As BRT Sumisip Basilan-St. Clare basked in glory after winning the 2019 PBA D-League Foundation Cup at the expense of Marinerong Pilipino, head coach Stevenson Tiu turned emotional.
“Ang tagal kong hinintay ito eh. Mga five, six years.”
Tiu started coaching in the developmental ranks back in 2013, when he served as chief mentor of the now-defunct Jumbo Plastic Linoleum Giants franchise until 2015.
In that span, he never made it to the Finals. He only made it to the quarters twice, while reaching the semis once.
Tiu then finally got to the Big Dance in both the conferences of the 2018 season with Che’lu Bar and Grill. But he never brought home the bacon, no thanks to Zark’s-Lyceum and Go for Gold.
Now, the 56-year-old tactician has finally gotten what he has been wishing for all these years.
“I’ve been here for years. Puro semis, quarters, finals. This is the first time I won. It maybe destined for me,” he said.
“Iyan ang wish ko eh, for how many years na [andito] ako sa D-League.”
For Tiu, this championship is particularly memorable since he managed to snare his first ever PBA D-League with the help of the young St. Clare College boys.
“Matatandaan ko dahil mga bata hawak ko — ‘yun ang difference. Before, mga veterans hawak ko,” he said. “Ang feeling ko pa nga, hindi pa malakas ‘tong team ko kaysa sa mga previous team ko.
“Panay veterans ‘yun. Magagaling, pero hindi nila ako na-carry dun. ‘Di ko naman sinasabi na hindi sila capable. Ang sinasabi ko, binigay sa ‘kin nitong mga bata ‘yung buong heart at passion nila.
“Yun ang difference,” added Tiu, who was a champion coach in the short-lived Pilipinas Commercial Basketball League.
Still, for Tiu, the credit goes to his whole crew for the commitment they showed that led to this success — a success many believed they would not enjoy since they were viewed as the underdogs.
“After we lost in Game One, nag-usap-usap kami, a simple lunch lang. Sinabi nila na talagang gusto nilang manalo. Sabi ko we can’t just talk it — we have to translate it sa loob ng court,” he said.
“Kung hindi magawa ‘yun, it’s gonna be useless. They all committed to me, one-hundred percent,” he said. “Ang usapan pa nga namin, palitan ng mukha, walang susuko. Yun siguro ang turning point.”
The partnership of BRT Sumisip Basilan and St. Clare obviously is a fruitful one. Will they make an encore next year?
“If given a chance.
“We still have to talk kung anong plan ng management sa susunod na tournament. But for now, ‘di naman masama mag-celebrate muna kami,” he closed.