IS Joe Lipa returning to University of the Philippines?
That question popped to mind after the mercurial coach was spotted in practices of the UP Maroons helping out the coaching staff led by Rey Madrid a number of times in running the team’s workouts.
Madrid, who played under Lipa during his college career, was recently given a fresh mandate to coach a UP side that went 0-14 (win-loss) in the UAAP last season, beating out contenders Allan Gregorio and Robert Sison, among others.
A source close to Lipa said the coach who led the Maroons to their only league championship will play a more active role this coming season in helping out the coaching staff, although he added the legendary mentor won’t necessarily be on the bench during games.
“He is helping out Rey,” said the source. “He has had a number of sessions with the team.”
Contacted for comment, Lipa was quick to douse claims that he is coming back to UP in any capacity, saying his visit to the Maroons' practice was merely coincidental.
“Kapag nasa Quezon City ako, para makaiwas sa trapik, dadaan muna ako doon. Kasi sa Parañaque ako nakatira, malayo at ma-trapik. (Kung hindi ako pupunta ng UP) eh di sinalubong ko ‘yung trapik sa Edsa,” Lipa told Spin.ph.
However, the multi-titled coach and NCAA commissioner admitted he has taken the time to give a few pointers to the coaching staff during his visit.
“Once lang ako pumunta. Hindi ako consultant. Kaibigan ko lang ‘yung mga coaches doon. Nagpunta lang ako minsan para magbigay ng pointers. Pero nothing official,” said Lipa.
The veteran mentor had coached UP through the best and worst times of the team.
The former national coach coach led the Fighting Maroons to their first and only title in the modern era in 1986 with a team led by now-PBA Hall of Famers Benjie Paras and Ronnie Magsanoc.
Lipa returned to UP as head coach in 2006 but the Maroons went 0-14 the following year.
Although he has not been given an official position with UP for years, Lipa still has a strong influence on the school’s basketball program as the institution consults him about issues concerning the team.
Candidates for a coaching position in the past also sought his blessings.
Lipa, however, clarified that while nothing is on the table about a possible return to UP, he will always be there for his alma mater.
“Hindi na siguro ako babalik (sa UP). Pero siyempre, alam mo naman, I will always be there for UP. I used to play there, I used to coach there. I will always be there for whatever capacity. But now, I’m not connected with them, officially,” said Lipa.