Master of Mayhem: How Aldin Ayo's coaching career unraveled

After nearly 3 weeks of drama surrounding the UST Growling Tigers, former head coach Aldin Ayo has been slapped with an indefinite ban by the UAAP for “endangering the health and well-being” of his players.

What started as an out-of-nowhere ouster of team captain CJ Cansino eventually rocked UST as its men’s basketball team was discovered to have held a secret “bubble” training camp in Ayo’s hometown of Capuy, Sorsogon.

Allegations involving basketball drills, farming seminars, piggery visits, and 3-on-3 scrimmages were brought to light in a time where none of these should be happening amid the pandemic, especially not to college athletes.

Soon enough, all signs pointed back to Ayo, the 42-year-old coach who is known in basketball circles as the “Master of Mayhem” for his pressing style of defensive plays.

Just who is this man, and why has he now lived up to his moniker in such a bad way?

Meteoric rise

Even during his playing days, Ayo was no stranger to winning as he helped the Letran Knights win back-to-back NCAA titles in 1998 and 1999.

In the 1999 finals, Ayo hit the go-ahead layup in Letran’s 75-74 win against the JRU Heavy Bombers in Game 1. Led by team star Kerby Raymundo, the Knights then swept the series en route to their second straight championship.

Ayo’s success on the hardwood eventually followed him to the clipboards, as he wrote a successful comeback story by leading the Knights to the Season 91 championship in 2015, his debut year as a head coach.

Bannered by future PBA players like Rey Nambatac and Mark Cruz, Letran improved from a 9-9 record the season prior to a 13-5 slate in Ayo’s first year. 

This gritty group eventually staged a massive upset against a San Beda Red Lions dynasty gunning for an unprecedented title six-peat.

Obviously, his coaching feat did not go unnoticed, and the UAAP soon came knocking. Too soon, in fact.

During the Knights’ own victory party, Ayo stunned the Letran community by confirming that he is transferring to the La Salle Green Archers effective the following season.

Success amid controversy

By 2016, more eyes were on Ayo, who by then just won another term as Sorsogon City councilor, after leaving his home school almost immediately after winning it all.

Armed with a star-studded lineup featuring Jeron Teng and eventual season MVP Ben Mbala, the pressure was on Ayo to win his second straight collegiate title.

It took 3 heart-stopping games in the Season 79 finals, but sure enough, Ayo’s Archers shot down the Tab Baldwin-coached Ateneo Blue Eagles for their first title in 3 years.

Despite his sustained success, that year was still not without its controversies for Ayo as he was suspended for mocking a game official, infamously trying to put on glasses on a referee after what he believed was poor officiating.

His fiery encounters then continued the following year when he and his team were involved in a bench-clearing brawl in a preseason game against the FEU Tamaraws in Davao, where Ayo was accused of putting his hands on team star Arvin Tolentino.

Regardless of preseason issues, the Archers again dominated Season 80 as Mbala won back-to-back league MVPs.

However, the Blue Eagles this time denied Ayo a personal title three-peat as they outlasted their archrivals in 3 games to win the first of what would be 3 straight titles under Baldwin.

And just when people thought he had found a home in the UAAP, Ayo again shocked fans when he announced that he was leaving Taft in favor of España and settling with UST, a Dominican-run school just like Letran.

Star gone supernova

Despite his controversial career moves and antics, Ayo has been hailed as an effective figure in player scouting and development, as evidenced by the Tigers’ respectable rise to a 5-9 record one year after plummeting to the cellar with a 1-13 slate.

Under Ayo’s wing, a then-rookie Cansino flourished as a budding league superstar with averages of 12.6 points, 10.6 rebounds, and 3.9 assists.

Cansino quickly gained his coach’s trust, so much so that the former Season 80 juniors MVP was promoted to team captain even after suffering a devastating ACL tear.

Through their combined leadership, Ayo and Cansino led UST on a Cinderella run to the Season 82 finals just two years after the team was mocked as a one-win wonder.

Although they were swept by a much more mature Eagles side en route to a title three-peat, the Tigers’ future hasn’t looked brighter in a long while.

With an intact core featuring Season 82 MVP Soulemane Chabi Yo, Rookie of the Year Mark Nonoy, rising star Rhenz Abando, and a fully healthy Cansino, UST looked destined to possibly win it all by 2021.

But just like that, a project 3 years in the making was ruined in 3 weeks.

Likely fueled by his time-tested passion to win, Ayo made the mistake of restarting training in the midst of an unforeseen global health crisis, and the ensuing fallout was catastrophic to say the least.

Following the exit of 5 players, namely Cansino, Abando, Brent Paraiso, Ira Bataller, and Jun Asuncion, Ayo and his assistants McJour Luib and Jinino Manansala resigned from the team on September 4.

After 5 years, Ayo left the UAAP the same way he got in – controversially. For 5 years, his issues went hand-in-hand with his success as he gained friends and enemies alike.

“Mayhem” is truly the core of his coaching story so far – for better, and as recent events have proven, for worse. –