IF you told coach Frankie Lim back when he got the Perpetual coaching job back in January that his new team will make it the NCAA Season 94 Final Four, he would have laughed out loud.
"Kung kasama namin kayo nung January at nakita ninyo 'yung team, sabi ko swerte na ito kung maka-tatlong panalo," Lim recounted.
"Mag-iisip kayo kung bakit ko nakuha yung trabaho. Talagang walang materyales eh. There's practically nothing. Everybody was on tryout mode. You couldn't even see the proper combinations because everybody was trying to outshine everybody."
Lim, who won four championships at San Beda, inherited only four holdovers from the previous season's team of Jimwell Gican.
The rest? Lim said he was clueless who they were or where they came from.
"Lahat sila bago na eh. Wala akong clue kung saan sila galing, kung sino nag-recruit sa kanila, o paano sila nakarating doon. There was a lot of work ... to make them settle down and make them understand what we want to do," he said.
"We explained the system, what we want to do, what we want to happen, and nakisama naman sila. After a while, nakita namin na unti-unti na nag-go-grow yung team when we played in the PBA D-League."
But with Prince Eze leading the way, the Altas under Lim slowly turned into a contender and led their coach to start thinking about going all the way.
"After that, sabi ko baka may chance kasi kahit paano, we can pull off some wins. But at the start of the tournament, I don't think anybody rated us to be in the top four," he said.
Perpetual racked up an 11-7 record, good for fourth place, and even gave defending champion and top-seed San Beda all it could handle before dropping an 83-72 loss on Friday in their Final Four clash.
"The whole team overachieved this season," the multi-titled coach said. "It's an achievement, yes, but we could have done better. We were two wins away from the finals, pero malakas talaga yung San Beda eh."
Still, Lim can sit and admire the fruits of his labor.
"The job we did, it's all worth it," he said. "But it's not about me being satisfied with the job I did here. Mas na-appreciate ko na yung mga tao sa loob ng Perpetual at sa labas, nakikita nila yung improvement ng team.
"Yun ang nakakataba ng puso, na naa-appreciate kami ng mga tao. Doon lumalabas yung reward of the job. Doon lang masaya na ako. Ayos na sa akin yun."
The foundation is already there at Perpetual, and though it is set to lose presumptive MVP Eze and senior forward AJ Coronel, Lim is confident that his side has what it takes to make another run at a championship.
"We'll try to build up," he said, noting that big man Ben Adamos and guard Keith Pido are poised to join the Altas next season. "We will try to fill in doon sa mga nabakanteng spots. We'll try to come up with a stronger team."