In just his third season in charge, Tab Baldwin already has two championships from three finals appearances. It could be expected from a man of his calibre, but from the looks of Ateneo when he first arrived in Season 79 it seemed improbable.
Yet at present, he is one of the most revered coaches in not just the University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP) but the entire Philippines, even guiding the Ateneo as the nation’s representative to a fourth-place finish at the 2018 Jones Cup. That is no easy feat.
But the 60-year old American-New Zealand basketball coach keeps a straight face, with the occasional smile, knowing that he has a bunch of fans supporting his team in whatever tournament they take part in.
During the Ateneo’s thanksgiving mass at the Church of the Gesu after their UAAP 81 Men’s Basketball Team Championship win on December 5, Baldwin took to the stand to say a few words. “It’s so nice to look out at the crowd and see only blue,” he joked.
He recalled a conversation he had with Ateneo biggest supporter and patron Manny V. Pangilinan, “Boss MVP was supposed to go to Geneva, so he asked that there wouldn’t be a Game 3,” he said to the Ateneo faithful present. MVP was also in attendance at the Gesu.
He offered his thanks to MVP for his unending support for the team, as well as the work of the coaches—especially assistant coach Sandy Arespacochaga—and the student managers, “We do not succeed without the work of these guys.”
Baldwin has been in the basketball business for three decades, but upon reflecting on his back-to-back championship said, “After 37 years, I really understand coaching now. It’s been a blessing to me. The team is a blessing, to me and the basketball community.”
He also offered his thanks to Ateneo president Fr. Jett Villarin, SJ, and through him, his gratitude for the Ateneo community.
The Blue Eagles will celebrate this win during the UAAP break, but come January the hunt for three-peat begins, and Tab Baldwin will be there as the mastermind once more.