ALDIN Ayo may be suspended indefinitely in the UAAP, but he hasn't the respect of his former players.
"Coach Aldin already proved his doubters wrong," said former Letran star Rey Nambatac. "Kahit maraming galit sa kanya ngayon, he's already a successful college coach. Wala na siyang kailangan pa patunayan at marami naman siguro naka-witness ng coaching style ni coach Aldin from Letran, La Salle, to UST."
Nambatac is just one of Ayo's former Letran players who have voiced their support to the beleaguered mentor in the wake of the controversial Bicol bubble, which saw members of the University of Santo Tomas men's basketball team train in the coach's hometown of Capuy, Sorsogon in violation of quarantine protocols.
Ayo resigned from his post as the Growling Tigers coach on Friday, even before the UAAP handed down his sanction five days later.
Another former Letran star, Kevin Racal, said he was saddened by the development.
"Syempre nasayangan ako kasi di ba alam naman natin kung gaano ka-competitive si coach Aldin. Tapos hindi pa natin alam kung kailan siya makakabalik sa pagko-coach sa UAAP," said Racal, who now plays for Alaska in the PBA.
Bong Quinto added: "Nakakalungkot kasi si coach Aldin, bagay na bagay talaga sa college. Kakaiba siya humawak ng players niya."
Racal, Nambatac, and Quinto were all part of the Mark Cruz-led Letran team which won the NCAA Season 91 title back in 2015, which catapulted Ayo to the public consciousness as one of the top coaches in the college ranks.
Since then, he won a championship for La Salle in 2016 and steered an up-and-coming UST side to the finals last year in a career that is suddenly in limbo following the sanctions handed down by presidents of the UAAP's member schools.
"Nagulat ako na bakit siya lang yung lumalabas na may mali," Quinto said. "Kasi para sa akin, kung una pa lang 'yung school mismo, hindi na pinayagan yung bubble, hindi naman ipipilit yung bubble na yun kasi bawal naman talaga. Yung PBA nga nag-stop eh. UAAP and NCAA pa kaya?"
Quinto, who now plays for Meralco, spoke against the uncertainty brought upon the coach by the indefinite ban, noting, "Hindi ako pabor sa naging desisyon na i-ban si coach Aldin."
"Siguro yung isa or dalawang taon na suspended, pwede na siguro yun para may matutunan naman sa isang pagkakamali. Pero yung indefinite ban, masyadong mabigat yun para sa side ni coach Aldin. Maganda naman yung intention ni coach Aldin sa bubble kaso yun nga, bawal lang kasi talaga."
Nambatac, however, acknowledged that with rules violated, penalties must be faced.
"Medyo nakakalungkot din pero yun nga, kailangan mong harapin yung pagkakamali mo," said the Rain or Shine shooter.
"Yun ang ginawa ni coach Aldin ngayon, tinanggap niya yung pagkakamali niya. We are not perfect naman eh, we commit mistakes, kaya ako humahanga din kay coach kasi willing siya tanggapin kung ano man yung sanctions na ipapatol sa kanya."
Aside from the UAAP, the Commission on Higher Education (CHED), Department of Justice (DOJ), and the Department of Interior and Local Government are continuing their probe into the matter.
The absence of Ayo will leave a big hole in college basketball, if his former wards will be asked.
"Malaking bagay yung pagiging competitive niya sa court. Sigurado ako na kung siya ang kalaban mo, I’m sure marami ka matutunan from the way niya na mag-coach at gumawa ng plays," said Nambatac.
Quinto echoed those testaments.
"Ang laking bagay talaga na mawawala siya sa UST. Yung mga players pa naman niya doon, ang lalaki ng potential," he said. "Sa mga coaches na rin sa UAAP nanggaling na ibang klase makipag-compete every game yung team ni coach Aldin. So para sa akin, ang laking bagay talaga yung pagkawala ni coach sa UAAP."
"Malaking bagay si coach Aldin sa college basketball," said Racal. "Kita naman natin na malaki yung impact na nadadala niya sa teams niya kahit saang team siya mapunta. Malaking tulong sya sa liga and teams na napupuntahan niya, at lalo sa players na nahahawakan niya dahil marami siyang naituturo."
Nambatac hopes Ayo can find his way back to the collegiate scene sooner than later.
"I just hope na one day pag humupa na yung issue sa kanya, mapapanuod ulit natin yung mayhem mentality ni coach Aldin," he said.