JUNO Sauler's future as De La Salle coach has inevitably come under scrutiny amid the disappointment over the Green Archers' failure to make the Final Four of UAAP Season 78 men's basketball tournament.
The Green Archers finished the season with a 6-8 (win-loss) record and missed the playoffs for the first time since 2011 when they lost to what amounted to Far Eastern University's shock troopers, 68-71, on Wednesday.
That has put the heat on Sauler, who led La Salle to a championship in his first season with the Green Archers but has inevitably faced calls for his ouster from some supporters after coming up empty in his third year.
As calls for Sauler's exit grew, the names of former La Salle coach Franz Pumaren and PBA champion coach Siot Tanquingcen have been mentioned by alumni calling for a coaching change.
Another name being floated is former Letran champion coach Louie Alas.
Pumaren, an alumnus, led La Salle to five UAAP championships including a run of four in a row. The former national player has also coached in the PBA, the last with Air21 Express in 2014.
On the other hand, Tanquingcen has won three PBA championships as a coach - two with Ginebra and on with San Miguel - before joining Sauler's staff prior to the season as an assistant coach.
Sought for comment, La Salle team manager and alumni officer Raffy Villavicencio admitted knowledge of the clamor for the three well-known coaches, but insisted no decision will be made until the school has completed an assessment of the team's performance, the result of which he doesn't expect to be completed until March.
“May clamor (kina Pumaren at Alas) pero syempre lahat naman maraming pinu-push na possibilities, kung ano ang gusto nilang mangyari. Pero syempre, it all depends sa final analysis sa kung ano ang nangyari,” said Villavicencio.
“Kaya lang syempre, it all depends sa final analysis sa kung ano ang nangyari and the one that will decide on that matter is supposed to be the school and the (team) management,” he added.
However, school insiders feel Tanquingcen has a better chance at the job than Pumaren in case La Salle decides to make a change, especially since longtime team patron Danding Cojuangco is expected to have the final say on the matter.
While the Pumarens and Cojuangco have long been estranged, sources said it was Cojuangco's decision to put Tanquingcen in the La Salle coaching staff after his short stint with Barako Bull in the PBA.
Asked how much weight the alumni’s calls will carry in the decision-making process, Villavicencio assured the final judgment will be collegial.
“It is a common thing, si Boss Danding naman, he decides on merits eh. He will have to make a decision once we (management) are able to analyze everything. That’s after the assessment," Villavicencio said.
"As of this time, wala pang assessment eh,” he added.
However, several alumni have also leapt to the defense of Sauler who they feel just didn't have the pieces to succeed this season, especially after the ineligibility of Ben Mbala left the Archers with an undersized frontline.
Asked if the management was happy with Sauler's handling of the team, Villavicencio said, “Hindi naman nawala 'yung confidence (kay Sauler) since the start," although he was quick to add that everything will depend on the final assessment.
"We have to analyze the general outcome 'nung nangyari this season, which is not good,” he said. “As of now, wala pang decision (if ever there’ll be a coaching change).”