Blue Eagle woes
AS I WRECK THIS CHAIR By William M. Esposo
The Philippine Star 2007-10-07
It is not the best of times for the Ateneo Blue Eagles. Indeed, my fellow Blue Eagles have a lot of reasons to be dispirited if only for unfortunate events that had transpired in the last two weeks.

Controversial Atenean and First Gentleman (FG), Mike Arroyo, had figured anew in another scandal, this time, the contract for the ZTE National Broadband Network. "Back off!" — FG Mike Arroyo's alleged order to ZTE scandal whistleblower Joey de Venecia — now rings so uncannily like French Queen Marie Antoinette’s arrogant "Let them eat cake" rebuff to the hungry cries of her subjects. Text messages circulated revolving around that "Back off!" incident.

Each time FG Mike Arroyo is implicated in scandals, Blue Eagles find themselves at the receiving end of text jokes from La Sallians who are smacking their lips in delight at having new reinforcements for their arsenal of friendly ribbing against their traditional archrivals from Loyola.

One even sent a text message suggesting that the spelling of our alma mater's name has just been changed to ZTEneo.

Bad enough that an Atenean is already in the vortex of the ZTE controversy, still another — Romy Neri, our batch mate from Ateneo High School class '66 — also played a key role. Many of us thought that Romy Neri would do us proud and redeem the Blue Eagle image.

But, alas, Neri flapped his wings a few times as though all geared to soar the heavens in Blue Eagle fashion but he ended the way he began — merely flapping his wings. He did not tell the whole truth, a violation of the oath he took in the Senate hearing. Instead of enlightening a nation in the dark about how it is being screwed and stewed by its leaders and their cronies, Romy Neri told only that part of the truth that was convenient for his purposes.

He protected abuse of power by invoking executive privilege of non-disclosure. He had relegated loyalty to people and country behind loyalty to a woman who is not even regarded by many Filipinos as their duly elected president. He made that kind of judgment call that will not qualify under the ethical standard that our Jesuit mentors have set for one aspiring to reach the Ateneo ideal of being a "Man for others."

And to top it all, the Ateneo Blue Eagles failed to qualify in the UAAP Basketball Senior Men’s Finals by losing to the De La Salle Green Archers last September 30 in their do-or-die showdown. Losing a very crucial deciding game to La Salle at such a time makes us Blue Eagles wonder if we have really made the gods angry.

But let me cut FG Mike Arroyo and Romy Neri some slack, if only for this time. Instead, I prefer to discuss how we failed to make it to the UAAP Finals. I want to talk about a Black coach named Black.

The Ateneo community is now setting its sights on next year"s 71st UAAP. I don't think that next UAAP season will be any better than last year’s or this current one if Ateneo will retain the services of Norman Black as Head Coach.

As a long-time basketball aficionado who had once coached a cellar dwelling team to the finals of a 7-team tournament, I am putting most of the blame for Ateneo's disappointing performance this year on the shoulders of Norman Black.

It is often said in basketball that players win games and coaches lose it. Well, from where I sit, wrecking another chair, Norman Black lost the key games, especially the last one with La Salle, which would have placed Ateneo in the UAAP Finals.

The main strength of Ateneo was its height advantage and in the last game with La Salle, Black threw that advantage away by insisting on fielding three small players.

In the four previous games with La Salle this year (three of which Ateneo won), Ateneo dominated the boards. But that was not the case in the last game. Instead of using his height advantage, Black played La Salle coach Franz Pumaren in the running game, utilizing a small lineup in order to cope with La Salle's vaunted full court press.

Black missed learning from the UST Growling Tiger's victory over La Salle where UST coach Pido Jarencio capitalized on Team UST's height advantage. The height dominance of UST over La Salle was very apparent on TV. Pido Jarencio reminded his players that they easily stood six inches taller than the two top La Salle guards — JV Casio and TY Tang.

The La Salle offense relies on Tang and Casio. Stifle Tang and Casio and La Salle sputters. Unlike Jarencio, Black played the La Salle small guards with a small lineup instead of fielding three players simultaneously who stood 6-2 or taller.

Black may be credited for making the Blue Eagles perform much better than expected in the 70th UAAP. Having lost the three biggest star players of last season's runner up team, many even had doubts if Ateneo would make the top four.

But by the time the second round was on, we all saw an Ateneo that was capable of being in the Finals. By the time the semi-finals were on, we have seen already the real strength of Ateneo, a strength that Black failed to utilize to the hilt.

In my book, Black is a good coach but not that good to take the team through to the UAAP championship.

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