Topex Robinson had an awkward start as the head coach of De La Salle University in the UAAP Season 86 Men’s Basketball Tournament.
The former mentor of the Phoenix Super LPG Fuel Masters, along with his companions from the Green Archers, the three Phillips brothers, arrived late for the league’s pre-tournament press conference at the SM Mall of Asia Arena, despite being present well before the event began.
It turns out that he and the players were summoned by tycoon Enrique Razon, who serves as one of the team’s boosters. The CEO of International Container Services Inc. gave his marching orders for the upcoming campaign.
“He simply mentioned that it’s all about winning a championship.
“I don’t want to jump ahead and claim that achieving this goal comes with great responsibility. We always want to ensure that we prepare this team to be at its best for any opportunity that arises, making sure we bring pride to our colors,” said the former Lyceum head coach.
It has been seven years since the Green Archers ruled the UAAP. Back then, the team was led by players like Ben Mbala and Jeron Teng, and they swept archrival Ateneo to claim the school’s ninth championship.
Unfortunately, the successors of this duo have failed to replicate their success. In fact, just reaching the Final Four has been a significant challenge, as the program missed it three times in the last five seasons.
There’s no room for complacency for Robinson, as La Salle is a proud school where losing is considered a disaster.
“I don’t want to pretend that I can guarantee a spot in the Final Four. It doesn’t work that way here. It’s part of the challenge and opportunity to coach a successful program like DLSU,” he said.
“Just like what (Razon) said, there are only two types of people in this world — winners and losers. No in-between, so we always have to strive to be the best. Nobody wants to associate themselves with losers, as he mentioned.
“It’s a responsibility that we have to shoulder as a staff. I feel fortunate to have coaches who are winners here, so it’s a matter of us working together and guiding this team to the finals,” he continued.
La Salle is retaining its intact team from last season, with Schonny Winston being the only notable departure from the school’s fifth-placed finish last year.
“Most of them were recruited by Coach Derrick (Pumaren), and I’m just inheriting that lineup,” said Robinson. “I’m grateful for the opportunity to lead the team, and now, I hope — barring injuries and other issues — we can become a competitive team.
“The players understand the responsibility of representing DLSU. They hear it from everyone. It’s a norm, and that’s why we always strive to be at our best.”
In recent UAAP seasons, Ateneo has dominated, and the University of the Philippines ended its 36-year drought, much to the frustration of the Lasallian community.
The Green Archers are perennial contenders in the league, and they hope to finally bring home the crown at the expense of their rivals.
“We have a veteran team,” said Robinson.
“They’ve been through a lot, and they know the feeling of not making it. So, it’s a given for them that they want to prove themselves this season.”