THE man who led the University of the Philippines to its only UAAP men's basketball championship said an aggressive juniors program and a massive recruitment binge is needed to turn the Maroons into title contenders in the country's premier college league.
As the state-run university begins the selection process for a new coach, Benjie Paras said no coach can expect to be successful in reversing the fortunes of the long-suffering Maroons if the coaching changes do not include the arrival of fresh talent to boost personnel.
“Kung i-ko-coach ang same team, wala ring mangyayari. Kulang tayo ng recruitment,” said Paras, who along with Ronnie Magsanoc and Eric Altamirano starred in the UP team coached by Joe Lipa that won the school's first and only UAAP title back in 1986.
The Fighting Maroons have not come close to another championship since, finishing the recent UAAP cage season without a win in 14 games while registering just a single victory last year for a 1-27 (win-loss) overall record in their past two campaigns.
The team has a grand total of three wins over the last four years.
For the school to be successful again, Paras, the PBA's only rookie-MVP in 1989, said the Maroons will have to compete aggressively against other schools for players who can boost their lineup.
UP should also start nurturing its own talent from the junior ranks, he added.
“Ang UP kasi, after the UAAP season dun lang nag-re-recruit, hindi effective yun,” said Paras, whose own son, Andre, is a member of the current Maroons team. A younger son, Kobe, is in third year high school at La Salle Greenhills and is likely to play for the Green Archers in two years' time.
“Yung ibang schools may mga players nang inaalagaan sa grade school at high school pa lang,” he noted.
As for the search for a new UP coach, the 'Tower of Power' feels juniors mentor Allan Gregorio has got what it takes to handle the team since he’s been actively coaching the past few years.
“Maraming experience because of his coaching in the PBL, he’s part of Smart Gilas,” said Paras, who likewise expressed support for the other two candidates in interim coach Rey Madrid and former UP star Paolo Mendoza, who will branch out into coaching via the PBA D-League through rookie team Derulo Accelero Oilers.
“Si Rey kaibigan ko yan. Nag-coach siya last time medyo late na,” Paras said of Madrid, who took over the team from Ricky Dandan midway through Season 76.
“Paolo is a good player who can be a good coach, although hindi pa talaga natin nakikita ang kakayahan niya (as coach),” Paras added.