MANILA, Philippines - As he enjoyed the traditional victory ride as Cinderella champion coach in the 88th NCAA, San Beda mentor Ronnie Magsanoc preferred to tone down on the personal feat and throw all the accolades to his hard-working Red Lions gang instead.
Magsanoc, who previously won two titles as a Red Cub, a UAAP diadem as a college varsity, and two PBA crowns as assistant mentor, was entrusted with the coaching chores at SBC after Frankie Lim resigned in the off-season in the wake of a melee with San Sebastian's volleyball team in late 2011.
He clicked right at his very first season, leading San Beda to a 2-1 conquest of finals adversary Letran, capturing a second three-peat in seven years for the Mendiola-based school to go with the bragging rights as the league's winningest school with 17 banners.
"That (returning to SBC to call the shots) was never a plan. But things happened and then they found me at the helm. But from the very beginning it was all about the players," Magsanoc said after his wards’ title-clinching 67-39 rout of the Knights.
"We're just mere instruments, tools to help the players reach their potential. Siguro kung sino man maupo rito, ganyan din ang magiging layunin. Ang swerte lang namin, nabigyan kami ng pagkakataon makasama ang mga ito, they have a very bright future ahead of them (I think whoever's in my shoes would have carried the same objective. We're fortunate we had a very promising group of players)," he added.
The triumph somehow brought back memories of his glory days wearing the red jerseys of powerhouse San Beda HS back in the 1980s, when he and current assistant Benjie Paras, along with Dindo Pumaren, Eric Altamirano, Macky de Joya and Gerry Esplana ran roughshod over the opposition.
"At this stage, you don't think back anymore eh, you just think of the present and just be grateful for the situation, that you can serve San Beda and give something back to the school that was instrumental in getting you to finish your studies," he said.
Asked about a four-peat quest next year, Magsanoc was too drained to even think about it at this point.
"We're not talking about next season. All I know is three players will be graduating (Anjo Caram, Jake Pascual and Melo Lim). I don’t know what's going to happen next season. All I'm thinking about is we've ended the season on a bright note. We'll just savor this victory, take a breather for now," said Magsanoc.
Looking back, he said it was all hard work for a crew that report to daily practices at 6:30 a.m. for the last seven months. His wards also showed a lot of heart, most evident when they started the season with a six-man lineup due to players' suspension served out for that brawl in the volleyball held at San Beda gym.
The depleted Lions, for the record, pulled off an 81-71 win over full-strength Arellano in their very first game.
"Sobrang sarap ng championship kasi ang dami namin pinagdaanan (There's nothing sweeter than this especially since we went through a lot this season). We started with only six players and we're able to pull it off in the end," said Caram, who led the Lions' scoring parade in the clincher against Letran with 17 markers, spiked by three triples.
Sophomore Baser Amer was also a major player in this titular campaign, norming averages of 14.33 points, 5.3 rebounds, 1.7 assists in the series en route to Finals MVP plum.
"Hindi nga ako makatulog last night, iniisip ko kung ano ang maitutulong ko sa team (I couldn't sleep on the eve of Game Three, thinking about how I could help the team)," said the pride of Davao, who rifled in 14 points in the decider.
Jake Pascual made 10 points and pulled down nine rebounds in his final game for the Lions.
"Ito ang pinakamagandang regalo ko sa San Beda. Sobrang dami ng suporta from the first day I stepped in San Beda. Gusto kong suklian ito (San Beda has been supportive from my very first day. This is my farewell gift to them)," said Pascual.
Magsanoc had a fitting description to this three-peat drive, from the moment they took on Arellano with six men all the way to colliding with tough Letran in the battle for all the marbles:
"It's a special season for the players."