TAB Baldwin has been to many parts of the world coaching in different levels while authoring surprising finishes for the national teams of New Zealand, Lebanon, and Gilas Pilipinas.
He may just pull off another one for Ateneo.
After a rough start to his UAAP career, Baldwin has steadied the ship for a Blue Eagles side that is supposedly in transition this season after a change of coaches and the departure of longtime star Kiefer Ravena.
Thanks to a run of six wins to end the two-round eliminations highlighted by an upset of rival La Salle, the Blue Eagles are poised to take a legitimate shot at a championship in a season that most pundits have already conceded to the powerhouse Green Archers.
Baldwin, though, has deflected much of the credit, saying he is as much a beginner in the college game as the young Blue Eagles who have taken flight under his tutelage.
“I’m the rookie here,” said the former national coach ahead of Ateneo's Final Four debut against a Far Eastern University team coached by his former assistant at Gilas, Nash Racela. “This has been a learning experience for me, the UAAP.”
“I’m still learning. Sometimes, I hold my team back with my inexperience," he added.
There's no denying Baldwin's influence on a young team that has played with a resolute defense in the second round - and admirable resilience in close games.
Still, Baldwin said more than anything else it's the willingness of the players to learn and trust the process that made the transition a lot smoother than anticipated.
“I think the one thing that we have learned well is how to learn, if that makes any sense. We are really starting to trust the process and other players know that they still have a lot to learn. We are focused on that. We aren’t caught up with the standings or what the game meant,” Baldwin said.
The second-seeded Blue Eagles are in a good position to return to the finals with twice-to-beat advantage over No. 3 FEU, but Baldwin is taking nothing for granted.
"It’s the second season, that’s why they call it the playoffs. We have to prepare a little bit differently. Coach Nash is a smart coach. That is why they won the title last year. We have to be on our toes. We are looking forward to it,” he said.