YOU have to deliver when you're in La Salle. Everyone who took and will take a coaching job in Taft knows that.
For Green Archers coach Louie Gonzalez, the journey wasn't easy, but though he failed to lead his side to the Final Four in his first year at the helm this UAAP Season 81, he can take solace knowing he gave it his best shot.
"If you look at it, this is a very young team. Though may mga returnees ako na magagaling pa rin naman, I give it to my other guys especially those na hindi sumuko dun sa programa," he said moments after La Salle's tough 71-70 defeat to FEU on Wednesday in their knockout fourth-place playoff game.
If it was some other time, the Green Archers' 8-6 record would have been enough to get them a top four seed. But this wasn't any other season, and thus, the early exit.
But though it wasn't all rainbows and butterflies for Gonzalez in his first season as the head coach in Taft, he's glad that team captain Kib Montalbo was there to help him in taking command of this squad.
"Talagang yung leadership niya this year, nag-shine na," the mentor gave a toast to his graduating guard.
"I’m gonna give it to him, whatever yung narating namin, malaki yung naging part ni Kib dito. Kung paano niya ginawa to put everybody in the same page, tapos kung paano niya binuo itong team na ito. Again, this is La Salle eh, pero tinulungan niya ako on how to manage yung egos ng players, to accept their role eh."
And that made it all the more hard for Gonzalez to accept the fact that the Green Archers won't even make it to the semifinals.
Despite the injuries to main guys in Taane Samuel and Montalbo, coupled with the struggles the team had to deal with all season long, La Salle was still able to put itself on a position to contend with some of the league's best squads.
"I really want us na makapasok kasi grabe yung sakripisyo ng mga ito. I only have 13 guys, sometimes I only have 11 guys, pero still, hindi naman sila nag-give up eh. Everyday in practice, kahit anong galit ko sa kanila, walang ginawa itong mga ito kung hindi i-absorb lang," said Gonzalez, who took over from Aldin Ayo earlier this year.
But that's all history now.
Looking back, Gonzalez can hold his head high knowing that no matter what happens from now to next year, the foundation is already laid and he could no longer ask for more with the effort his guys showed this season.
"I always preach to these boys na it’s not really about having yung best players. Though magagaling naman yung players ko, my challenge to them is always the consistency for us to perform and to compete," he said. "Okay naman yung pag-adapt nila dun sa program na nilatag ko at ako naman, happy naman ako sa ginawa nila."