Baldwin draws inspiration from Bear Bryant in team system
MANILA, Philippines – Contrary to the full-court press style of play utilized by most coaches in the UAAP, Ateneo Blue Eagles Coach Tab Baldwin's disciplined system prevailed over the rest.
Having led the New Zealand national men's basketball team to the semi-finals of the FIBA World Cup in 2002, and Lebanon to a gold medal finish in the 2010 FIBA Asia Stanković Cup, Baldwin adds the UAAP Season 80 title to his coaching accolades.
During the 10 months of preparation the Blue Eagles had with their head coach, the UAAP Season 80 champions had to go through their annual rigorous training session in Baler, Aurora, in April 2017, followed by their US camp after the Filoil Flying V Preseason league.
The Blue Eagles unanimously mentioned that the week-long Baler camp was the worst they had ever experienced in their entire time with Baldwin.
"That was the worst one week of our lives," Blue Eagles co-captain Mike Nieto described it.
The team made a pact to never disclose the details of the camp but Nieto could say that it was a life-changing period for the team because of all the hard work and emotions they had to put into that one week.
"Ever since ;yung camp na iyon, di na kami nagpatalo kay Coach Tab and well, in life na rin siguro where 'giving up' is not an option talaga (Ever since that camp, we never failed Coach Tab anymore and well, in life also where 'giving up' is not an option)," he said.
The American-Kiwi draws his inspiration for the "team system" from NCAA American football head coach Paul William "Bear" Bryant. The multi-awarded coach held a total 21 championship titles across all the competitions he had coached in his life, and was even inducted in the College Football Hall of Fame in 1986.
"There was a very famous book written about a camp he held in 1954 for his Texas A&M football team," said Baldwin.
"The design of the camp is really to develop a football team but with the emphasis on team and it was built around the fact that it was very difficult for young men who are at the height of their physical prowess all of whom have egos that are fed by loving parents, adoring girlfriends, adoring fans, victories along the way and these egos need to be broken down and submitted to the whole and the best way to do that is 'break the men.' And to really reduce him to a state where he can't do things on his own and he really requires the assistance of others in order to accomplish something," he said.
Baldwin also gave a glimpse of the training process that the Blue Eagles underwent. He was proud that his Blue Eagles had the character to embody the purpose of his training to some extent.
"So we designed physical and mental tasks at the camp which are essentially designed to do that. To break them in and have them look at one another and say that it’s through my teammates help that I can get across that line," said Baldwin.
Baldwin's attempts to break the characters of the Blue Eagles did not stop there. After their US camp, the Blue Eagles head coach was disappointed in the team's performances in their tune-up games against the bigger and taller American basketball players.
"When we came home, Coach Tab was really disappointed by the way we played there. We did not perform to his expectations because he knew that going to the states, the American players would be more physically dominant than us. But we didn't show him anything. We didn't show him that we were willing to bind in the system, that we were improving as players," said Isaac Go.
Upon their return to the Philippines, Coach Tab gave a warning to the Blue Eagles in response to his dissatisfaction with them: "I will be your enemy. I am going to break you guys again."
This saw the Blue Eagles go through harder and longer practices heading towards their Season 80 berth. However, for Go, that was what the Blue Eagles needed in order to have a champions' mentality.
"And that refocused us because maybe going to the US, we were confident, we were ready and excited, so coming back, because of his disappointment, we had harder practices, longer practices. I think that helped us refocus to the mission of winning the championship again," explained Go.
As all the Blue Eagles reap the results of all their hard work in the past, Baldwin said that the success of the team boils down to the character that each team member had manifested in the 10 months of training.
"And to some degree, we accomplished that. I think again that if we don't have the right raw materials, the character of these young men, then we don't accomplish it," he said. – Rappler.com
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