MANILA, Philippines – There is still a week to go before De La Salle University and National University (NU) face off in the UAAP Season 80 men's basketball tournament, which will mark the first meeting between fiery coaches Aldin Ayo and Jamike Jarin in two years.
Yet during the opening weekend, both La Salle's Ayo and NU's Jarin were already engaging in an entertaining psywar as they looked to get the upper hand in their match-up.
Ayo remains one up on Jarin, as his upstart Colegio de San Juan de Letran squad upset the powerhouse San Beda team in the NCAA Season 91 Finals – an instant classic that went the full route. Jarin missed out on a chance to get revenge in Season 92, as Ayo jumped ship to La Salle in the UAAP, while he led the Red Lions to the NCAA Season 92 title.
Fast-forward to 2017, and both coaches are now in the UAAP. The tables have turned – Ayo is coaching the league's defending champions, while Jarin is leading an NU team that is looking to pull off an upset.
"They're the defending champions," Jarin told reporters when asked about La Salle after NU's 86-69 rout of University of the East on Saturday.
"They're a force to reckon with," he added. "Probably, (they are) the best college team right now, so we just need to ready ourselves for DLSU."
One day later, Ayo laughed off Jarin's comments as part of the simmering rivalry between the two coaches.
"Nabasa ko 'yung write-up kay Coach Jamike eh, na kami daw ang pinakamalakas," said Ayo after La Salle's 95-90 escape act over Far Eastern University. "Hindi pa kami naglalaro, pero sinasabi na ni Coach Jamike na kami ang pinaka-malakas."
For Ayo, Jarin's comments were simply "classic Jamike." "Everything that he says, everything that he does has a purpose," Ayo said cryptically.
"Kung sasabihin niya sa amin 'yun ng offseason, wala akong iisipin doon na kung anu-ano. Pero kung sasabihin niya yun na ngayong season, well he's just competing. Si Coach Jamike naman palaging may purpose," he explained.
"He's very competitive, and minsan nga, kung titingnan mo ang ginagawa ni Coach Jamike, he's very creative eh. Matatawa ka na, ginawa niya pa 'yun," Ayo added.
"Especially ngayon, 'yung sinabi niya sa inyo sa media. Noong una kong nabasa, natawa rin ako. Sabi ko, 'Walang patawad ito. Kahit sa media, he's trying to compete.'"
Yet Ayo said that when it comes down to it, their game against NU on Saturday is still just a regular game – meaning, he will have to prepare the Green Archers very well for the well-motivated Bulldogs.
"He (Jarin) does a lot of things, he's very unpredictable also," said Ayo. "So pagtatrabahuhin ka talaga ni Coach Jamike."
The Green Archers and the Bulldogs face off on Saturday, September 16 at the Araneta Coliseum.
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