NU stand-in coach Danny Ildefonso sees the game different on the sidelines

MANILA, Philippines – “I just [enjoyed] the game and let the game come to me. That’s the only thing I did.”

Even after his best game yet, NU Bulldogs rookie center Issa Gaye looked at the bigger picture, denying the upset-minded UST Growling Tigers with a 91-83 victory. After all, the former Season 77 champions were still stuck at 6th place with a 4-6 record after sending the helpless Tigers to their 10th straight loss.

Still, the fact remains that Gaye balled out, ending with career-highs of 22 points and 6 big rejections to go along with 6 rebounds. NU captain Matt Salem joined him at the top with 22 points and 10 rebounds of his own. All it took was an improbable 43-40 UST lead at halftime.

With head coach Jamike Jarin serving a one-game suspension after getting ejected in the previous game, San Miguel Beermen legend Danny Ildefonso took over coaching duties. Despite his mythical status in basketball, he admitted he panicked after UST grabbed the lead heading into intermission.

Kanina nung first half, natataranta ako,” said the former two-time PBA MVP. “Ibang-ibang talaga yung [pagiging] player sa [pagiging] coach eh. Kasi pag player, pag binigay sa akin yung bola, alam ko na gagawin ko, pero dito [sa coaching] ang daming players na kailangan alalahanin.”

(“Earlier in the first half, I was panicking. Being a player is really different to being a coach. If I’m a player and the ball is given to me, I know what to do with it but as a coach, you have to take care of so many players.”)

Luckily for “Danny I,” Gaye and Salem channeled their inner Danny Ildefonso and bullied their way to regaining the lead in the third frame. The two bigs fired off mid-range jumpers and treys and outscored the entire UST team for the quarter, 19-18. NU as a team dropped 29 in the third and never looked back.

When asked how he would rate his coaching debut, Ildefenso softly said, “Mababa pa. Mababa pa.” (“It’s still low. It’s still low.”)

It just shows that in the world of basketball, even a legend still has a lot to learn. –