Big task ahead for Archers coach
Joaquin Henson (The Philippine Star) - January 8, 2018 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Newly-designated La Salle men’s basketball coach Louie Gonzalez said yesterday next season will be a defining moment for the Green Archers who face an uphill climb in the UAAP without two-time MVP Ben Mbala and power forward Abu Tratter. It will also signal a period of transition as Aldin Ayo, who piloted La Salle to the throne in 2016 and came a stop shy of possibly another title last year, has moved on to UST.

Gonzalez, 41, was Ayo’s lead assistant at La Salle the last two seasons. He has taken over the reins with Siot Tanquingcen and Anton Altamirano as assistants and Glen Capacio as consultant. Gonzalez said it will be a process to rebuild the team without Mbala and Tratter but if the players submit themselves to the system, the sky’s the limit.

“We’ll be a defensive team,” he said. “As long as we defend, we’ll be competitive against any team.  Our style will be similar to mayhem basketball that Aldin introduced, with some tweaks. The key is discipline. We want our players to think and work not as individuals but as a team. From our first day of practice on Jan. 16, that will be our mindset. We want every player to compete for his spot. We’re open to players who’re willing to join us in our journey back to the top.”

Gonzalez, secretary-general of the Basketball Coaches Association of the Philippines, said he’s expecting breakout years from Kib Montalbo, Santi Santillan and Prince Rivero who are playing their last year of eligibility. “Andrei (Caracut) was our most consistent player last season and Aljun (Melecio) will only get better,” he said. “Justin (Baltazar) and Brent (Paraiso) will get their opportunities. Jollo Go will also play a big role. Of course, Ricci (Rivero) will be at the forefront. We’ll undergo a transformation as a team. We won’t compromise when it comes to enforcing discipline. We want hard work and effort but with guys playing together as a unit. Our ultimate objective is to win back the championship and if everyone surrenders to the system, we can do it.”

Gonzalez said he was surprised when Ayo decided to resign last Dec. 26. “Aldin was undecided when we last spoke three days before he resigned,” he said. “I remember telling Aldin this will be a defining moment for the team to compete without Ben and Abu, that we’ll do everything to win back the title, that this is a challenge of a lifetime. Then, I got a call from Boss Danding (Cojuangco). He asked if I would stay or leave. I told him I would stay for as long as I was needed and thanked him for his trust. I called Glen who encouraged me, insisting I was ready to become head coach. Glen is like a second father to me. I was coach at Feati for seven years when he brought me to join his staff at FEU. Then, Glen took me in with the Philippine Patriots in the ABL, GlobalPort and Kia. He has a great feel for the game and having been a role player in the PBA, knows what it’s like to succeed in an equal opportunity system. Siot is a stickler for discipline and an expert in basketball technology. How coach Ron Jacobs molded Siot is how coach Binky Favis molded me. I was 23 when coach Binky made me an assistant coach at Letran. One of our players was Aldin. I worked four years with coach Binky at Letran and another year with coach Louie Alas, winning back-to-back NCAA titles. I also worked under coach Junel Baculi at GlobalPort, coach Yeng Guiao at Burger King and coach Chot Reyes at the Asian Basketball Academy.”

Gonzalez said Altamirano is a valuable asset to his staff. “Anton’s eager to learn,” he said. “He’s young, he works hard and takes after his father Eric. He’s worked with the NBTC so his network is extensive. He knows the up-and-coming players from high school, scouts well and has lots of creative ideas.”

Gonzalez took Malacañang to the UNTV Cup Finals last season with Christian Luanzon and Erick de la Cuesta as “guest” players. His younger brother Raffy now coaches Malacañang. He was also head coach of MP Hotel-Letran in the PBA D-League. Gonzalez is the second oldest of six children and his father Tanny, who died at 58 in 2010, is his biggest influence. “I was 14 when I started to learn coaching from my dad who took me to all his games,” he said. “My dad coached three years at La Salle Zobel with players like Juno Sauler, Jason Webb and Gabby Cui. He coached Bong Hawkins at Perpetual when they went to the NCAA Finals, losing to San Sebastian in Game 3. He was also the athletic director of Lyceum for eight years. My dad taught me sensitivity in listening to players and peers. He was an inspiring motivator and brought out the best in his players.”

Gonzalez has been involved in the basketball program of the British School the last 13 years, the Jr. NBA the last eight years and the PSC through the Philippine Sports Institute as a speaker and lecturer on coaching the last two years. He’s giving all of that up to focus on his new role at La Salle. “My dad was a La Salle Greenhills graduate in 1969 and my sister Patricia is a taekwondo athlete at St. Benilde,” he said. “I graduated at Letran but I’m familiar with the Lasallian culture. I hope to rebuild the team into a fighting, selfless unit that we can all be proud of.”

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