MANILA, Philippines - Their five-peat mission over and done with, the Ateneo Blue Eagles begin life after Norman Black as they search for a new tactician who will take the reins in their bid to extend their UAAP men's basketball dynasty for a sixth year.
Black packed his bags to call the shots for Talk ‘N Text in the PBA, leaving huge shoes to fill in.
The name of Bo Perasol has cropped up as replacement but his status was jeopardized due to his affiliation with Manny V. Pangilinan, the former Ateneo patron who severed ties with the university for various issues.
Perasol is also reportedly being wooed to serve as consultant with University of the Philippines, said to be the new apple of the eye of MVP.
Talks between Perasol and university officials are due today and while nothing has been finalized yet, the Eagles are also looking at other prospects, among them Black's long-time assistant Sandy Arespacochaga.
"Coach Sandy is a top candidate," said a source, referring to the former Blue Eagle who was their head coach in 2004 with Black as consultant.
In the meantime, Arespacochaga will handle the team along with fellow lieutenants Jamike Jarin and Gene Afable until a new coach is named.
Black, who had never missed a Final Four in eight years at the helm, formally bid the Blue Eagles goodbye during Saturday night's "Drive for Five" bonfire celebrations at the Ateneo campus.
"Continue to support the team," he told Ateneans, while thanking them for the support all these years.
Pangilinan did not attend Saturday's festivities. His absence is expected to be felt in the coming years.
"Nobody can replace MVP as patron of the school," said team manager Paolo Trillo. "We haven't reached that point yet – discuss how the team's gonna be supported next season."
Hosts for the victory celebrations egged the players to gun for a six-peat next year.
"Lalaban lang, lalaban. Gagawin namin ang lahat, try naming mag-six peat para sa inyo (We'll be out there fighting. We'll do our best to try to win a six-peat for all of you)," promised Kiefer Ravena.
The 6-foot Ravena is expected to be the cornerstone of the post-Black Blue Eagles, who will see the exodus of Greg Slaughter, Nico Salva, Justin Chua, Tonino Gonzaga and Oping Sumalinog.