A THREE-WEEK break may prove detrimental to any team – more so for one which had looked indestructible while riding high on an 18-game winning streak.
But not for Lyceum and head coach Topex Robinson.
As the Pirates prepare for the final act in what has been a historic NCAA Season 93, Robinson has pulled every single trick in his coaching hat to keep the the players busy and grounded.
After a magical run of 18 straight wins in the elimination round, the Pirates had to wait 22 days for the encore - a best-of-three finals against defending champion San Beda.
Believe it or not, Topex and his boys, instead of getting rusty, have made the most of the long lull.
“Tinanong nga ako before na we could choose to make it an advantage for us being away for a while, or a disadvantage and we chose the first,” Robinson said.
“We want it to be an advantage for us. Rather na disadvantage na masyadong matagal, na rather looking at that, we went on looking at the other side,” he added.
Robinson, who had stints with San Sebastian as a head coach and Alaska as a deputy, has veered away from conventional coaching wisdom and took his Pirates deeper.
Instead of preaching mental and physical toughness, the well-versed Robinson has been preaching love and respect. Tactics, the Xs and Os will always be there, but the main focus has been on how to inspire each other as well as the fans.
Most of all, the 37-year-old coach focused on probably the most overlooked aspect in sports today – character.
That kind of approach had Robinson taking his players back to their roots. After the high of an 18-game unbeaten run, the coach went out and made sure to keep his players grounded.
How, by getting the team to visit an orphanage.
“We went to White Cross, which is a home for kids that were abandoned. It's a part of letting them know how blessed they are to be in this situation right now,” Robinson continued.
“We really planned it ahead with the coaches, with all the support staff that we have. It’s a very humbling experience.”
From the orphanage, Robinson and his squad were then spotted witnessing an Ateneo game at the Smart Araneta Coliseum to try and get a feel of what it’s like playing in a venue as big as the Big Dome.
There's also a deeper reason to it. Some of his players came from big UAAP schools before inding their way to this small school nestled in the belly of historic Intramuros. Robinson wanted to remind them of that.
CJ Perez, a favorite to win the MVP award this year, was let go by Ateneo. The Marcelino twins were considered afterthoughts at Adamson. Ralph Tansingco and Kim Cinco both came from National University.
“It's always about remembering saan sila nanggaling before and now some of the guys here, I reminded CJ na he was part of Ateneo na hindi naging maganda yung experyience niya dun and look at him now.
"I have Tansingco and Kim Cinco na part before ng NU na hindi rin naging maganda yung career nila dun so it's always being grateful for where they are right now,” said Robinson.
The coach also used the break to give his players some family time.
“I gave them three day off to go back to their families and ang reminder ko dun when they went back, try to remember where you were, where you started and how everything went to you.”
A lot of people have been trying to decipher what makes this Lyceum team run and why it has been so successful this season.
Some feel it’s because of Perez, who many believe is bound to become a PBA star and they aren’t really wrong. Some would say it has been Robinson’s experience as a head coach and a former pro, having played for different brilliant coaches.
But those are just fragments of a bigger picture to how this team was built in the first place.
“Amongst us, we know how we handle things. They know that our job isn't done, they are always playing humble, they always know that they haven't accomplished anything yet,” Robinson said.
“Rather than boast and be proud, we did a lot of community service so again it's going back to service and being where we are now, we could be enjoying everything but it's always about giving back.”