IT’S not an easy task succeeding a coach who has won nine championships in 10 years.
Yet it was the exact challenge former PBA player Felix Belano faced when he accepted the coaching job of University of the Visayas, taking over from cage great Elmer `Boy’ Cabahug late in 2011.
Although he faltered during his rookie year, the soft-spoken Belano didn’t disappoint the second time around when he led the Green Lancers to the championship via a thrilling 64-62 win over Vitter rival Southwestern University Cobras in the deciding match of the Cebu Schools Athletic Foundation Inc. (Cesafi) last week.
Following the emotional Game Five victory, Belano couldn't contain his emotions as he shed tears of joy while proudly carrying his daughter on his shoulders.
He then hugged each of his players and exchanged high fives with every UV supporter who approached him.
“I’m really overwhelmed and overjoyed because not only did we win the title, but we made history as well,” said Belano, a former UV stalwart.
The win also put the Green Lancers in the annals of Cesafi history as the first team to come back from a 0-2 deficit to win the championship.
Belano, a Davao native who made a historic quadruple-double of 17 points, 11 rebounds, 11 assists, and 10 steals during his time in the defunct Metropolitan Basketball Association (MBA), actually had a rocky first year as Lancers coach even though the powerhouse school made the Finals.
The Lancers led the Cobras by 17 points in the final seven minutes of last year’s winner-take-all Game Five for the Cesafi title. Unfortunately, UV inexplicably crumbled in the endgame and lost the match.
Belano said the title is the first major one he won since his days with Talk `N Text in the PBA during the 2008 Philippine Cup.
But the Davaoeno said he wasn’t able to contribute to the Tropang Texters’ cause as he was injured when the team won the championship.
And that’s the reason why the 5-foot-9 guard, who played eight seasons in Asia’s first ever pro league, was beaming with pride during the formal awarding ceremonies, where he extended his gratitude to the Gullas family - owner of UV – and team manager Gerald Anthony Gullas, who backed him no end during the time when the Lancers fell to a deep 0-2 hole early in the Finals.
“I would really like to thank UV and the Gullas family for their all-out support and unconditional love to the team. I am also very grateful for their trust and confidence in me despite the tremendous odds we faced,” Belano added.