Coach Goldwin Monteverde finally has his crowning moment

It could have been all different for the Season 79 Adamson Baby Falcons. A different lede. A different type of ending. Quite frankly, a different story entirely.

“Sweep complete.”

That could have been the sentence that started the an article that outlined their victorious campaign.

Could have. It was a possibility, one that didn’t come true. Reality bit the Baby Falcons hard.

Instead it was “season complete.”

The Adamson Baby Falcons finished off a roller-coaster season in front of jampacked San Juan Arena, by beating the NU Bullpups in thrilling fashion, 70-68. Carl Tamayo led the way with a monster 13-13 double double, while Encho Serrano could only watch from the sidelines as he was suspended by the UAAP board for incomplete documents.

They ended the elimination round with a 2-12 record, leaving the community with plenty of ‘what ifs’ after their forfeited games that season.

Instead of a celebration, it felt more like a funeral. They buried away the dreams of a championship season, what could have been the first of the program since Season 56. There were tears shed. These weren’t meant for joy. These tears were shed as an entire season’s hard work went down the drain after the suspension of their best player.

Besides Serrano, another key figure of that season was Coach Goldwin Monteverde, longtime head coach of the Chiang Kai Shek Blue Dragons. Season 79 was supposed to be his crowning moment as a head coach. He’d proven himself with the Blue Dragons, and slowly built his name in the bigger stage with the Baby Falcons. The tag many gave him: Master recruiter. During that run in 2017, he was starting to also get the title, Master developer.

With one decision, all of that was gone. Instead of receiving praises, plenty of critics blasted Monteverde for being careless with his recruitment of players like Serrano. Whether these criticisms were deserved or not is up for conversation. The fact of the matter was that, public opinion surrounding the longtime High School coach was no longer as rosy as it was before the suspension. He was undoubtedly a good coach, but at what cost?

It was a painful last troop to the dugout for Monteverde and his boys that game. As they sat down, tears could still be seen rolling through the cheeks of his players’ face. You wouldn’t have blamed the normally stoic Monteverde for breaking down in that moment. All that they had worked for, as a team, gone in a snap. Even the most hardened person can breakdown given the gravity of the moment.

Instead, he sat down, and continued to do what he’s done best over the years: coach his players.

“Sabi niya gawin lang namin trabaho namin at mag work hard lang everyday, day in and day out,” said former Baby Falcon and current UE Red Warrior Jo Antiporda. “Whatever the situation that time, considered (pa rin kami) as champions (kasi) binigay namin ang best namin sa court, and we know we showed everybody that time (how) basketball should be played.

“In life, there will be situations like this that will really make us fall really hard, but life will continue as we wake up tomorrow. We should not settle on the things that we are not in control of.”

Antiporda, Jason Celis, and a bunch of other former Baby Falcons headed to Chiang Kai Shek. Monteverde, along with Tamayo and Gerry Abadiano made their move to the NU Bullpups. The most painful part with the entire scandal was that Monteverde lost his spot as the potential coach of the Batang Gilas program.

From the outside looking in, it looked bad for Monteverde. But the players, from Antiporda, to Tamayo, and Abadiano, all understood why they stayed behind their coach even when times were getting tough.

“Andun siya palagi sa amin, sa good times, and sa times na kailangan namin ng tulong,” mentioned Antiporda. “Basta yun ang naging culture namin sa team, whatever we do or wherever we go. And andun kami sa kanya nung maganda ang pangit ang situation niya.

“He is a second father to us. Andiyan siya palagi para sa amin.”

That culture Antiporda talked about wasn’t exclusive to Adamson during Season 79, or with NU these past two years. It encompasses all of the programs, and players he has handled over the years. It’s a tight knit group that focuses on what matters. They know who they are within this circle of theirs. Those from the outside may not trust them, but all that matters is how they treat each other from the inside.

It’s become a common sight in games coached by Monteverde to find former players cheering on from the sidelines. In last year’s final elimination round game versus Ateneo, players like Antiporda and Celis could be found cheering on for the Bullpups even though they never played for that program. In multiple preseason games, Tamayo, Abadiano, among others are seen supporting Chiang Kai Shek all because of their coach.

It’s a beautiful culture of brotherhood that Monteverde has established among his stable of talent, one that keeps everything in perspective amidst the noise that surrounds them. He could have changed how he coached because of the pain he experienced during Season 79. Instead he continued to trust in who he was and the program he had built. He rose up doing what he did best: coach the way only Goldwin Monteverde could coach.

The way the Bullpups were described last Season 80: no nonsense, with a focus on winning basketball games. As simple as that. It’s how Monteverde had been since day one, and he was sticking with his guns. It was worth it, as they pushed the loaded Ateneo Blue Eaglets to three games during the Finals, making a seemingly unbeatable force bleed during the grandest stage of them all. They fell short last year, but there were better things to come.

Despite losing Rhayyan Amsali, Michael Malonzo and Paul Manalang during the offseason, a chock full of talent was came in for the NU program. Tamayo and Abadiano were set to fill in the holes after serving residency during Season 80. Kevin Quiambao was ready to be activated after making a mark in multiple preseason tournaments. This NU Bullpups team was loaded with talent, arguably the best collection Monteverde’s had in his history as a head coach.

Even with all that talent, Monteverde didn’t stray away from his core coaching principles. He still gave importance to working hard and playing like champions no matter what the situation is. Talent, or popularity wasn’t the name of the game for Monteverde. It never was. Instead, accountability from every single individual was more important, just as much as he had as a head coach.

As a coach, he made sure to give all of his player equal opportunities to shine and make a mark with the Bullpups this Season 81. Tamayo and Terrence Fortea, for all of their talent, had to play off the bench. Despite not being as heralded, Cyril Gonzales, Ernest Felicilda, and Reyland Torres started for their team for most of the season.

“It’s actually Coach Goldwin’s principle na hindi lang niya team ito,” shared assistant coach Tom Chua. If Coach Goldwin couldn’t own this team, neither could Tamayo, Abadiano, or Fortea. This was everybody’s team, from their starting five, up to the staff members. Everyone had a say, and everyone was accountable. Many try to follow this kind of approach, but nobody did it better than Monteverde.

All of their sacrifices were starting to payoff, as the Bullpups raced past the rest of the league during the elimination round of Season 81. They held a 13-1 record, dominating most of the teams in convincing fashion. They continued their reign, as they convincingly beat the Adamson Baby Falcons during the Final Four, to book a slot in the Finals once again.

Their foes were familiar faces, the Ateneo Blue Eaglets. The same tormentors the year before. A team Coach Goldwin had faced a number of times already, especially in the Finals. It all goes back to Season 79. They’re on their way to a championship, with an ending about to be written. Would it end the same way as it did then? Or would this be different?

During Game 1, it felt like Ateneo had figured out how to beat the Bullpups, leading 30-25 at the end of the first half. It wasn’t looking good for NU, as despite the small margin, the pace of the game certainly favored Ateneo. It was slow, but not slow enough to allow the Bullpups to shut down whatever Ateneo was running. Kai Sotto continued to do Kaiju things. Geo Chiu was a problem, and the bogged down pace was making things hard for the NU offense.

Then in the second half, things started to open up. It was easy to give credit to Quiambao and Tamayo for making things easier for the entire team, but this wasn’t just their work of art. ortea was ice cold clutch as the game reached its tipping point. Felicilda continued to be that pesky guard no one would have wanted to go up against. Everyone was contributing, and the results were beautiful for NU.

“Gawin niyo lang trabaho niyo, at mag work hard lang everyday, day in and day out,” as Monteverde would tell his boys endlessly. It wasn’t about who could be star. It was about who could contribute what to their team. Everyone was accountable, from top to bottom. They followed the same principle in Game 1. They continued to follow through in Game 2. The final chapter of their season was about to be finished, and the lede to be written was as follows:

“Season complete.”

The NU Bullpups finished off an emotional series by beating the Ateneo Blue Eaglets in two tough games. Finally, after years of coaching in the UAAP Juniors Division, Monteverde was going to end his season as a champion.

The question posed after Season 79 was as follows: He is undoubtedly good, but at what cost? That question finally has an answer.

He’s a UAAP champion coach. But beyond that he continued to establish himself as arguably the best High School coach in the country through his recruitment, development and culture-building.

It’s an ending so pretty, that even the usually stoic Monteverde couldn’t help but smile.