LA Salle remained all business in handling rival Ateneo a beating Sunday even without head coach Aldin Ayo for the first time in UAAP Season 79. One of the biggest factors behind it is the fact that the man who took over coaching duties, assistant coach Louie Gonzales, knows the Green Archers mentor all too well.
Ayo and Gonzales go back a long way since their days with Letran in the late 1990s, and that familiarity showed as Gonzales ably stepped in for Ayo in La Salle’s past two games.
Unknown to many, Gonzales was one of the assistant coaches of Letran when the Knights won the 1999 crown. Ayo even hit a game-winning shot over then Jose Rizal College in the opener of the best-of-three affair. But it all wouldn’t be possible if not for the heroics of Gonzales, who took Ayo out of the hospital so that he could play that day.
“Tinakas ko pa siya sa ospital noon kasi dehydrated siya nung Final Four, nasa ospital siya. Kailangan namin siya ni coach Binky (Favis), kaya tinakas ko sa ospital ‘yun. It happened na siya nagpapanalo dun,” said Gonzales.
Since then, Ayo and Gonzales have been like brothers, and have even been part of the same team’s coaching staff that continues to this day at La Salle.
Their familiarity with each other came into play when Gonzales had to pick up the cudgels for Ayo in two games, first last Wednesday when Ayo was ejected in the game against University of the East, and again on Sunday against Ateneo when Ayo served out a one-game suspension.
Gonzales made sure La Salle didn’t skip a beat on Sunday as the Green Archers trounced Ateneo, 97-81, to complete a sweep of the first round hostilities, its first since 2002.
“Magkasama na kami ni Aldin for a long time. He used to be my player. Kilalang kilala ko na siya. Alam ko kung ano ang gusto niya at ‘yung dapat mangyari sa court na alam ko ang gusto niya. In-execute ko lang ‘yung gusto niya,” said Gonzales.
Gonzales also bared that his former ward is one competitive man who hates losing, and it’s that drive that has rubbed off on the La Salle coaching staff and players.
“He hates losing. Lahat he will do his very best. Kapag sinabing lumiit katawan niya, the next hour, nasa weights na ‘yun. Kapag sinabi mong mataba siya, mag-jojogging siya. Ganun siya ka-focus,” said Gonzales.