MANILA, Philippines – It has been 10 years since the UE Red Warriors sniffed the UAAP Final Four.
In that run, a young Paul Lee led the team to the UAAP Season 72 finals under the tutelage of head coach Lawrence Chongson.
However, they ultimately bowed down to the might of an Ateneo Blue Eagles side that won its second out of an eventual 5 straight championships in the legendary Norman Black era.
Fast-forward to the present, and Chongson is back at the helm under the title of active consultant. However, the program is a shell of what it used to be and is now carrying a 3-9 win-loss card with two no-bearing games to go.
As such, Chongson couldn't help but wonder if the problem stems beyond the reaches of the team.
"With UE's history, there is no long term," he said after bowing out of contention by way of a 50-84 demolition from Ateneo. "They change coaches just like they change clothes."
"They got Hall of Fame coaches like Derrick Pumaren, Boysie Zamar. They got the young guys like Joe Silva. One thing you have to give to them, they don't stop trying. But perhaps for me, instead of changing coaches they should try changing management too."
Indeed, even Chongson himself was part of a last-minute staffing change after Silva resigned a day before Season 82. However, as Chongson explained, that rift had more to do with Silva than school management.
"Everybody's acting in good faith, but it's just that sometimes, when you put the steering wheel on the wrong driver, chances are they'd drive you off a cliff," Chongson continued.
"Throughout my years in this industry, if it's UE – Philippine basketball. Nothing's permanent."
In keeping with the "no long term" narrative, the Warriors will now be left with a sizeable hole heading to next season as the one-and-done experiment with Rey Suerte and Jed Mendoza ultimately failed to bring them over the hump.
"For me, I came here not thinking long term. I'll be honest with that. I wasn't even supposed to be the coach, right?" Chongson said.
"Let's face it, you get one-and-dones to win right away. We want to solve that decade-long drought. We want to get to the Final Four now."
Although UE still has some young guns left like Alex Diakhite, Harvey Pagsanjan, and the incoming Clint Escamis, it's not clear if Chongson will still be a part of that future moving forward.
"Hard to say. Not for me to say for now," he concluded. – Rappler.com