Before outlasting the San Sebastian Stags to get their first win in NCAA Season 94 on Friday, Emilio Aguinaldo College Generals head coach Ariel Sison admitted that he was thinking of stepping down from his post.
After a lackluster 0-4 start, he thought the best thing he could do for the school was to quit.
"I thought you know, just to be honest with you, (Thursday) night, I thought that if I won't win today (Friday) I will resign," Sison opened up after the Generals won over the Stags in overtime, 79-77.
"That's the least I can do so that the team will win. Thank God, he heard me," he went on. "I don't know how we won, as long as we did."
With three and a half minutes left in regulation, the Generals were down by five, 66-61, in danger of suffering their fifth straight defeat. Through force of will, perseverance, and execution, Sison's team rallied to get back into the game. And in the last 36.5 seconds, the Generals made the right defensive plays to force overtime.
"I told them, in that situation, it's going to be about heart, not talent," stressed Sison. "Good thing we converted [our] free throws."
In the extra session, and the score knotted at 77 apiece, Hamadou Laminou and Jerome Garcia split their free throws to put the Generals ahead. And similar to the fourth quarter, the Stags failed to knock down the potential game-winner.
With the win, the Generals finally broke into the win column for a 1-4 record. The victory was particularly sweet after failing to win a single game during the FilOil Flying V Preseason Cup. And for Sison, who is on his third year at the helm, the hard-fought result was satisfying to say the least.
"It's a real morale booster for us, especially for me," he shared. "I didn't know what to do just to make sure we got the win."
Instead of merely accepting their already dismal record, Sison pushed his boys in practice. In victory or defeat, he stressed his squad to remain focused and stay the course. He also resisted the urge to constantly scold his team but instead used constructive reinforcement.
"I am positive to my team. I always motivate them," said Sison, and added, "We just can't feel sorry and say it's a good game. Next time, there should also be congratulations. I revised my approach. I don't get mad anymore and instead I always motivate them. I just tell them that we should learn from our mistakes and correct them."
Sison's positive approach turned out to be a success. He benched JP Maguilano in their last game but went with his gut and let the rookie play his game against the Stags. Maguilano responded with a career game of 30 points and 17 boards to steer the EAC win.
"In the previous game, he was rattled," explained Sison of his rookie. "I always spoke to him and I told him to think, observe the game."
Sison is no stranger to teaching and mentoring college students as he was a former dean in the IT department of EAC. Now a full-time coach, he is committed to help his young squad to reach the Final Four - even if that means stepping down if needed.
"On my end, it's just about the school," he said about possibly resigning. "If I can't get the wins, then someone else will be doing it for us."
After their getting their first win after four unsuccessful tries, Ariel Sison is here to stay.
"With my situation, I thought I wouldn't be able to get a win, said Sison. "That's what I am afraid of, not for myself but for my team. Fortunately we got this one. Maybe that's a sign. Thank God I was given the hope to come back next game."