JUST days after Ateneo's season ended with the sight of Mac Belo hitting a putback just before the buzzer to cap a Far Eastern University win in the UAAP Final Four, word came around that the Katiputan-based school is considering bringing back Norman Black at the helm of the Blue Eagles.
Black, of course, had a memorable run during his time in charge at Ateneo, leading the school to five successive championships from 2008 to 2012 before moving over to Talk 'N Text where he won his 11th PBA championship in the 2012-2013 Philippine Cup.
The man who replaced him, Bo Perasol, led the Blue Eagles to two Final Four appearances in three years at the helm and - long before the 74-72 loss to FEU last Saturday - had already announced that this season would be his last with the school regardless of the result.
No wonder talk of a Black return heightened after the Blue Eagles' Final Four exit, which a team insider later revealed is more than just speculation.
“The plan is to let Norman finish the ongoing conference (with Meralco), then he will move back to Ateneo. That’s the plan. It still can change, but at the moment, that is the plan,” said the insider, adding even some players of Ateneo are already aware of the proposal.
The insider insisted that a Black move to Ateneo will not leave Meralco entirely out of options, pointing out that the Bolts, currently struggling in the PBA Philippine Cup, have former Alaska champion coach Luigi Trillo and Ronnie Magsanoc in their coaching staff.
Sought for comment, however, Ateneo team manager Epok Quimpo was quick to douse the speculation, saying team management still has to start the selection process for the next Ateneo coach.
“There will still be a selection process, which the school will spearhead,” said Quimpo in a short chat with Spin.ph. “Hindi pa nagsisuimula 'yung search. We will let you know immediately.”
To get to the bottom of things, we also sought a comment from longtime Ateneo patron Manny V. Pangilinan, who likewise denied that bringing back Black is among the options the school is considering.
"No plans for Norman to return to Ateneo," Pangilinan, who is also team owner of Meralco, said in a short message to Spin.ph.
The Black issue settled, Magsanoc, who was also part of Perasol's staff this season, now looms as the top candidate for the Ateneo job next season.
In fact, there was already a strong clamor from alumni to put Magsanoc in charge during the last campaign after a mid-season wobble left the Blue Eagles' hopes for a Final Four appearance in peril.