When he became the new Mapua coach in February, Atoy Co decided the Cardinals would skip the major preseason tournaments in the summer so he could whip his players into tip-top shape in practice in time for the upcoming NCAA men’s basketball season.
Four months later, the PBA legend realized the training time remained insufficient as the Cardinals lost their first game of the year - a 73-82 decision at the hands of Jose Rizal University on Monday at The Arena in San Juan.
“I wish I had another four months to practice,” said the 62-year-old Co, a Mapua alumnus who aims to bring a championship to his school which he failed to do as a star player in the early 1970s.
There were positive signs for the Cardinals, who showed the heart to rally from an early 20-point deficit and momentarily take the lead mainly behind the efforts of skipper Kenneth Ighalo.
The Cardinals, however, failed to finish what they started as they fell apart in the face of mounting pressure from the full court-pressing, three-point shooting Bombers down the stretch.
“My team is still young. We lost composure,” Co said. “I’m happy with the effort, but I’m not happy with the execution of the system.”
“And we barely broke the press,” added Co, adding in jest that he wanted to suit up to help his team down the stretch.
“I wish I was twenty-two years old again. Pero wala na akong magagawa. Hanggang dun na lang talaga ako.”
Nevertheless, Co believes his team has what it takes to bounce back.
“May pag-asa kami,” the former PBA MVP said. "We were down twenty points and we came back.”