MANILA, Philippines—For the second straight NCAA finals game, Letran coach Bonnie Tan continued to get support from his friends — renowned coaches including Alfrancis Chua, Pido Jarencio, and Jeff Napa.
He credited these "legends" for their help in Letran's 65-64 win over San Beda in Game 1 of the NCAA Season 95 Finals last Tuesday. "We got some encouraging words from our friends na mga legends, PBA players," Tan said at the time.
Chua, Jarencio, and Napa were present once more as Letran tried to sweep San Beda in the best-of-3 series on Friday's Game 2, but the Red Lions were not having it. The defending champions came away with a 79-76 triumph, forcing a do-or-die game for the crown.
"I really respect all the coaches out there," San Beda coach Boyet Fernandez, when asked about the presence of Tan's "friends" behind the Letran bench.
"I've known those coaches. Coach Al is my former head coach at Sta. Lucia. I'm his assistant coach. So I know what he's thinking, but I'm happy to see him there.
"I'm happy to see coach Pido there. It's NorthPort, and I don't question it, because that's really their brotherhood."
Fernandez insisted that he had no complaints about all the support that Tan was getting, and maintained that he was happy for the opposing coach. It was up to the Management Committee of the NCAA, he said, to determine if that set-up is allowed.
For him, however, there is no issue. Indeed, Fernandez said he has a "think tank" of his own, though they are not as visible as the cache of coaches that bark instructions at the Knights during timeouts.
"It's all my alumni who's been there for me, who texted me and support me all the way. They may not be coaches, but they really gave me advice that they think will help me a lot," he said.
"Again, to the alumni who support me all the way, thank you."
Moreover, Fernandez also revealed that he still enjoys the full support of San Beda's chief backer, businessman and sportsman Manny Pangilinan. This, despite their loss to Letran last Tuesday that denied them a chance at a perfect campaign.
"Boss MVP called me up last Wednesday. He talked to me. I'm just so happy that I have still the full trust of him," said Fernandez. "That really gives me a lot of confidence, I know my big boss is there for me."
"I'm sure without them, I will not be here at San Beda. Also to all the priests of San Beda, they really support me. They came out here today, giving me hugs and blessings," he added. "So, I really appreciate that."
Ultimately, Fernandez considers the presence of Tan's friends as an additional challenge for him, on top of already matching wits with the Letran coach.
"It helps me a lot in terms of my improvement as a coach because, kung ano ina-adjust nila, mas nagi-improve ako lalo, and I appreciate it eh," he said.
"Kasi natuturuan nila ako kung paano dumiskarte. And, it's a challenge. It's a challenge, but I welcome the challenge," he added.
"So, OK lang," Fernandez concluded. "But again, tanong niyo na lang 'yung man-com."
For more sports coverage, visit the ABS-CBN Sports website.