WHERE there's smoke, there’s fire.
That perfectly sums up the events leading up to Aldin Ayo’s stunning move to University of Santo Tomas after two UAAP seasons as La Salle head coach.
A reputable source close to both Ayo and the Tigers camp bared that a confluence of events started talk of an Ayo move to UST that circulated long before the end of the last collegiate season.
It was, he said, a perfect storm: Ayo not getting along with the handlers of the La Salle basketball team and UST in search of a replacement to Boy Sablan in the midst of another horror campaign.
As SPIN.ph previously reported, Dominican priests who used to run Letran's basketball program during Ayo's time with the Knights are now in charge at UST, bringing along major backers who moved heaven and earth to bring the coach to UST.
Ayo himself confirmed his closeness with new athletic director Fr. Jannel Abogado and other UST priests.
“I have lots of friends sa UST. My former athletic moderator, ‘yung pari na nagdala sa akin sa Manila, he is in UST right now. Adviser ko sa thesis ko, he is a Dominican, nasa UST ngayon. There are a lot of priests, Bicolano priests, Dominican priests na nandoon sa UST. They are my friends. Lots of alumni also from UST (are friends),” Ayo said in his exit interview.
One source even bared that like Ayo, Abogado also hails from Sorsogon.
Another source bared La Salle officials were well aware of the Ayo transfer talk but, just like Letran a few years earlier, didn't address it until much later.
“Alam na rin ng La Salle 'yan even nung season pa lang. Like Letran, hindi lang din nila pinansin kaya na-blind side din talaga sila,” said a source.
Sources confirmed Ayo reaffirmed his commitment to stay at La Salle to no less than the team’s chief benefactor, Eduardo 'Danding' Cojuangco in the team's Christmas party.
Asked what pushed Ayo to change his mind days later, the source cited two factors – his lack of control over the team's affairs, and a growing rift with the people handling the La Salle program.
La Salle's curious move to tap another coach outside of Ayo's staff to handle the school’s developmental squad greatly eroded the coach's hold on the team, sources said.
Anton Altamirano, son of UAAP and PBA champion coach Eric Altamirano, has been handling the La Salle Team B.
“Ang final straw niyan is yung binigay kay (Anton) Altamirano yung Team B at hindi sa coaching staff niya. With that, he felt na hindi na talaga siya gusto ng school,” said a source.
Asked if the move to UST is final, the source said the UST rector will have the final say but the nod of the backers of the school and the athletic director should make it moot and acedemic.
“Wala pa rin naman confirmation from the rector. Rector pa rin naman ang may final say dito.”
SPIN.PH has reached out to Ayo multiple times through text and Facebook messages to get his side, but the 40-year-old coach has yet to respond at posting time.