus, his son was a Blue Eagle (albeit, a benchwarmer) for a season or two under Black. Maybe he takes the job to stick it to La Salle for not getting him when Dindo Pumaren resigned? He has said though that he refuses to coach Ateneo, but maybe MVP can convince him otherwise? 

Rajko Toroman: 400-1
Hey, Toroman only has a two-year consultancy contract with SMC. Maybe he gets bored just sitting around consulting and wakes up one morning to find out that MVP is dangling him an offer that doubles his salary to coach Ateneo, with someone like Arespacochaga filling in the 2013 season as interim head coach. Maybe we'll see an influx of Serbian-Filipino big men don the blue and white if that happens?

Frankie Lim: 500-1
Let's say the NCAA ManCom suspends him for a year and San Beda decides for continuity purposes to get a new head coach. Well, what nice timing because Norman Black leaves after a year! Lim can certainly keep the Blue Eagles' talent pipeline brimming, and he's a proven winner at the collegiate level. Sure Red Lions fans will be calling foul, but the look on the Semerads' faces is going to be priceless as they try to transfer once again.

Erik Spoelstra: 1,000,000-1
Imagine this: the Heat get the number one seed in the East, and face off against the New York Knicks in round one of the playoffs. Linsanity breaks out and the Heat get ousted in five games. Pat Riley makes the hard decision to let Spoelstra go and takes over the team, leaving Spoelstra out in the cold. Doesn't MVP call him up immediately and ask him to fly over to Manila? Plus, the kicker: Spoelstra's high school was a Jesuit high school, and Ateneo is run by Jesuits, great fit!

Other Random Names: Kirk Long (has said in an interview that he wants to coach, but he probably didn't mean this quickly after graduating college), Joe Lipa (age might be a factor), Ronnie Magsanoc (MVP guy, but seems more likely to be an option for San Beda), Lawrence Chongson (purely for the lolz), Larry Brown (has said he will coach anything, even a high school team, but Ateneo might be a stretch)


  1. I'm betting on the 1,000,000-1. Higher stakes, higher reward.