WATCH: Young Joe Silva looks to turn UE program around
MANILA, Philippine – When Joe Silva initially walked away from coaching after leading Ateneo’s high school team to the UAAP Season 80 junior’s basketball title, he meant to be gone for good.
“Two weeks after winning the championship with the Blue Eaglets, I submitted my resignation. I really didn’t really consider coaching anymore. I was supposed to start up a new business or start work elsewhere,” he said to Rappler on a sunny afternoon.
His surroundings were different. Gone were the familiar sights of the Blue Eagle Gym in Katipunan, and it's now replaced by a new home in Recto that has the logo of the UE Red Warriors largely painted on one wall.
“But then UE [called] so I really thought about it hard and, well, I guess I really can’t live without basketball, so I decided to take the job.”
That doesn’t mean Silva instantly jumped on the opportunity to be a head coach in the UAAP senior division after spending the last seven years as a head coach in high school. It took a month before the 38-year-old said yes to University of the East, during which he consulted with family and friends.
“I even meditated and prayed, asking God for a sign,” added the man who’s going to be the youngest head coach in the UAAP men’s basketball tournament this season.
Silva also discussed the offer with Blue Eagles head coach Tab Baldwin, who made it a simple decision for him by saying “it’s a no-brainer” as long as the job requirements did not conflict with Silva’s personal beliefs.
“It’s the fact that any coach’s dream is to coach in the higher level. So as a high school coach, I always wanted to be a head coach in the senior’s level. So when UE came calling, it was hard to refuse,” he admitted.
For as much as this is a huge step in Silva’s coaching career, his arrival also brings positivity and hope to a struggling basketball program.
When Derrick Pumaren was hired by the Red Warriors in 2014, the hope was that the former champion coach would lead University of the East back to UAAP prominence. Instead, UE went 21-35 during his tenure and failed to make it to the Final Four in the past four seasons.
In Silva, the Red Warriors are getting a coach who went 77-20 as a head coach in high school, won two championships, and played a hand in developing current Blue Eagle standouts Thirdy Ravena, Mike Nieto, Matt Nieto, Jolo Mendoza, and SJ Belangel.
Adding to that, Silva has spent the past few years learning under the tutelage of Baldwin. Once he got to UE, he didn’t waste any time making the necessary changes to get the program out of its slump.
“Discipline was absent, so to say the least. They weren’t close as a team. Everyone was fighting with each other. In fact there were internal conflicts that I’d rather not talk about, but it was a mess. The first thing I did was, number one, make us be a family – the brotherhood, the camaraderie, the respect for each other,” he said.
The coaching staff had the players go through a 6-7 week program where all they did was related to muscle hypertrophy. Players were also instructed to start watching their diet and attend class to show signs of professionalism.
“In fact I even got their class schedules and the names of their teachers, so I can monitor if they really went to class or not,” Silva said.
Guys started dropping weight, most notably the team’s best player, Alvin Pasaol, who’s down at least 10 pounds. Silva also modernized UE’s style of play by allowing the team’s big men to shoot from outside and for players aside from the point guards to bring the ball down the floor if the opportunity arises.
“The mentality that we should compete, we should start believing in ourselves, we should be proud of who we are. That’s the mentality I wanted to instil with them,” said the head coach.
Former UE great Paul Artadi is part of the team’s coaching staff to help the guards develop their game, while former PBA star Eddie Laure has been recruited as well to help with the frontline players.
Silva knows there won’t be an immediate improvement in the team standings, but for him that’s okay. The goal for the first season is for the team to display improvement, both as individuals and as a unit, and to sneak some wins.
How about in year two of the rebuild?
“Not to be conceited but I think next year, with the pieces we have, we can contend, or at least enter the Final Four,” he said.
It’s not hard to see why he has a lot of confidence. The UE basketball program has received more backing from its patron Bong Tan, and the team is expected to soon have the presence of a foreign student-athlete to help man the paint.
For the first time in a while, the Red Warriors have also been able to travel during the offseason in preparation for the UAAP. In fact, UE came out as champions in a recent tournament they joined in Taiwan.
“In basketball, especially coaching, pressure’s always there,” said Silva. “It’s a privilege to be tasked to bring UE back to its glory days but, of course, the pressure is there to deliver.”
So far, things look good. And if his track record is any indication, Silva is the man for the job.
For more on this year’s UE team, check the video above.