The 5 best UAAP coaches of the past two decades

Great college coaches know how to prepare players every game, make in-game adjustments, manage egos, develop players, and form a family-like bond for the team.

As the premier collegiate basketball league in the country, the UAAP is home not only to the best college players, but also to some of the best coaches. Let’s take a look at who have been the best of the best over the past two decades:

Pido Jarencio, UST Growling Tigers (2006-2013)

A former UST player himself, Pido Jarencio, in his first year with the Tigers’ lair, steered the team to their first title in ten years. Although UST still hasn’t won another championship since then, the fiery mentor ended his eight-year stint at the helm with six Final Four appearances and three trips to the Finals. He was known as a passionate coach who instilled a never-give-up attitude to his teams.

Under Jarencio, the Growling Tigers program was able to produce the likes of Jervy Cruz, Jeric Teng, Dylan Ababou, and Kevin Ferrer. He has remained as one of the most popular figures to the UST community, who have clamored for his return several times in recent years amidst the struggles of the program.

Jarencio currently coaches the Globalport Batang Pier in the PBA.

Tab Baldwin, ADMU Blue Eagles, (2016-present)

In such a short period of time, Tab Baldwin has already established himself as one of the brightest minds that the league has seen. After the graduation of Kiefer Ravena, the exit of coach Bo Perasol, and the release of multiple key players due to academic issues, Baldwin’s first year on the job was supposed to be a rebuilding, transitioning year for the Blue Eagles. Instead, he led a very young and inexperienced team to the Finals through a combination of smart defensive schemes and a modern offense built around ball movement, off-ball movement, and outside shooting.

Although they lost the series against the Ben Mbala-led DLSU Green Archers, Baldwin had earned the respect of the entire UAAP community.

With an intact core the following season, the former Gilas Pilipinas coach once again proved his worth by leading the Blue Eagles to the first seed and another trip to the Finals. This time, the Blue Eagles defeated Ben Mbala and the Green Archers for Ateneo’s first title in five seasons. If Baldwin stays in the UAAP and continues his success, he will definitely move up these rankings.

Nash Racela, FEU Tamaraws (2013-2016)

Nash Racela was the coach of the FEU Tamaraws for four seasons only, but he definitely made his mark as a tactician during his tenure.

During his stay, the Tamaraws never missed the Final Four, made two trips to the Finals, and won a title. Because of the level of success he achieved, he was chosen to coach the TNT KaTropa in the PBA after his fourth year with FEU, with his older brother, former PBA star Olsen Racela, replacing him at FEU.

The younger Racela was relied on a relatively balanced offense and distribution of minutes to players, which made his teams difficult to guard. Under his tutelage, players like Mac Belo, Roger Pogoy, Raymar Jose, and Mike Tolomia blossomed into quality players who have all served time as members of the various Gilas Pilipinas teams.

Franz Pumaren, DLSU Green Archers (1998-2009)

Like Jarencio, Franz Pumaren is a former collegiate star who also brought glory to his alma mater as a coach. Pumaren is the longest-tenured coach of the last two decades, and for good reason. In his 11 seasons as a coach for De La Salle, the Green Archers made the Final Four 10 times, went to the Finals nine times, and won six championships, including a four-peat in his first four seasons.

Pumaren was known for his signature full court press defense that allowed his teams to score easy points in transition and rattle the psyche of opposing teams. He is also credited for adapting his coaching style to his players – from an offense focused around the inside prowess of Don Allado early in his first few years as a coach to the perimeter-oriented offense he eventually became known for to accomodate all the star guards that De La Salle never seemed to run out of.

The one stain on Pumaren’s stint as head coach was the controversy of the Green Archers fielding in ineligible players from 2003 to 2005. This led to the UAAP forfeiting all their wins for those years (including their 2004 championship) and also subsequently suspending the school from participating in all UAAP events in 2006.

Norman Black, ADMU Blue Eagles (2005-2012)

After being brought in as a consultant in 2004, Norman Black was eventually appointed as head coach of the Blue Eagles the following year. He ended up coaching the Blue Eagles for eight seasons, never missing the Final Four, and winning five straight championships in his last five years. He is only the second coach to win five straight championships in the UAAP after the legendary Baby Dalupan who won seven straight for the UE Red Warriors in the sixties and early seventies.

Already an accomplished PBA coach before his time with the Blue Eagles, Black was a master in preparing and executing game plans that didn’t require too many in-game adjustments. He also preferred a deliberate half court offense and a conservative, but sound defense for his Ateneo teams.

Norman Black currently serves as the head coach for the Meralco Bolts.