SEGUNDO 'Bong' De la Cruz has gotten the inside track on the vacant head coaching job at University of Santo Tomas after being tasked to handle the Tigers in the Filoil preseason tournament, a source told Spin.ph.
De la Cruz, a former high school star at UST who played college ball with the Adamson Falcons, was one of the Tigers' assistant coaches during the reign of longtime head coach Pido Jarencio.
Although no official appointment has been made, sources said the Filoil coaching stint will put De la Cruz ahead of other contenders for one of the most high-profile positions in college basketball.
“Siya (De la Cruz) ang magco-coach sa Filoil pero wala pa siyang kontrata na pinirmahan,” said a team insider who requested not to be named since he is not authorized to talk about the issue.
Filoil tournament director Joey Guillermo said last week the UST Tigers have not confirmed their participation in the country's biggest preseason tournament, which will open on April 25.
The UST source, however, said the Tigers will definitely see action in the tournament with Dela Cruz at the helm.
According to sources, the Espana-based school will reveal the name of its new head coach in the first week of April, after the contracts of all the members of the current coaching staff will expire.
Aside from De la Cruz, also believed to be in contention for the UST job are assistant coach Estong Ballesteros and former Tigers star Gerald Francisco.
De la Cruz's Filoil assignment, however, should dampen the chances of Ballesteros, who was recommended by Jarencio for the position and had in fact presided over UST's practices shortly after his resignation.
Still, a separate source said De la Cruz is now the one running UST practices after getting the backing of the school’s top officials.
“Hindi siya nag-apply sa position pero pinag-submit siya ng resume ng mga pari. Gusto daw ng mga pari sa kanya,” said the source.