TY Tang was not the biggest nor the best, back when he was a player. But both his former coaches Franz Pumaren and Yeng Guiao would agree: He had the biggest heart.
Standing at just 5-foot-7 (with shoes), the heady floor general was pivotal in La Salle’s legendary UAAP Season 70 run and Rain or Shine’s campaigns from 2008 to 2015.
Pumaren can vividly recall a young Tang, fresh out of high school from Xavier, remaining unperturbed with the pressure that comes with backing up Mike Cortez.
“There are a lot of players that played under me, talagang you can see the potential eh. You know what strikes me? Talagang ‘yung feeleing niya — he was ready to give up, was ‘yung TY Tang.
“We should remember he was playing behind legendary Mike Cortez. So every time I pull out Mike, you could just imagine the pressure coming off a fresh high school kid, 17-, 18-year-old na when he makes a mistake, parang all fans can be very brutal, can be… Talagang grabe,” Pumaren told Coaches Unfiltered back on July 30.
A stud in Xavier, Tang was a sought-after recruit that ended up in La Salle.
But the college game is a different animal from high school. And Tang had to learn that the hard way.
“I think he can recall this — we sat down eh, we had a heart-to-heart talk. He can always turn his back from the game and try to get a degree, but one thing that I vividly remember, [saying is] but there’s an opportunity also for you to at least prove yourself that you deserve to be in the UAAP. And in the case you just turn your back, it is forever,” shared the decorated mentor.
Tang would prove himself in his senior year with the Green Archers.
Together with a ragtag La Salle team, La Salle went on a Cinderella run for the ages. It defeated a powerhouse University of the East squad that was gunning for a season sweep. All this while the Green Archers were coming off a year-long suspension by the league.
“Who would ever think that TY will ever make it to the PBA?”
Everyone knows how Guiao loves picking players that have a huge chip on their shoulders.
Tang perfectly fitted that billin. Rain or Shine selected him as 12th overall pick in the 2008 PBA Rookie Draft.
“Actually, TY, he’s one of the smallest guys I coached but he’s one of the guys with the biggest heart,” said Guiao in another episode of Coaches Unfiltered.
Despite Guiao’s reputation as a fiery mentor, he shared that Tang received the least scolding out of that batch of Elasto Painters. Tang’s attention to detail and his pitbull approach to each game impressed him.
“He does not give up and madalang kong pinagalitan yan si TY.
“He can attest to that because there are two things I hate the most. Number one is the lack of effort, and you can’t see that from TY. Number two is the lack of intelligence and again, TY is a very intelligent player. So if you’re making stupid decisions in the game, mapapagalitan ka,” Guiao remarked about Tang as they won the 2012 Governors’ Cup together.
Tang eventually retired in 2015 to coach full-time.
Up to this day, Tang, who turned 36 today, takes the lessons he learned from Pumaren and Guiao and blends them, making them his own.
“I kinda patterned my style of coaching with Coach Franz, in a way Coach Yeng, and some of the mentors that I had when I was in high school. I kind of started somewhere but as I went along, I kinda have my own identity. And I wanna be able to coach the way I want to coach so eventually, it went into my own style of coaching.”