WHEN Bo Perasol took the coaching job of the University of the Philippines, it was a time when the Fighting Maroons would hold on to anything - any lifeline they can hold onto after winning just a total of five times in the last four years.
So the ‘improvements’ came when Perasol came along. In his first year he matched the total win output of his Alma Mater over the last four years. The year after, they took home six wins much to the delight of the UP community.
Then, Bright Akhuetie came along, Juan Gomez de Liano continued to show promise and Paul Desiderio decided to stay for one more year for Season 81.
All of a sudden, it wasn’t all fun and games.
“The struggle that we had, the kind of mindset we want to have is wala nang pag-aalangan e. Sometimes you lose, sometimes you win, but the thought there is we can win,” said Perasol as the Fighting Maroons clinched a final four berth for the first time in 21 years.
“Before, the idea is malakas ang kalaban ano kaya ang mangyayari? Ngayon, it doesn’t matter we can win this,” Perasol added. “Yes I can say we’ve reached that point.”
After two honeymoon seasons under Perasol, with the community satisfied to have that ‘nowhere to go but UP’ mantra, things changed dramatically when Season 81 came along.
With the right tools now and a more experienced squad, there was no way the community was going to settle for more ‘moral victories.’ If the past two years was all about ‘going up,’ then this season it’s all about staying there – and that wasn’t an easy transition at all for Perasol and his team.
“In the past, parang idea e. It wasn’t easy. Yung journey wasn’t easy. Sometimes, you doubt yourself, but I have to be an example of confidence,” Perasol explained.
“I have to be an example of the belief at what we’ve put in,” he added. “We’re just human beings, mararamdaman natin pressure, but you need to go through that para ma-achieve mo yung gusto mo.”
Perasol would be the first to admit that he felt that. He knows what it feels to go through the pressure cooker, to be under the watchful eyes of the community as the losses piled up early on.
After a promising start where they devoured the lowly UE Red Warriors, the Fighting Maroons suddenly lost three straight – and eventually finished the first round at sixth place with a 3-4 record.
And as frustrations continue to pile up, there was a time when Perasol felt like he wasn’t the right person to lead this team.
“Pag naririnig niyo akong sumisigaw doon, I wanted to leave them kasi parang iniisip ko, is this worth it?” Perasol shared.
“If I keep on pushing you then you aren’t responding, I have an obligation to the community na, if I’m not effective as your leader, then I might as well step down,” he added.
But Perasol persevered.
Amid the 180 degree turn that he experienced from some of the school’s most staunch supporters, Perasol was left unfazed.
He knows that he has to win it, not because there’s pressure on himself to perform, but because he’s seen his school suffer for the longest time, and he knows that he can do something about it with a win.
The Fighting Maroons came out with a strong finish to the elimination round, capped off by a 97-81 win over the La Salle Green Archers.
“Yung burden ko kasi is to win it for the community. It’s not a push from them na you need to win, it’s the other way around,” Perasol said.
“You see them, you have been in UP for a long time, iniisip mo, you’re hungry for it. You want to deliver it to them.”