OF ALL the reasons for the Growling Tigers’ forgettable season, the most convenient one is Segundo “Bong” Dela Cruz, the unheralded new coach.

He replaced fan favorite Pido Jarencio, who led the Tigers to the UAAP title in his rookie season and came close to regaining the championship in his last two.

Under Dela Cruz, who was picked from among the likes of Bal David, Estong Ballesteros, Siot Tanquincen and Aric del Rosario, the Tigers played like a whole new squad, one that was only good enough to beat the likes of UP and Adamson (and FEU in the first round).

By “new” we mean a team often lost in a system that just didn’t work, at least during Dela Cruz’s first crack at coaching the proud Tigers. By his own admission, the “system I adopted did not fit the team” and thus, “the problem was with me.”

“I failed,” he humbly admitted.

Credit the new coach for manning up for a team that adopted its old mentor’s semantically incongruent battlecry of “3 Ps” (Puso, Pride, Palaban).

UST fans, arguably the best UAAP crowd, were unforgiving. After the Tigers’ 5-9 finish, their worst since Season 73, came a Facebook page titled “Replace Coach Bong NOW.” It has garnered around 1,200 “likes” or supporters as of press time.

Is it really time to replace the new coach?

Not everybody does well in his first try and we believe Dela Cruz deserves a second chance, one more UAAP season. We’re curious at how his system could work with a full roster of healthy and more committed players.

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We want to see the Tigers not only growling with pride but also showing it on the court by making baskets and playing tough defense the whole four quarters. We want to see the players play like tigers, not cubs. We want Tigers basketball back.

A second season should be enough to show whether Dela Cruz really is the right man for the job. Should he and his system fail once more, we’d like to see him go. We’d like someone who deserves–and who would actually continue–the Tigers’ winning tradition.

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