JININO Manansala, who was starting to make his name in college basketball scene, inquired University of Santo Tomas regarding the coaching vacancy after Bong dela Cruz was reported on his way out early in 2016.
The Growling Tigers, who were then coming off from a runner-up finish in the UAAP men’s basketball tournament in 2015, went into limbo after Dela Cruz was suspended following complaints about alleged physical abuse towards his players.
“Wala na coach ang UST. Marami nagsabi na subukan ko. Ok, punta ako sa Lunes at maka apply. Gusto ko lang makatulong sa aking school sa abot ng aking makakaya,” Manansala posted on his Facebook account in late January 2016.
However, the coveted post went to Boy Sablan, who took over in June 2016 after Dela Cruz’s contract with the Tigers was not renewed.
Despite the failure, Manansala simply continued to work hard and steered St. Clare to became a NAASCU dynasty, winning four championships.
His efforts did not went unnoticed, as UST mentor Aldin Ayo took Manansala as one of his assistants last year.
In the aftermath of the Bicol “bubble” mess which resulted the resignation of Ayo as the Tigers head coach, Manansala was among a slew of candidates applying for the vacancy last month.
With UST still believing on Ayo’s famous “mayhem” program to provide some sort of continuity, Manansala got the nod of being the new men’s basketball coach.
“I’m grateful for the appointment and UST’s trust in the mayhem program. It would be a team effort to rise from the ashes,” said Manansala yesterday.
The 40-year old Manansala knows that it will be a tough journey ahead, as the Tigers lost CJ Cansino, Rhenz Abando, Mark Nonoy, Deo Cuajao, Brent Paraiso, Ira Bataller and Bismarck Lina at the height of the Sorsogon “bubble” controversy.
Reigning MVP Soulemane Chabi Yo, Dave Ando, Sherwin Concepcion and Migs Concepcion, together with transferees Bryan Santos and Joshua Fontanilla will now carry the fight for UST, which placed second last year.
For Manansala, it will very challenging for the team, but he has faith in the remaining players.
“We are thankful for the faith the community has for us,” said Manansala.
The son of former pro Jimmy Manansala will make history as the first athlete who played under the late legendary UST coach Aric del Rosario to handle one of UAAP’s most storied men’s basketball programs.
Manansala hopes to make his former mentor proud in his new journey to rebuild the Tigers.
“Dala ko sya lagi sa puso ko malaki naitulong niya sa akin even na nagko-coach pa siya sa ibang team I make sure napupuntahan ko siya,” said Manansala, who played under Del Rosario from 1999 to 2003.