Aldin Ayo admitted feeling nervous heading into his PBA head coaching debut as Converge opened its 2022 Commissioner’s Cup campaign, Friday.
And it didn’t help that the FiberXers saw themselves in a tough match-up early against Terrafirma, with returning import Lester Prosper making life difficult for them while they struggled to find footing on both ends of the floor.
“Of course, lahat ng first medyo, nakakakaba,” he said. “Especially nung hindi kami nakaka-shoot, tapos nakikita ko kung gaano kagagaling ng mga kalaban? I mean, ilang puntos si Prosper — he had 26 in the first half, right?”
“And [Joshua] Munzon also. Even that buzzer-beater of JP [Calvo],” the decorated college mentor furthered. “Magagaling eh.”
The PBA stage is nothing new to Ayo, having worked as a video coordinator for Mahindra in the 2014-15 season that started his ascent to the coaching ranks.
But of course, being a head coach is a totally different animal, a position he got into when the Dennis Uy-owned franchise hired his services last August after spending one conference under the tutelage of Jeffrey Cariaso.
As the game progressed, though, Ayo and his charges were also able to shake off the jitters, and the second half saw them show the kind of potential the team could reach as they pulled away to beat the Dyip, 124-110.
“First games have always been the hardest,” he said after the match at the Philsports Arena. “You don’t have any idea what to expect.”
It was hard at first but Ayo passed the test with flying colors, leading to the biggest winning margin for a head coach since Topex Robinson’s Phoenix beat Meralco, 116-98, in 2020, per league stats chief Fidel Mangonon III.
The win saw Converge take a total of 101 shots for a 44.6-percent clip, including a 13-43 clip from the three-point line. The squad, furthermore, scored 28 points off the break as they exhibited a faster pace of play.
It was a solid start for the FiberXers but there remains a lot to be desired in terms of defense for Ayo, who’s best known for his ‘Mayhem’ defense during his stints with Colegio de San Juan de Letran and De La Salle University.
“Well, that’s our game,” he said of the way his wards’ pacing and spacing on offense. “But we have to start making stops first.
“It’s really hard to run or set the space if we cannot make stops. For us, everything will start by making stops, making sure that we defend.”
Ayo now has his first game in the books, and he’s looking to acclimatize more moving forward as he leads a team aiming to grow into a contender.
“Medyo nag–sink in na rin,” he said. “Pero naramdaman ko nung una ‘yan doon sa practices, kasi syempre ‘yung mga players, alam mong mga pros na.
“Everything started doon sa practices. Pero itong actual na, medyo adjusted na rin dito. Kaya lang syempre, iba pa rin na andoon na ‘yung mga kalaban mo eh, ‘yung actual game na eh. In a way, naka-adjust na rin.”