Even supporters of the Ateneo Blue Eagles are still finding it hard to believe how quickly their fortunes turned after hiring Tab Baldwin as their lead tactician. After coach Norman Black gave them five straight championships from 2008 to 2012, the Blue Eagles only managed two Final Four stints in three years with both ending short of the big dance.
In two seasons, Baldwin helped transform Ateneo into a title contender and then into champions.
One of the few who did not find Ateneo’s success surprising was coach Alex Compton of the Alaska Aces, one of Baldwin’s assistants during his stint with Gilas Pilipinas.
“I’ve never coached under coach Tim (Cone), coach Norman (Black), coach Yeng (Guiao), or coach Chot (Reyes). I don’t knows the ins and outs of the greatest coaches in the country but I can say that coach Tab is the best coach I’ve ever worked with,” Compton said after the Aces player a tuneup game against the NLEX Road Warriors on Monday.
“He’s one of the guys that if I ask a question to him right now about any aspect of the game, he’d have an answer and he’d have a reason for his answer and he’d have a counter and he’d have a counter to the counter. He’s so rich in knowledge and it’s easily accessible for him. Via his experience, what he’s seen, what he experienced in the game, he’s got all of that in his mind.”
Compton further explained that this knowledge is only a part of what makes Baldwin a great coach.
“What he also has is character and an ability with words to communicate those thoughts and to inspire people, which I think is vital in coaching,” Compton added. “He has the ability to walk that fine line of challenging a player without being personal or negative or downgrading and a lot of the best coaches have that.”
With Ateneo’s recent success, Compton is hoping that Baldwin gets to share his basketball knowledge with more people.
“I’m from a family of teachers. I love education so I’m going to say it here and I know he’ll hate me but I hope we start a public clamor,” he started.
“With what he has in his head and the type of person he is, he should start a coaching course at a university as a major. Like PE but with a basketball major where students are taught how to teach, where they’ll be taught the Xs and Os and situationals, where they’d get instructions from, for me, the best basketball mind I’ve ever spent time with. I hope everybody pressures him to get it done. He works at a university that emphasizes the value of communication and public speaking. If you’re at that university, and you have people passionate about the game, and you have that knowledge that you could transfer, then what you’ll do for the game would be generational. It’ll be so much bigger than him. I know that scope of work that it will take but I know he has it in his brain and he knows how to communicate it.”
Aside from his knowledge and ability to communicate, another factor for Baldwin’s success with Ateneo is his penchant for getting the best from his players by pushing them to their limits.
“I loved our three-hour practices because I leaned a lot but I’m not the one running around for three hours,” said Compton. “He’ll demand the best from you but look what he did with that team.”
“Let me just say that Aldin Ayo is a good coach. That’s a back-to-back NCAA and UAAP champion head coach. Anybody who thinks that Aldin Ayo is not a good coach is missing something. It’s not like coach Tab was beating a guy who had no idea what he was doing as very few people would ever get the success that coach Aldin reached.”
“But what coach Tab did with Ateneo was unbelievable,” Compton closed. “Wait. Unbelievable is not the word because I believe it. Let’s just say it’s really hard to do.”