From Colegio de San Juan de Letran to De La Salle University and now, University of Sto. Tomas, Aldin Ayo's teams have been defined with the fight they put up.
Without a doubt, the multi-league champion coach never fails to motivate his boys to keep playing whether they're up big or trailing by a lot.
Up against the University of the Philippines in the 2019 Filoil Flying V Preseason Tournament, however, the fiery mentor did not see the fight he has long been used to from his wards.
"I told them to have a sense of pride in what they do. Sinabihan ko yung players kanina na karamihan sa atin, galing sa probinsya tapos pag naglaro na tayo rito at may nakita tayong medyo maputi, medyo maporma, na-iintimidate na," he told reporters after the Growling Tigers took quite a while to leave their locker room following their 72-89 loss.
He then continued, "Pag yung mga players na kalaban nila, maraming followers sa Instagram, medyo naii-starstruck e. Dapat 'di ganun."
Coach Aldin has long prided himself in being a Sorsogon native who made his way up from being a grassroots mentor to a one-time NCAA and one-time UAAP champion coach.
He wants nothing more than for his players to have that same attitude - especially as half of their lineup is made up of recruits from the province such as Rhenz Abando who hails from Pangasinan as well as Cebuanos Dave Ando and Zach Huang.
Conversely, the current crop of Fighting Maroons is bannered by more heralded talents such as Bright Akhuetie, Juan Gomez de Liano, Kobe Paras, and Ricci Rivero.
For the fiery mentor, however, the fact that his recruits from the province were going up against more heralded talents should have been more than enough motivation. As he put it, "Dapat kung probinsyano ka at naglalaro ka rito, dapat yung mindset mo is you have to prove to everybody you belong here."
Still, coach Aldin saw silver linings in how three of his players in particular didn't let themselves get completely, as he put it, "starstruck." "If you noticed, si Rhenz Abando, yun ang dapat mindset - probinsyano ako, 'di ako kilala, pero may maputing le-layup, I'm going to challenge your shot. Ganun si Rhenz," he shared, referring to a moment in the first half when Abando got a block on Paras.
He then continued, "Siya, si [Soulemane] Chabi Yo and [Ira] Bataller, sila yung nag-compete. The rest, they have to adjust to the glamour opponents."
The UST head coach made it clear, however, that yes, he wants his players to have an attitude, but it has to be the right attitude.
"Ayoko namang sobrang yabang, ayoko namang sobrang humble. Moderation lang. Yung nandun lang sa gitna na maging competitive," he said.
He then continued, "Ayokong madumi, pero you have to hold your ground. You're competing kaya yung dignidad, andun dapat, 'di ka inaapak-apakan."
In that light, coach Aldin only hopes that his "starstruck" Growling Tigers only got the message. "For sure naman, they're going to get used to it. May purpose naman kung bakit sila nandito at yung purpose na yun is we're going to compete," he said.
He then continued, "For sure, nakuha nila yung message ko kasi nakita ko sa mga mukha nila. They're going to respond."
This story was originally published on the ABS-CBN Sports website.