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In Your Face!

Coach This

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In the 1987-88 NBA Season, the San Antonio Spurs were coached by a guy named Bob Weiss.

Doesn't ring a bell?

I know. I had to Google it.

Apparently the Spurs sucked under this guy, very far from the powerhouse Spurs most modern basketball fans now know.

In the 1988-89 season the Spurs hired a new coach, the legendary Larry Brown. That season they turned things around so drastically it literally made NBA heads spin.

Brown is somebody probably most of us in Gameface know, or at least have heard of. After all, Brown has been one of the most successful and in-demand coaches in both the US NCAA and the NBA for the better part of 35 years. His last NBA title came in 2004, with the Detroit Pistons of Chauncey Billups, Rip Hamilton, Tayshaun Prince, Rasheed Wallace, and Ben Wallace. They pulled a real number on the heavily favored LA Lakers of Shaquille O'Neal, Kobe Bryant, Karl Malone, and Gary Payton.

Going back to 1989, the Spurs became a 50-win team that season under Brown.

Of course some of you might remember that was the same season the David Robinson finally put on the black and silver of San Antonio. He spent a mandatory two years in Service as a graduate of the US Naval Academy, even though the Spurs drafted him in 1987.

Robinson was literally and figuratively the next big thing in the NBA at the time, as the athletic and high-skilled 7'1" center quickly showed. He also got plenty of help that season. All Stars Paul Cummings, Maurice Cheeks, and another talented rookie, Sean Elliot, were all on the 1989 roster.

Without looking online, can anybody recall even one All Star on the Spurs team that Weiss coached the year previous? I think Alvin Robertson was there. I'm not absolutely sure.

So who really turned around the Spurs? Brown, or Robinson and the three All Stars?

I wonder because what if Brown had simply inherited the team Weiss had? That team could not even play .500 basketball, and to my recollection, was never even in the playoff picture. Could Brown have turned this sad sack San Antonio squad into the 50-win juggernaut that became The Admiral's team?

I bring this up because of the current haul of "superstar" coaches into the UAAP Family.

De La Salle, just two years removed from their last UAAP championship, bade farewell to Juno Sauler. He has been replaced with Aldin Ayo. Ayo is best known as the rookie coach who helped guide Letran to the Season 91 NCAA Championship over a heavily favored San Beda team looking for its umpteenth straight title.

Adamson University, who last made a Final 4 appearance in 2011, brought in multi-titled Coach and current Quezon City Councilor Franz Pumaren. Pumaren's last championship came in 2007, with La Salle, where he spent his entire previous coaching career. It has been almost a decade since he was last on the bench calling the shots for a UAAP team.

The Ateneo, three years removed from an historic 5-Peat reign, did not renew the contract of the much-maligned Bo Perasol. His replacement is Gilas National Team coach Tab Baldwin. I know, there is some controversy to this, which others have already commented on extensively.

Good Lord, at the rate UAAP teams are going, you would think each of these men had wizard powers and could instantly, but with a wave of their magic wands, transform the fortunes of these three teams and turn them all into champions again.

A good to great coach can work wonders of course. I have often wondered though, was there ever a good to great coach who turned a roster with objectively limited size, athleticism, and talent into champions? If this has happened, how often has it happened? Looking back at the last 10 years in the UAAP, I'd say the answer is zero.

(To be continued)
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