UNIVERSITY of the Philippines has produced a long line of champion coaches, but hasn't come close to a winning season - much less a championship - in decades.
So why is this so?
Over the past few years alone, Ronnie Magsanoc has led San Beda to an NCAA championship with former UP teammate Benjie Paras as an assistant, and Eric Altamirano took the National University Bulldogs to their first UAAP title in 60 years.
Another UP alumnus, Ryan Gregorio, is a three-time champion and won the Coach of the Year award just as many times in the PBA while Bo Perasol, another former Maroon, is currently the head coach of Ateneo.
Over the same stretch, the UP Maroons have wallowed in one losing season after another with a veritable revolving door of coaches since a team led by Paras, Magsanoc, and Altamirano and coached by Joe Lipa won the school's only UAAP championship back in 1986.
So we asked Lipa why no one among these top coaches came back to State U to try and pump life into the UP basketball program. He answered our question with a question of his own.
“First of all, even before, UP has very limited financial resources. As they say, it’s a financial sacrifice if you go to UP,” said Lipa, a former national coach.
“Second, a coach will struggle with a new team that will start from scratch because there is no program in place.”
Lipa wouldn't go as far as say that the UP head-coaching position is a "career-ending job," saying turning around the Maroons' fortunes would bring the most fulfillment for a coach considering the challenges.
Among those challenges, of course, is recruitment since the strict academic requirements mean the coach will have to work with student-athletes in the true sense of the word.
“I don’t agree with the saying that it is a career-ending job. There is nothing like achieving and passing a big challenge," said Lipa. "You get the fact that they are strict in academics and you are really coaching student-athletes.”
With UP once again embarking on a search for a new coach after announcing that Rey Madrid will be stepping down at the end of the term, Lipa said the school needs only to do two things.
One, find an "imaginative coach" who can find success while working around the usual problems of insufficient funding and recruitment limitations. Two, stick with him.
Lipa said the long search for a "messiah" has not helped UP basketball any, since the revolving door of coaches has deprived the school of any sense of continuity.
“I don’t believe there should be drastic changes because if you notice, UP makes changes every one or two years. I don’t agree with that. They need a very imaginative coach. A coach who would be able to maximize all the resources,” said Lipa.
The former national coach said the renewed support of the UP alumni led by Azkals boss Dan Palami brings new hope for the Maroons, since the financial muscle will allow the school to finally put a program in place.
But he warned the UP community against expecting instant results, pointing out, correctly, that UP's program is just starting to take roots while the basketball programs of the more successful schools have long been in place.
“They now have enough resources with the help of the alumni led by Dan Palami to put up a good basketball program," Lipa said.
“The resources are just being put into place now while all others have already established their program five years ago, UP is just starting. I think we should have more patience.
"But of course, having resources don’t mean you can recruit. We must be able to recruit players that you can train and fit into their system,” Lipa added.