Veteran coach Tab Baldwin said there is more to Ateneo De Manila University’s rare feat of sweeping the 14-game elimination round of Season 82 University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP) men’s basketball tournament than mere skill and determination.
The two-time champion Blue Eagles crushed University of the Philippines (UP), 86-64, to complete the sweep and gain an outright finals berth on Wednesday night at the Mall of Asia Arena.
“There’s been a grave misconception about my basketball team. When they talk about us being kind of super-efficient and almost robotic, I don’t think that people understand the amount of heart that it takes to build the basketball team that we have built,” said the seasoned American-Kiwi coach.
“This is a team that has a tremendous amount of heart. What determines heart? This is the hardest practicing team that I’ve ever coached in 40 years,” Baldwin added.
Ateneo’s awe-inspiring 17.4 points winning margin has earned it the distinction of being the third team to sweep the elims in the Final Four era that began in 1993. The Eagles also extended their streak to 24 wins dating back to last season.
“That (sweep) doesn’t come because you’re super disciplined or robotic guys that just do what you’re told. It’s driven by an unbelievable sense of determination, passion, belief in one another, and I think that’s what equates the heart,” Baldwin continued.
“What you see out there is not the by-product of some machine that we have put together. That’s the by-product of a group of men that commit themselves to one another and commit their heart to a cause,” said Baldwin of the Blue Eagles, a lavish praise coming from a grizzled 61-year old tactician who had served as national head coach of the Philippines, New Zealand (five-time champion coach), Jordan and Lebanon.
Baldwin is determined to build on the Eagles’ monumental success.
“Our job is far from done, and in fact, it’s going to get harder. But at this point, I can say that I’m very proud of these men. And I know that they will not take that as any sort of sign to relax. In fact, we practice tomorrow.”
Ateneo will enjoy over two weeks of rest before Game 1 of the best-of-three finals on November 16 where they will face the winner of the stepladder semifinals featuring the twice-to-beat No. 2 UP, No. 3 Far Eastern University and No. 4 University of Sto. Tomas.
“We’ve enjoyed every step of the way. I believe we have an outstanding basketball team, but we haven’t proven ourselves at the last hurdle yet. We will pay all due respect to our opponents and that means we will go out there with everything that we have because that’s what they deserve,” concluded Baldwin.