For any one who doubts the coaching abilities of Juno Sauler, the way the Archers won the UAAP 76 crown last Saturday October 12, is enough to silence any and all of them. 3 UAAP Lady Archer’s championships (1999-2001) and four straight NCRAA titles are among many in this young coach’s list achievements. The UST Growling Tigers controlled the game for the whole first half. Stoking the fire out of the players, bringing the best out of them necessitated a coach who knew how to motivate. The evidence was the strong 3rd quarter that saw the Green Archers come back and wrest the lead, albeit temporarily.
The 4th quarter had a more frenetic pace of lead changes. This is where Juno’s style of having an even keel is the calming force that kept the Archers in the game. It’s a complete contrast to Pido Jarencio’s emotional style of egging on his players. Jarencio was also a rookie UAAP men’s coach when he won a championship with UST in 2006. If Pido Jarencio is almost Bobby Knight like in emotion, Juno Sauler is more of Zen Master Phil Jackson.
The pressure situation of going down the wire resulted in lapses on both sides. DLSU’s Jeron Teng had a low post pass to Arnold Van Opstal go awry. Jarencio drew a sensible play with 6 seconds left in regulation where inside and midrange options included consistent scorers Karim Abdul and Jeric Teng. Aljon Mariano however decided to take a long jumper himself which he missed, in spite slo mo replays showing both scorers free from defenders. This resulted in 65-65; overtime period.
Over time wasn’t error free either. This is where Sauler’s composure and even keel helped the Archers execute their offense better. It came down to Jeron Teng finding the open man in Almond Vosotros sinking a jumper to push the Archers into the lead permanently 70-69 with 19 seconds left. The Archers executed the full court press, which lead to a passing error by Mariano to secure the title.
Other sports writers surmise that it was the breaks of the game that lead to the DLSU victory. In my mind it was definitely the coaching of Sauler that spelled the difference. Great scorers are able to carry their team to winning games very few are able to win championships without competent coaches. Team defense and better offensive executions are hallmarks of good coaching, which DLSU used to win the championship. This is not to say that Pido Jarencio isn’t a good coach himself. Sometimes certain coaching styles lend itself to the situation, just as in Juno’s case. Of course there are breaks, Sauler was able to put his team in a better position to take advantage of these opportunities and win.
Juno was only able to smile after some players poured Gatorade on their coach during his post game interview with TJ Manotoc. During the interview he gave credit to tycoon Danding Cojuangco who financially supported the team in the same way Manny V. Pangilinan or MVP is known to support the 5 year Ateneo Blue Eagles’ Championship run.
The lock down on players in one of Danding’s own personal homes included the best chefs. It’s a true lock down with my cousin Agnes Apostol intimating that her husband Juno no longer responds to her text messages in the days leading to the finals game. Agnes is herself a VP for HSBC, Hong Kong Shanghai Banking Corporation. Juno could no longer be distracted with requests for tickets coming from all quarters including his wife. We’re all glad for the cellphone/smartphone ban as the Green Archers captured the title. Now we can bother Juno with congratulatory facebook/twitter messages, text and calls as much as we want, until the next finals that is.
Juno was also a teammate of my brother George Bautista and my cousin Vincent Lizo in the secondary squad. Team B as they called it, participated in leagues other than UAAP such as CAACUP etc. It was a time when they were trying out to be in DLSU’s first team for the UAAP. Juno made it to the squad and had Jun Limpot who was our star back then. It was a storied team that won back-to-back UAAP trophies 89-90 with Johnedel Cardel, Joey Sta. Maria, Arnel Guste, Dwight and Elmer Lago. Limpot is now part of the DLSU coaching staff along with PBA legend Allan Caidic. Jun Limpot was also a classmate of mine in the athlete’s block (I was in the track and field and badminton squads).
There were other notable coaches to come out of the 89-championship squad like Dong Vergere who later on coached for UST. Perry Ronquillo was one of the few Filipino coaches who made it to a US NCAA team. He was an assistant for Fordham University and later won a PBA title for Shell.