October 22, 2017: The yelling of an angry Bo Perasol resounded along the halls of Filoil Flying V Arena as the University of the Philippines (UP) Fighting Maroons absorbed a painful 64-73 loss to cellar-dweller University of the East.
It wasn’t just a loss to the Red Warriors, who had hotshot Alvin Pasaol exploding for 32 points, but it was the heartbreak of falling short again in their UAAP Final Four bid. The Fighting Maroons needed then just one win to force a playoff for the last semis spot.
“When you [heard] me shouting at the players, I wanted to leave them,” admitted the 45-year-old UP alumnus.
“I was thinking: ‘Is this worth it?’ If I keep pushing you and you’re not responding, I have an obligation to the community if I’m not effective as your leader, I might as well step down and somebody else will step in.”
After a rocky stint with Ateneo, Perasol joined the Fighting Maroons in 2016. By then, he knew from the get-go that it would be a tough job to help build a solid basketball program out of scratch.
To everyone’s surprise, UP did start winning. From league laughingstock – with horrendous 0-14, 1-13, 3-11 records – the Maroons started to turn into contenders. They were rising up the ranks, breaking away from the bottom two of the table.
But two seasons into his stint as UP head coach – and even at the start of Season 81 – Perasol was still heavily criticized for a slow start and heartbreaking results (a couple dealt by Adamson’s Sean Manganti).
“My burden is to win it for the community,” said Perasol.
“It’s not a push from them that you need to win, but it’s the other way around. You see them, you have been in the institution for quite a long time, you’re thinking that they’re really hungry for it, they’re really thirsty for it, you want to deliver it to them.”
Perasol was also once a student-athlete for the Fighting Maroons. When he entered UP in 1990, it was 4 years after the State U copped its lone championship behind legends Benjie Paras and Ronnie Magsanoc.
For the ’90s UP squad, the Final Four dream would always be there but unfortunately, Perasol never got to experience it while he was a player.
November 14, 2018: Hype surrounded the UP Fighting Maroons, who needed a win over the De La Salle Green Archers to clinch a Final Four berth that eluded them for 21 long years.
The growing UP fan base also responded, so the Fighting Maroons made sure to play their very best in front of a passionate crowd.
After 40 minutes of a surprisingly dominant UP show, it finally happened.
With the Gomez de Liaño brothers of Juan and Javi igniting the offense, and the Fighting Maroons hustling for the ball each time the Green Archers took possession, it was no wonder that UP got the result they wanted – a 97-81 win over traditional powerhouse La Salle.
“When I looked at the malaking scoreboard [that showed the team standings]… merong asterisk ang UP Maroons [to indicate that we made it to the Final Four] ,” said an emotional Perasol. “Parang naiyak ako, parang totoo na ba ‘yan?”
(When I looked at the huge scoreboard that showed the team standings… there was an asterisk beside UP Maroons to indicate that we made it to the Final Four. I was about to cry, I was like, is that real?)
A few moments later, it finally sank in for Perasol, who scored his breakthrough moment after 6 years of coaching in the UAAP.
“Right now, it’s the reality. The asterisk says it all, that we’re part of the Final Four cast and we’re going to vie for it.”
UP will go up against an equally hungry Adamson Soaring Falcons in the Final Four. But the Fighting Maroons will definitely try their best to keep the celebration going. – Rappler.com