PHIL Jackson has won a record 11 NBA championships with it and Tim Cone won 14 PBA titles while running the same offense.
That’s compelling reason enough for two young coaches, Richard del Rosario of College of St. Benilde and new Arellano Chiefs coach Koy Banal, to turn to the triangle offense this NCAA season in their bid to inject new life into dormant basketball programs.
Locally, Cone is the biggest advocate of Tex Winter’s time-tested offense, which promotes equal opportunity for all five players on the floor behind a simple system of ball and player movements dictated not by plays the coaches run but by how the defense reacts.
Both Banal and del Rosario were deputies to Cone when the American coach bagged the last of those 14 titles with the B-Meg Llamados in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup. Now they hope to replicate the same success with their respective college teams.
Both could use a boost.
Del Rosario has yet to lead the Blazers to the Final Four since assuming the coaching reins in 2009. Banal is one of the few coaches to win titles both in the UAAP and the NCAA, but he faces a formidable task trying to keep his winning tradition alive as the new coach of the Arellano Chiefs.
The triangle offense is actually nothing new to Banal, who ran the same system when he steered Far Eastern University to successive UAAP titles from 2003.
“Actually, I’m just applying what we ran in FEU. Pero simpleng triangle lang ‘dun. Ngayon, na-widen yung kaalaman ko,” said Banal.
Banal first learned the complexities of the triangle 20 years ago when he was an assistant coach to older brother Joel at Mapua. He also had the chance to attend Winter’s coaching clinics when the former college coach and longtime Bulls assistant visited the Philippines in the early 2000s.
“Noon pa lang, naniwala na ako sa offense. At ngayon, na-strengthen pa paniniwala ko kasi iniisip ko lang yung ginawa ko nung nag-champion ako. So sana ma-realize ng mga players ko dito sa Arellano na puwedeng maging effective ‘yung system. Maniwala lang sila,” he said.
Del Rosario is using the triangle offense for the first time, but his belief in the system has been just as steadfast.
“This is an offense that has worked at all levels,” Del Rosario said. “Kaya gusto ko rin matutunan namin, hoping it would also work for us. Pero kahit ano pa namang system ang i-implement mo eh, kahit dribble-drive, motion, o flex, it’s all about the execution and the willingness of the players to sacrifice.”
From running an offense that basically tried to get as much good looks for the prolific Carlo Lastimosa the last three years, Del Rosario decided to shift to the more team-oriented triangle in February.
“Kaya ko in-implement ‘yan kasi before 'yung big guys namin, they’re just cleaners. Now, everybody can be involved. Mag-eenjoy yung mga players. We’re not just going to pass the ball to one player tapos isolation lang,” he said.
“It preaches unselfishness.”
Learning the system is hard enough. Mastering it enough to trust the system at crunch time is even harder.
“It takes time,” Banal said. “Even sa B-Meg, mapapansin mo na hindi pa ganoon ka-fluid yung movement. Sabi nga ni coach Tim, it’s all about rhythm. Makukuha mo lang ‘yung rhythm pag alam ng players paano mag read and react.
“And it’s not easy to teach the players how to read and react. But you just have to drill it time and again to help them develop their recognition skills.”
For Del Rosario, he had to initially break the offense down to two- and three-man sets before simulating the play with five players on the court.
“Kailangan mabenta mo muna yung notion and philosophy about making sacrifices, like your best scorer being just a screener. Your guards should learn how to play the post, ‘yung big men should learn how to play the wing,” said the former pro league slotman.
“So parang inaalis mo sila sa comfort zone nila and make them realize that it’s really the movement of the entire offense na kailangan nilang makita. Kumbaga sa nag-aaral, nasa elementary pa lang kami.”
Convincing Lastimosa to learn the triangle offense’s intricacies and understand the philosophy is hard enough. Making him embrace the whole system is even harder, but somehow del Rosario is starting to succeed.
“Sobrang hirap. Kasi sobrang tagal naming pinraktis ‘yun eh. Tinambakan kami ng mahinang team. Hindi kami nanalo for ilang tune-up games. At first, nag-doubt kami kung magwo-work ba yung triangle sa team namin, pero sinasabi lang ni coach lagi na maging patient lang sa sistema kasi alam niyang magwo-work.”
Banal, who was hired by the Chiefs last November, is bracing for a tough rebuilding season with a team that has more rookies (eight) than veterans (seven). But he believes installing a workable system that would be embraced by the players is a positive first step.
“I can see a lot of potential. I can see improvements. And that only inspires me to stick to the system,” he said.
That the sacrifices are starting to bear fruit has made it easier for del Rosario to turn the players into believers.
Unlike last year when they lost all their seven games in the Filoil Flying V Cup, the Blazers won four games and made it to the quarterfinals in this year’s edition of the preseason tournament.
“Hindi ko nga alam kung bakit nag-wowork yung sistema eh, basta nag-wowork siya. At the same time, nalalaro ko naman yung game ko at napapagaling ko yung teammates ko,” Lastimosa said.
Del Rosario said: “So far, ang nagugustuhan ko sa nangyari sa amin sa preseason is we’re able to compete. We’re getting small successes, but it’s still a long way to go.”