IN just his second year as San Beda head coach, Yuri Escueta managed to steer the Red Lions back to the throne, winning the NCAA Season 99 men’s basketball championship.
Surviving eight do-or-die games including two in the Finals against Mapua made the championship all the more sweeter for San Beda, which bagged its first title since 2018 and 23rd overall, the most in the country’s oldest basketball league.
In the process, the Red Lions also got back at the Cardinals, who beat them in the 1991 Finals.
Escueta knew he would have not been able to pull the feat off without the brilliant minds in his coaching staff and he made sure they get the credits, too.
“Very important. Very, very important. coach Boyet (Fernandez) and coach Norman (Black) with their championship experience. Even guys like Andre (Santos), coach Francis (Cruz) and coach Alex (Angeles) and coach Jenkins (Mesina) and Ralph Penuela. They really work hard,” said Escueta moments after San Beda hosted the championship on Sunday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
“We all are students. Even me, I listen to the two head coaches. I listen to the younger ones. We debate on everything. We talk about it. It’s that we’re in a war room during the coaches’ meeting. The most important thing about this is we have fun winning when we’re all together,” added Escueta.
Black, of course, is one of the most decorated coaches in the country.
He led San Miguel to a rare Grand Slam in the PBA 1989 season and steered Ateneo to five straight championships in the UAAP (2008-2012).
Fernandez, on the other hand, steered San Beda to four titles on top of leading Sta. Lucia to the 2008 Philippine Cup championship.
Fernandez was the Red Lions’ head coach prior to Escueta’s hiring. He was moved to a consultant role following San Beda’s Final Four exit in Season 97.
Escueta made sure to thank his predecessor.
“This is for coach Boyet. I’m not supposed to be here right? If those things in the bubble didn’t happen, I wouldn’t be here. I’m like a babysitter. So I said to him, ‘Coach Boyet, this is for you, this is your team, this is your championship’.”