Dan Stephen Palami is one of the premier sporting figures in the country today. He is credited for the revival of Philippine football with his support for the Philippine men’s national football team, the Philippine Azkals.
Moreover, his United Football League club, Global FC, is one of the most successful teams in the league.
Despite all of his success in Philippine football, Dan Palami, who is also the team manager of the University of the Philippines men’s basketball varsity team, has not found success in the UAAP basketball tournament.
For the past few seasons in the UAAP, the University of the Philippines Fighting Maroons has been on the lower echelon of the basketball tournament. Amidst the implementation of a new unorthodox coaching system, the UP men’s basketball team manager Dan Palami is taking a risk. But everyone knows Mr. Dan Stephen Palami has always been unorthodox in the way he does things.
The UP head-coaching search had dominated the sporting headlines for the past few months. When news broke out that former Ginebra import and strength and conditioning coach Joe Ward was named head coach, it gave optimism to the UP faithful. However, in a postgame interview after the Fighting Maroons’ win over the Mapua Institute of Technology Cardinals last Monday, Coach Ward told the members of the press that he does not know what his job title is. “I don’t know what my designation is. All five of us are coaches.”
When Tiebreaker Times told Mr. Palami about this, he told us that not having a definite head coach is something fresh and exciting. “I’ve always been unorthodox,” Mr. Palami told us. “It’s never been done before! It’s a mixture of the old and the new, the old being Coach Joe and Coach Poch [Juinio]. But we also mixed in Coach Allan [Gregorio] and Coach Mo [Gingerich], who just graduated. It is something different and, as of now, it brought a new sense of positivity and liveliness to the team.”
The UP men’s basketball team kept busy in the off-season, not just in recruitment, but also in joining a lot of outside tournaments. “UP has always been on the short end of the stick when it comes to recruitment. Everyone knows how tough it is to get into the school because of the strict academic curriculum. So we try to get what we can get and go from there.”
Mr. Palami added that joining the Filsports Basketball Association was needed for the team to build on a winning culture. “We joined the FBA, a small league, just to help with team building. These wins in the smaller leagues give the kids the idea of winning. Then now we have the Filoil [Premier Cup] to face tougher opponents. Right now, we have a three-game winning streak. Malaking bagay ‘yun because a win is a win, and that feeling will stick and give a positive energy to the entire team.”
Moreover, joining the smaller leagues helped develop the younger players, the recruits from last season. “The FBA definitely helped in the maturity of our younger players. It also gave our seniors a sense of leadership.”
There is also the notion that in building a team, everyone has to buy in to the idea of playing as one unit. When asked about the departure of Mikee Reyes from the varsity team, Mr. Palami stated that it brings a message to the players. “No one is indispensable. Even if you’re the best player, but don’t want to learn then what would become of the team? What we want to build is a team of players who are willing to learn and are coachable. That’s how we want our team to be.”
Finally, we asked the UP team manager about his expectations for the upcoming UAAP season. “Of course we want to get more than one win,” he said laughingly. But in all seriousness, “I think it is attainable. As an example during today’s game against Mapua, when they made that rally, the old UP would have folded. This team knows how to find ways to win. Hopefully, we win more games compared to last season.”[READ: Fighting Maroons outwit Mapua for first win]
In order to move forward, one needs to take risks. Will this different kind of system pay dividends? Only the future can tell.