MANILA, Philippines – Nearly three decades since he last coached De La Salle University, Derrick Pumaren is back to call the shots for the Green Archers.
Pumaren is set to take over the head coaching position in La Salle this year, returning to the post he first held in 1986. The veteran mentor led the Green Archers to the UAAP championship in 1989 and 1990, and most recently coached University of the East (UE) from 2014 to 2017 before taking over the basketball program of Centro Escolar University (CEU).
In an appearance on "The Score," Pumaren admitted that he had a gut feeling that he would find his way back to La Salle sooner or later.
"When I was out with UE, CEU came along, I felt that God is preparing me for the bigger task ahead, and I had the feeling that I was gonna go back and coach La Salle again, and it happened," said Pumaren.
"It surprised me, but you know, the gut feel is there," he added.
Asked why he agreed to take on the La Salle coaching job, Pumaren pointed to the challenge of lifting the basketball program again. The Green Archers last won the UAAP title in 2016, and have missed the Final 4 in back-to-back seasons.
"I think for me, it's the right time for me to bring back something to La Salle. We have not been doing well so far, eight years, I think, two championships," he said.
"We've been back-to-back fifth place, so I think it's about time for me to get back and help out La Salle," he added.
La Salle went 7-7 in Season 82, losing a handful of close games that kept them from making the semifinals.
Pumaren wants to change that in Season 83, and he said discipline will be the key for the Green Archers to return to the top half of the league standings.
"Looking from the outside when I was watching them... the team lost close games because of not playing disciplined basketball," he explained.
"Ateneo's doing it right now, that's why they were unbeaten last season, because they played disciplined basketball. And that's what the team has to get, discipline, they have to stick to the system," he added.
"They cannot run away from what they're doing, because when you start doing that, then you're confused."
Pumaren inherits a team that features star big man Justine Baltazar and high-scoring guard Aljun Melecio, along with up-and-comer Encho Serrano. The coach is immediately aware of the expectations of him and his team, and welcomes them even as he advocates for patience.
"I told them that I didn't come here just for the job, I came here to win," said Pumaren, who revealed that he signed a three-year deal with La Salle. "I know that they expect a championship."
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