PIPO Noundou doesn’t look far off from his hulking form back in his playing days with the Far Eastern University. And why should he be? He’s only 28, an age when basketball players are supposed to be at the top of their game.
But the high-leaping bruiser for the Tamaraws would be the first to tell you that he’s happily put his playing days behind him. And while he’s completely content with where he is now, manning the sidelines as head coach of the Enderun Colleges Titans men’s basketball team, Noundou would also be the first to admit that this isn’t exactly what he planned.
“Life is unpredictable,” said Noundou when SPIN.ph caught up with him recently after one Titans game in the Milcu Got Skills Hard To Guard tournament. “You don’t plan things. You just go with the flow and embrace the challenge.”
The unexpected chain of events that led Noundou, a tough-as-nails slotman who played for FEU from 2009 to 2011, down the coaching path began with a fateful lunch with Enderun owner after he paved the way for a foreign player to be part of the school’s team a few years back.
“The owner of the school asked to have lunch with me. We talked about basketball, about the NBA, because he was a fan of the game. We talked. I don’t know, maybe he was scouting me to see my approach to the game and how I think about the game. Then, he asked me right away if I can join the program,” said Noundou.
Noundou was taken aback and initially hesitated. He still wanted to play in the Asean Basketball League.
However, with the ABL season starting late that year, Noundou was already getting out of shape and the job offer got him curious. Still, it would take some more prodding, specifically from his cousin and fellow former Tamaraw Christian Sentcheu, before Noundou decided to give coaching a try.
“He told me that the way I understand the game, I can be a coach and I can develop players,” Noundou recalled his conversation with Sentcheu. “He said, ‘I know you always give your best. Maybe go ahead and try’.”
Noundou admits to be a student of the game, having watched countless matches even when he was still a kid in Cameroon. And he believes his work ethic on and off the court could help him make a smooth transition to coaching.
“I’m just passionate about the game since I was a kid. I watch the NBA, the Euroleague, all those stuff,” said Noundou.
When Noundou joined Enderun’s coaching staff under then-head coach Topex Robinson, the school was just starting out its basketball program and encountered tough growing pains at the time. The team even had to conduct practices on a concrete court and barely had 10 players in practice at times.
But by the time the school gym was built and the recruitment of players intensified, Robinson moved on and Noundou was appointed to take over the Titans last February. The Cameroonian, though, was more than ready with a modest but progressive plan.
“We don’t want to compete against the big schools [yet]. We want to get players who have decent skills and develop them. One by one, we are getting the guys in,” said Noundou.
At present, the Titans are becoming one of the fast-rising college programs in the country outside the UAAP and the NCAA. The team is currently seeing action in the Men’s National Collegiate Athletic Association (MNCAA) as well as other collegiate leagues.
Noundou, however, emphasized that the ultimate goal of the Enderun program is not just to develop good basketball players but better people.
“My main goal is to develop successful kids in the future. That’s the mentality I share with the school, the owner, coach Topex. We all have the same mentality. I have to develop leaders,” said Noundou.
And while he looks forward to the challenge at hand, Noundou never forgets to look back and thank his mentors in paving the way for his coaching career.
“I was blessed to be coached by some of the best coaches in the game back home like coach Zebaze, Pepso, DTN Mekongo and coach Simen. And I was blessed to enter one of the most successful programs here (FEU) with coach Mike Oliver, Bert Flores, Glenn Capacio, and Louie Gonzales,” said Noundou
“My mentor coach Topex Robinson taught me how to be professional. Some of my coaches overseas like coach Charles a.k.a. Pops in LA was always telling me to put the passion first and not the money. These are the people who influenced my coaching philosophy and made a huge impact on my understanding of the game,” he added.