SEOUL, South Korea – From the outside looking in, Pido Jarencio, the former University of Santo Tomas coach who’s been in the last two UAAP men’s basketball finals, just wants to enjoy this unlikely best-of-three title series between Far Eastern University and National University.
But pressed on which team he thinks will emerge the first champion team in the last seven years not named Ateneo or De La Salle, the current coach of Globalport was straight to the point.
“FEU ako diyan,” he told Spin.ph on the eve of Game One between the Tamaraws and the Bulldogs. “Kung makikita mo, smooth na smooth `yung opensa tsaka depensa nila. Ang laki ng improvement from last year.”
At this same period a year ago, Jarencio and his UST Tigers were in the same situation as FEU and NU, battling the Green Archers in a highly-emotional Finals which the Taft-based school won in overtime during the winner-take-all Game Three.
Jarencio along with deputy Mac Cuan, Globalport team manager BJ Manalo, and alternate board of governor Eric Arejola keenly watched the FEU-De La Salle match on Wednesday via live streaming, which the Tamaraws won following the game-winning three-pointer at the buzzer by Mac Belo, 67-64.
That the Tamaraws dethroned the same team which beat his alma mater last season no longer came as a surprise for the legendary UST shooting guard.
“Maganda ang ginagawa ni Nash sa FEU,” said Jarencio, whose Batang Pier team is now in the final stage of its week-long training here for the coming 40th season of the PBA.
The Bulldogs, meanwhile, tore a page from the Tigers' playbook from last season when it survived three knockout games this year, including back-to-back matches against top seed Ateneo in the semis to make the finals for the first time in more than four decades.
“Ginaya tayo,” Jarencio said in between laughs, recalling how UST also endured three do-or-die encounters last year, including two straight wins over the top-seeded Bulldogs in the Final Four to clinch a second straight berth in the championship series against La Salle.
Other than the way the Tamaraws have been playing as a unit, there is also one pressing matter why Jarencio is counting on an FEU win in the Finals.
“Yung isa sa assistant ko kasi, si Eric Gonzales, part din ng FEU coaching staff. Kaya FEU ako diyan,” said a smiling Jarencio.