CHICAGO - Although the university has yet to make it official, all signs point to the contract of La Salle Green Archers head coach Derrick Pumaren not being extended after its expiration last December 31.
When I reached out to him for comment about his tenure via text message, Mr. Pumaren did not respond to my questions outside of the perfunctory, polite greetings.
Meanwhile, the search for his replacement has begun in earnest.
Whoever emerges from this exhaustive process will be the seventh hire since 2012, a stunning turnover rate that has affected the continuity of the storied program, which failed to make the Final Four in Season 85 despite a talent-loaded roster.
In contrast, Tab Baldwin has been at the helm at Ateneo since 2015, a marriage that has birthed four of the last five championships in the UAAP. Apparently, coaching assembly lines do not regularly spit out a gift like coach Tab.
Baldwin is the white whale. The rest of the league is Captain Ahab.
Speaking on the condition of anonymity, multiple sources told SPIN.ph that Topex Robinson tops La Salle's wish list to lead the charge against the mighty Blue Eagles.
STAYING OR LEAVING?
Robinson's contract with the Phoenix Super LPG had just lapsed but the team has since left a lucrative offer on the table that would keep him in the pro ranks.
Holding on to his PBA job, one of only 12 in the entire Philippines, appeals to Robinson, sources familiar to the situation said.
But the idea of calling the shots for a team that draws up to 20,000 fans during UAAP games fascinates the 48-year old Topex whose climb to fame had its genesis in the amateur ranks.
Another heavyweight name, Rajko Toroman, is also said to be considered although it's unclear if both sides have actually negotiated.
Toroman's services do not come cheap. His previous Gilas contract paid him $15,000 a month, sources said, while his current stint in Indonesia fetched him around $12,000 monthly.
But nothing is too expensive for the Green Archers who have a fleet of insanely wealthy backers such as Terry Capistrano and Enrique Razon, to name a few.
In a Big Three dream team scenario, La Salle could parade a Season 86 lineup of Toroman as consultant, Robinson as head coach, and Cholo Villanueva as lead assistant.
CRAZY FOR TIU
Charles Tiu, who just took the College of Saint Benilde Blazers to the NCAA finals, to heights they haven't scaled in 20 years, is another premium candidate.
A scholar of the game known for his meticulous preparation and in-game adjustments, Tiu enjoys the support of an influential booster, an unseen hand that pulls strings behind the scenes.
There is only one thing that could potentially hold back Tiu's candidacy: He went to Ateneo.
You see, most of the decision-makers at La Salle are half-blinded by a green mist and have a preference for La Sallians, which is weird considering the school won a title with Letran alum Aldin Ayo in 2016.
Tiu, who has assembled an All-Star cast at Strong Group Philippines that will represent the country in the Dubai Invitational Tournament this coming January 7, could be that lovable "outsider."
Tiu cannot be reached for comment on this piece.
WILDCARD CHRIS DALEO
If it were to insist on a foreign hire with extensive, five-star credentials, La Salle could find that man in Chris Daleo.
The gifted, flamboyant American coach guided the Thailand national team to a pair of silver medal finishes at the SEA Games. A former assistant coach in the US NCAA's Division II, he has both college and international experience.
Daleo has won at every level, the pros included, he is starting to get bored.
the La Salle job will get his juices flowing.