MANILA, Philippines – Incoming University of the East (UE) head coach Derrick Pumaren is excited to return to collegiate basketball after a 23-year absence.
But Pumaren, who won titles as head coach of La Salle in the late 1980s and early 1990s, acknowledged that he faces a difficult challenge with the Red Warriors.
"Medyo may kaunting excitement, of course, but it's a big challenge for me," said Pumaren in an interview on "The Score" on Tuesday night.
"Even though matagal na akong nagko-coach, I feel that this is a big challenge for me, dahil matagal na rin na hindi nagcha-champion ang UE, and at the same time, they have not made the Final Four in the last four years," he added.
Pumaren only took over as head coach last April, after previous coach Boycie Zamar was let go by UE. Since then, he has been working to install his system into the team, and star guard Roi Sumang admits the process has been difficult.
"Nahihirapan pa kami sa system," Sumang said in an interview with ABS-CBNnews.com. "Pero sana, makuha na namin before mag-UAAP."
Pumaren wants the Red Warriors to be more defensive-minded, and is looking to foreign reinforcements Charles Mammie and Moustapha Arafat to lead the charge on that end.
"It will be the same thing, defense," Pumaren said on what fans can expect from UE. "With Charles and Arafat here, at least we will always have one big man inside, and they will be the last man on defense."
But UE is still Sumang's team, according to Pumaren. More is expected of the athletic guard this year, after he was named to the Mythical Five the previous season and the Red Warriors just came up short of making the Final Four.
"I think it will still be his team, but he will have support this time," said Pumaren. "He cannot do it all by himself. He has to accept that too, that it takes the whole team in order for us to win the ballgame."
As a player, Pumaren won titles with the Red Warriors in 1978 and 1979.