Making sense of the DLSU-UST coaching shuffle

The La Salle-UST coaching saga can be described with one word: Mayhem.

It’s been a rollercoaster ride for the fans of both teams, but slowly everything is starting to make sense regarding the situations of the La Salle Green Archers and the UST Growling Tigers. Last January 4, the DLSU Sports came out with an announcement that Louie Gonzalez would officially take over the head coaching job for the Green Archers. Just yesterday, UST formally introduced their new Head Coach, Aldin Ayo.

At the very least we have that covered – Both UST and La Salle already have their head coaches. But what will Gonzalez and Ayo bring to their respective new teams? Do they fit their given personnel in terms of not just Xs and Os, but managing egos as well?

Let’s try to answer that:

La Salle goes with a safe choice in Louie Gonzalez

When the name of Louie Gonzalez first came into play, the very first thing that popped into the mind of fans was: Who the hell is Louie Gonzalez? The shock was understandable. He wasn’t the big name coach that La Sallians have grown accustomed to over the years. More popular names such as Richard Del Rosario and Siot Tanquingcen were expected to take over the reins as head coach, but instead, they got this mystery man, Gonzalez.

When we think deeper about it, Gonzalez shouldn’t really be a mystery man within La Sallians. He was one of Coach Ayo’s main assistants during his run with the Green Archers. There would even be instances where he would be the one calling plays for La Salle, which shouldn’t be much of a surprise given the knowledge that he is credited with creating the Mayhem system.

With that in mind, it just goes to show that this hiring is safe more than anything else. This showcases La Salle’s desire for continuity, and at the same time, trust for what Coach Ayo had established with the Green Archers. You can’t blame La Salle management for believing as such: They had two Finals’ appearances during that run while winning one championship in the process. The Mayhem System may have bee criticized but it managed to work under Coach Ayo. Now, it’s highly likely that Coach Gonzales, the one who built the system will be running that as well.

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It’s a perfect fit – La Salle has all the tools to play a fast brand of basketball given their wealth of wings and guards led by Ricci Rivero, Aljun Melecio and Kib Montalbo. In that sense, it’s hard to argue against this hiring, given how safe it is.

There is one risk though – Just how good is Coach Louie Gonzalez BEYOND the Xs and Os? Coaching a basketball team isn’t just a matter of calling out plays and giving your players instructions on both ends of the floor. There’s also building a bond (as cheesy as this may seem) and managing the egos that are around the team. Coach Ayp did a great job at this, especially with how he would visit the players in their dorms to show them clips, or to simply bond with them on a personal level. The question now is, can Coach Louie create such a similar bond as their head coach?

This move by the Green Archers a low risk, low reward move. It’s highly unlikely Gonzalez does something drastic with the Mayhem System. Maybe he makes some adjustments here and there, especially with how they run their half court sets since they had trouble with that before. What will likely determine whether the Green Archers go for a championship run or just barely make it to the Final Four is how Gonzalez handles his players off the basketball court.

Coach Aldin Ayo and his perfect fit with the UST Growling Tigers

UST fans immediately rejoiced after finding out Coach Ayo would be the one to take over the UST basketball program. From a surface level, there’s plenty of reason to be excited. Coach Ayo won two championships with two different teams over the course of three years, and he’s the kind of big name UST hasn’t had ever since Coach Pido Jarencio was calling the shots.

Beyond those facts, there’s plenty of other reasons to be excited for the Growling Tigers from a system standpoint.

It’s important to realize first, the Growling Tigers actually had some semblance of talent from last year’s team. That talent just wasn’t handled properly.

Steve Akomo, despite being surrounded by a system that was flawed at best, managed to put up great numbers against some of the best foreign student athletes in the league. Marvin Lee is an off-ball menace who can get hot in an instant. Jordan Sta. Ana is a big playmaker who is more than capable of slashing to the rim and creating plays for himself and others. Add to that the return of Mario Bonleon and Renzo Subido and there’s a lot of material Coach Ayo can work with.

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UST now has a coach who has the competence to handle this talent. What makes things easier is how Coach Ayo’s Mayhem system is already tailor-made for the kind of talent UST has.
As early as last season, UST already showcased flashes of having the tools necessary to run Mayhem.

They ranked first in terms of Pace in the entire league (89.06), even beating out the team Coach Ayo was coaching then (87.24). They would surprise teams then by throwing out hard traps and revving up the pace, even nearly upsetting the Ateneo Blue Eagles during the first round with such a strategy.

The issue was, they weren’t able to sustain such activity, and often operated like headless chickens who had no idea what to do with the kind of pace they were playing in. It’s no surprise then their worst losses came from the DLSU Green Archers, who took advantage of the fast pace UST wanted to employ, while having the talent and coaching necessary to succeed.

Finally, UST has someone who could teach these players the necessary details to run such an attack. They still aren’t as talented as the likes of La Salle or FEU, but their talent should prove to be enough to run Mayhem at a fast level. UST has talent that is versatile with some semblance of skill, and blend that with the teaching of Coach Ayo, and you have yourselves a team that could very well be a dark horse come Season 81.

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