Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Breakthrough: Motivational Philosophies Of Coach Bo Perasol

Breakthrough /ˈbrākˌTHro͞o/
A significant and dramatic overcoming of a perceived obstacle, allowing the completion of a process

I believe that this is the first ever photo I took of Bo Perasol,  Head Coach of the Ateneo de Manila Blue Eagles. This was during a second round elimination game in the UAAP season 75. On the 26th of November 2012, he was appointed to take over from Coach Norman Black when the five time UAAP champion makes the move over to the PBA. Clearly, Coach Bo was quietly observing the team from the stands, but you can already see the smoldering intensity in his eyes. He may have been deep in thought, searching for some magic formula to continue the teams winning ways.
A lot of great thinkers and scientists live for a "eureka" moment, when everything comes together and that light bulb on top of your head burns bright. Breakthroughs and discoveries can come just like that, or sometimes they can come in periodic waves.

For Coach Bo, these deep discernments coupled with some difficult experiences have given rise to some tenets that he lives by. In a relaxed chat over lunch, he told me that he was a big believer in straight talk. He will not sugar coat the truth just to make you feel better. He realizes that being up-front builds trust and this goes a long way in developing relationships and fostering team unity.

These were, however, farthest from his mind in 1988 as a freshman in UP Diliman. As a Mass Comm undergrad living in the dorms within the campus, he had dreams of going into broadcast media or developing his love for music into a career. Basketball was, however, already in his blood and he would rush back to the student residence to catch the PBA games on TV after his classes. He eventually decided to try out for the Maroons and played for five seasons, becoming team captain in his last eligible playing year.

After graduating, the realities of life found him earning a living working for a large bank but he still managed to keep one foot in the proverbial basketball door as head coach of the Junior Fighting Maroons. This coaching job went on for 4 years. This is probably when this philosophy crystallized in his mind: That there are times when life backs you up into a corner and you have to do what you have to in order to survive. Your life is in your hands and sometimes life doesn't offer up that many options. These are, for him, character building opportunities, a measure of the man you are to become.

He later saw himself cutting his chops coaching teams in the defunct MBA. He started out with the Surigao Miners and wound up with The Laguna Lakers, a team associated with Bert Lina and  FedEx.

After his stint with the MBA, he decided to accept a corporate job that was offered to him by FedEx management because he felt that there would be more stability for him, he accepted. But life has a way of pulling him back in. Serendipity played a huge part in drawing Coach Bo back onto the court.

The group of Bert Lina decided it was best to let go of the Laguna Lakers basketball team in the MBA to be able to concentrate better on running the FedEx Express in the PBA after it took over the franchise of Tanduay. FedEx went through a number of coaching changes in it's first few years in the league. In 2005, after FedEx (the corporation) left the Philippines, the team changed it's name to the Air21 Express. They were looking for a new bench tactician after their old coach, Bong Ramos, abruptly resigned at the end of the season. Management soon realized that they had an old hand in their own back yard. Talk about being at the right place at the right time. Coach Bo Perasol eventually took over the reins of the team at the start of the 2005-2006 Fiesta Conference.

Player trades that were deemed unfavorable to the team and an untested import made Air21 the favorite for last place in the standings. This is where the motivational skills of Coach Bo started to show. When guiding his players, he makes sure that each and every one realizes how important they are to the team. No matter what role you play, there is an integral part for you on the team. This philosophy and his coaching skills produced a pleasantly surprising result in that the team placed third against Ginebra, the best finish of the team up to that point.

With steady improvement, the 2008 Fiesta Cup saw Air21 finishing first in the standings after the elimination round. Coach Perasol and the team went up against Ginebra in a gritty finals series and they pushed their erstwhile rivals to the brink only to fall short in the 7th and deciding game.   On a personal note, Coach Bo quietly mentioned that the Ginebra Kings was a team that he idolized as a youngster but he had no problems letting it all hang out and wasn't the least bit intimidated by them when he needed to prove himself.

After 4 years with the Air 21 Express, Coach Bo joined the Coca Cola Tigers in 2009 to become Director of Basketball Operations and Assistant Coach to Kenneth Duremdes. He soon took over the coaching chores from Duremdes who was elevated to Team Manager.

His early coaching jobs in the PBA were frustrating in that he would get the teams in transition or during a re-building phase. There were a lot of player movements, often times involving the teams better players, that required constant adjustments. With the Coca Cola Tigers (renamed Powerade Tigers in 2010), he felt he could finally develop a strong title contender with players he had a hand in drafting. This culminated in the Powerade Tigers reaching the finals of the 2011-12 Philippine Cup. They eventually ceded the championship to Talk n' Text 4 games to 1.

In what seemed like the ultimate act of betrayal, after the team looked like they could finally compete at a high level, the owners of Powerade decided to put  the franchise up for sale to Globalport. The teams' new owners offered the coaching job to Perasol but at around the same time he got another interesting offer...Head Coach of the multi-titled Ateneo Blue Eagles.

It certainly wasn't an easy decision to make. I think what may have swung it in Ateneos favor is that he has this paternal side to him and the opportunity to teach a college team with a system in place was very appealing. He mentioned that these young men are very impressionable at this stage in their lives and he has to watch his language and deportment because he did not want the players picking up any bad habits from him.

Fate would put a crimp on this plan. Just before the final rounds of the UAAP started, Mr. Manny Pangilinan, who had a direct hand in hiring him, and patron of the ADMU sports program cut ties with with University over perceived policy disagreements. An eventual reconciliation by the two put the partnership back on track and soon there were a number of Bo Perasol sightings.

Here he is having a chat with team manager Paolo Trillo at the Arena in San Juan during a PCCL game in November 2012. This should be a very productive partnership that has the potential to reap a lot of rewards.

He realizes that there is quite a lot of pressure on his shoulders, but the current situation of the team is a place he has found himself in a number of times in the past. A team in transition, finding itself with new faces and having to learn new plays. One thing is for certain...Coach Bo will be relying on his set of guiding principles and beliefs. It's a tried and tested system. He has counted on advice and information from the old coaching staff, and he has immersed himself in the traditions of the team. He slowly worked his way from the fringes during the PLLC games to finally leading team practices.


I have observed how he patiently guides the individual players and suggests ways to improve their game in a very paternal way. He has had no problems with the teams morale as he has fit in to his role quite easily. There is an excitement in the Blue side of Katipunan, the kind of thrill that one gets when going out on a first date with a long time crush.

Still, there are issues that need to be addressed. The team needs to adjust to the fact that Greg Slaughter is gone and there will probably be no more dominant center this year. The forward positions are mostly untested and the offense will have to come from more diverse options. They will need to adjust their mindset to those facts and focus on a new paradigm.

With 5 players leaving, the new crew will have to find ways to make up 39.84 points, 23.8 rebounds, 5.65 assists, and 4.82 blocks.

Of the remaining members of the team, Juami Tiongson will have to take more of a leadership role with the team. One would expect the ball to mostly be in the hands of Kiefer Ravena, Ryan Buenafe and Nico Elorde (not in that order). Von Pessumal and Gwynn Capacio will need to contribute more and I think they will be up to the task. This will also be a good time for Isaac Lim to step up and show what he's got. Frank Golla should be able to head the defensive effort on the big men. I'm hoping that he also starts to get the confidence to take more shots.

Of the "bigs", Poy Erram should be back in harness by the time the team is ready for active competition and I don't think that there will be any cobwebs on him. Providing assistance will be Kris Porter and Gib Babilonia. We expect Chris Newsome to immediately make an impact.

The Blue Eagles have always believed this dictum by Aristotle: That the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. A team that is united in thought and deed exceeds individual expectations, just like a persons cumulative life experiences also create something greater than the individual. Coach Bo Perasol has certainly travelled down a well worn path, one that has brought enhanced meaning and dimension to his being. Yet, the path is by no means nearing it's end; though it may be undulating it should be leading him to greater heights.


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