UNIVERSITY of the Philippines head coach Bo Perasol got an early birthday present and is now hoping for an extended celebration.
The Fighting Maroons eliminated Adamson in the UAAP semifinals on Wednesday, two days ahead of Perasol’s birthday, to reach the finals for the first time in 32 years.
They gear up for a battle with defending champion Ateneo as the best-of-three championship begins on on Saturday.
“Make no mistake about it, we're going for it,” said Perasol, who turned 47 on Friday, when asked if an upset win over his former employer would be the most fitting gift to receive.
“Wala sa isip namin yung malakas sila, mahina kami, we're happy where we are. No. We'll be there to compete, we are going to be there to win it, I don't know what the results would be but we will be there with the intention of winning,” he added.
Despite pulling off historic feats for the Fighting Maroons this season, Perasol was still far from safe from his critics from way back.
Perasol, who spent three years with the Blue Eagles, was the target of memes – with one saying that he ‘can finally live up to his promise and win a championship for Ateneo.’
But the soft-spoken coach said that those things don’t really affect him, that he understands that jokes are part of the game.
“Okay lang yun. Again, we cannot control the minds of other people. If I'm going to entertain those thoughts, I wouldn't be here. I wouldn't have had the patience or the courage to go on pag ako apektado lagi sa mga ganun,” Perasol said.
“It's the same way, ang dami ring patawa ng mga taga UP against Ateneo. That should be the case, kaya nga naging entertaining itong basketball na ito and we're just parang nagiging pawns lang tayo dito,” he added. “At the end of this we are still going to play 40 minutes of basketball, nothing personal about that.”
Though blessed with the opportunity to face his former team, Perasol insists that he has nothing against the community and his focus is entirely on “giving back to the UP community.”
Perasol noted that he was treated well during the three years with Ateneo.
“What I have with Ateneo is just in fact gratefulness. I'm very thankful to them for giving me the chance, for believing in me. If they did not believe, I mean the people who managed the team, if they did not believe in me hundred percent, I wouldn't be there for two more years. First year palang natanggal na ako dun,” said Perasol.
“They see the struggles we had there and they still believed that we can do something about that and the proof also is that those guys that we had help put in to that program, are still there. Andun pa sila and naniniwala ako na, walang animosity in my heart when I go up against these people,” he added.
All those pleasantries will be set aside the moment the ball gets tipped off as the Fighting Maroons vow to go for the Blue Eagles, without fear or hesitation.
“If you want to be the best, you have to go through the best. Hindi naman pwedeng madali lang. I'm not saying na 'you're the best but then again, all the rest are mediocre teams.' If you want to be the champion, you have to go through the defending champions,” Perasol said.
“If you want to achieve more, you have to do it step by step. You have to struggle, you have to go through hardships and right now the challenge is Ateneo and it's not easy. That's the way it should be, it's the championship, it's the Finals,” he added.
“I'm hoping that it's also the same way with them. They will have a hard time against us.”