Topex Robinson and his De La Salle Green Archers found an unlikely ally in Ateneo de Manila University head coach Tab Baldwin during the UAAP Season 86 Men’s Basketball Finals series.
University of the Philippines dealt La Salle the most lopsided defeat in Finals history in the Final Four era in Game 1, 97-67, which obviously put the Fighting Maroons as a favorite to win it all and the Green Archers in a lot of pressure.
Even Robinson himself felt the pressure and doubted his coaching abilities and individual competence.
The first-year La Salle coach had entered the Finals three times before, during his tenure as the chief tactician of San Sebastian (2011) and Lyceum (2017, 2018), but was swept by San Beda on all occasions.
This made him 0-7 in Finals games in his collegiate coaching career after Game 1.
“After that game, Coach Tab messaged me and told me, ‘Whether you lost by 30, whether you got clobbered, whether you really kinda doubted it, it’s still one loss. What’s important is it takes two wins to win a championship’,” recalled Robinson on Wednesday after La Salle toppled UP in the deciding Game 3, 73-69.
“I kind of picked up myself from that and I tried to look for ways to make sure that we’re gonna learn from our mistakes.”
The Green Archers did pick themselves up, responding with their blowout win in Game 2, 82-60, before the momentous victory in Game 3 that brought the crown back to Taft after seven long years.
In another show of support for La Salle, Ateneo’s Church of the Gesu lit up in green after its rivals won their 10th championship in league history.
With this achievement, Robinson joined a limited list of Green Archers coaches who won the title in their first year. This list comprises Franz Pumaren (1998), Juno Sauler (2013), and Aldin Ayo (2016).