OWING to La Salle’s impressive run entering the homestretch of the UAAP men’s basketball tournament, the Green Archers have readily been tagged as the league’s new Ateneo – the team that won the league championship for the past five years.
Coach Juno Sauler, however, "La Salle is La Salle."
“Actually, ilang beses nang natanong sa akin yan, pero I never wanted to answer that question because I don’t want comparing teams eh,” said the soft-spoken mentor in a talk with Spin.ph
“Ibang iba ang Ateneo at ibang iba ang La Salle. Kami ng Ateneo are totally different teams,” he stressed.
Sauler went on and expressed what he’d rather prefer people to call his team.
“Hindi kami new La Salle, hindi rin kami old La Salle. We’re La Salle, simply put. ‘We’re La Salle’,” he firmly declared. “La Salle has always been La Salle!”
The longtime Barangay Ginebra deputy coach likewise said he kept on urging his players and the whole team to continue improving.
“Wala akong iniisip beyond the next game. Wala sa isip ko ang korona, hindi ko iniisip ang legacy na iiwan ko. Basta ang akin lang, gusto ko kada game gumaganda at nag-i-improve kami,” he said.
“Lahat kasi ng tao tinitignan result, ranking, etc. Ako ang sinasabi ko sa mga players ko: ‘We have to improve on a daily basis. Kung saan tayo dalhin, 'yun ang ating tatanggapin,” Sauler added.
“If a championship happens, it happens.”
Asked if he is looking forward to returning soon to the PBA - his home for almost 13 years - the Green Archers coach just smiled and reiterated his love for basketball.
“Mahilig ako sa basketball. Mahilig ako magturo at i-share ang nalalaman ko. Kahit anong level, masaya ako,” said Sauler, who once coached the La Salle juniors and women’s teams.
“Masaya ako na nasa mundo ng basketball. At masaya ako kahit saan ako dalhin nito,” added the former La Salle player, who was once tipped to coach Ginebra in Asia’s first ever play-for-pay league.
Speaking of Ginebra, Sauler did not hide his disappointment after the Kings failed to move past the quarterfinals of the Governors Cup.
“Yun nga eh. Parang naputol bigla `yung pagsasaya ko when La Salle reached the Finals of the current UAAP. Siyempre, may heart is still with Ginebra,” he admitted.
Sauler said the hectic schedule at La Salle forbids him and assistant coach Allan Caidic to join the Kings in both practice and games.
“Pero tinitiyak ko talaga na every game ng Ginebra, nasaan man ako, mapapanood ko kahit sa TV,” he said.
“Thursday night nga, nasa restaurant ako with my wife (Agnes) and son Santi, nagtatalon kami nung dumikit na by one ang Ginebra (against Petron) from as high as 25 points,” recalled the La Salle coach, whose daughter Lauren is also a Ginebra fanatic.
“Diehard Ginebra fans talaga kami pati ang family ko. Kaya wala kaming pakialam nun kung nagti-tinginan mga tao sa amin sa restaurant sa ingay namin,” he said laughing.
“Sayang lang maaga na-eliminate!”
Sauler bared he and Caidic will return to the Ginebra coaching staff as soon as the current UAAP season ends.
“Oo, babalik kami dun. Hindi naman kami naalis. At ayaw naming mawala yun hangga’t maari,” he declared.