A last interview with Ateneo head coach Bo Perasol
by rick olivares
About an hour after the loss to FEU, I sat down with Bo Perasol in the adjacent dugout next to Ateneo’s for a post-season interview.
Rick: Coach, what was running through your head in those last seconds of the game?
Bo: There were only two things on my mind, Adrian (Wong) was going to make the shot or he was going to be fouled. It was unfortunate, I don’t know if there was a foul or none at all. I am not sure I want to see the replay because what good will it do when it is over? Those were the things running in my mind.
When it came down to that last shot by Belo, in my mind, I quickly reviewed our game plan. It was a part of my pre-game huddle with them that rebounding was key and limiting second chances. And that’s what hurt us. And it really hurt us in this game.
Rick: You mean to say even as the game was over you were still thinking of the play?
Bo: A little. It was over very quickly. I knew that Belo’s shot counted. And my mind was thinking... part of it… well, hindi ko na sure what went on. I was thinking was it over? I have to make sure that I congratulate the other team and the people who I need to say thank you. To gather the team for the singing of the alma mater song...
Rick: Yeah, sometimes you aren’t prepared for those moments. I mean who is prepared?
Bo: Oo nga. It was a blur those minutes. You want to remember each and every moment but your mind is trying to process what was going on.
Rick: Coach, how would you describe the past three years for you in Ateneo?
Bo: Time seemed so fast. There were days when it seemed to take forever and there were days like it was too fast. However, as I shared in the dugout after the game, if I had to rewind and knowing what’s going to happen in the next three years with all the heartaches and criticism and going back to the moment where I was asked to coach Ateneo, I would say, "a double yes.” Yes, I would still take the job. There is no difference in coaching in the professional or the college ranks, the criticism is always there. You just hope to do a good job.
For me personally, one of the best things was the journey that I went through.
It is different when you deal with the pro players than the student-athletes. The professional players are more or less finished products. The student-athletes, you affect their lives in a manner that they will carry in their individual lives.
Having said that, I want to tell Hubert, Arvin, and everyone else that their time will come if you have the right attitude and continue to work hard. You are the best of your batch but you will have to prove it. Some times I wish I could do more, give more, help them… there isn’t all the time to do that. In that aspect, I would like to think that I influenced them positively. I hope I did.
Rick: Unfortunately, coaching, and coaching any team for that matter, comes with its pitfalls like criticism etc.
Bo: It is the nature of competition to bring out the best and the worst. A lot of people will malign you but what is important is you realize their opinions matter to them but you shouldn’t let it affect you. If you can use some of those points that are made -- but you have to remove the hurtful words — and those points help improve what you do, then it is all good.
It is unfortunate that I wasn’t able to deliver a championship. I know the winning is important too. But sometimes, not making it prepares you for the next phase in life. I hope the next coach will be able to build on what we’ve started though.
Rick: You brought us to within two baskets of making it to the Finals the past two years...
Bo: Yeah. (nods) I guess… it wasn’t meant to be. But my players were able to bounce back from all the distractions from this season and we managed to give FEU a good fight. We kept coming closer and closer to winning it. We have to take comfort that we played some great basketball in these years and that we brought in some key players who will help Ateneo in the next few years.
Rick: Talking about years, is there a highlight for you in these three years? Could be one or two or more. That depends on you.
Bo: I think the best moment would be this year and this game because it models our resiliency. it is what I wanted to impart to our players. Of course, FEU is more experienced and more skilled at some positions. But we were able to claw our way back and that is what I wanted to do — to play grind it out basketball. And that is what I can say about my tenure, it is to compete and fight back when there is adversity.
Maraming aspects to consider when trying to accomplish what the community wants but we cannot have it all.
Rick: Do you feel that the Ateneo alumni were unfair to you?
Bo: Kahit saan naman meron expectations. In the pros, in UP, and Ateneo. And in other schools too. It would have been nice to have the alumni behind my back. Sometimes, I didn’t feel the support. But meron din. I told you this before. One of the best things to happen these past few years is the friendships I have made. I met people who I never met before and they are there for you.
Ikaw naman ang tatanungin ko, meron ba highlight para sa yo?
Rick: Oo naman. The shoe is on the other foot. (laughter from both)
Marami eh. This season alone is the best for me. Tama ka… yung resiliency. But one other that stands out for me is the La Salle game in your first year where you went after a couple of people in the crowd.
Rick: Sabi ko, tangina, heto yung coach namin makikipagaway sa kalaban. Makikipaglaban din ako para sa kanya.
Bo: Alam mo naman tayong mga taga-Katipunan. Kaya tayo mga taga-Katipunan.
Rick: Seriously now… sorry I have to ask this… is there a low point too? Could be a game?
Bo: I think if there is an experience na masakit sa akin — only time will tell, ang anxiety ko is how will I be able to get the best of the players that I recruited because i was responsible for them. But my experience is it will take time. In the PBA you draft them they are ready to play. Dito parang gusto ma-meet expectations ng mga player because they have so much belief in what they can do but it doesn’t turn out that way. You feel for them but they should understand that real life is like this. You have to work hard and more often than not, work harder to get what you want.
Rick: How would you describe or sum up your time in Ateneo?
Bo: (pauses for about a minute) Eventful. Very eventful. That is the word. It didn’t have the ending that I would have wanted but on a personal note, it pushed me to grow some more. In these years, ilan beses na ako gusto itapon — after my first year, after my second year, in the middle of my third year.
Rick: That sucks.
Bo: Well… as I said earlier, it is about resiliency. It isn’t simply terms of wins and losses because championships matter. But I am glad that the people who make the decisions realize the situation we were in and that I was doing the right thing. The direction is there.
What a journey though.
Rick: So what is next for Bo Perasol?
Bo: Hindi ko pa alam what is going to happen next but I would really like to take time out and think of what to do.
I just want to say this — marami pa ako nakilala who stayed with you. Isa ka na roon. It is your job to analyze what we do but it is objective. Thank you for that and the support. People who know me on a personal level know that is not about me but about the team and the community. I really wanted to help and I hope I did.
It didn’t end the way I wanted it to end. I would have been nice to have sent the series to a do-or-die match.
(pauses) But we did give them (FEU) One Big Fight.
Additional reading: Down from the Hill: My thoughts following Ateneo's Final Four loss to FEU.