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Chris Gavina, Potit De Vera join UST head coach applicants' list

Rain or Shine assistant coach Chris Gavina and former Technological Institute of the Philippines coach Potit de Vera have sent their applications to be the next UST Growling Tigers head coach.

The two confirmed their respective moves Friday, a week after Aldin Ayo vacated the seat in light of the Bicol bubble controversy.

The 41-year-old Gavina is the first non-Thomasian to apply for the job and said he threw his name in the hat because he was "enamored [by] the competitive spirit of the UST Growling Tigers last year."

"They exhibited an admirable amount of grit in their run to the finals. The sense of pride and accountability the players displayed to one another as well as to the entire UST community made a lasting impression on my decision to apply for the now open head coach position," he told ESPN5.com in a text message.

Gavina's resume is as impressive as they come and might be his biggest strength over other competitors.

After starting as a strength and conditioning coach for the Philippine Patriots in the Asean Basketball League (ABL) and for the GlobalPort Batang Pier, Gavina landed an assistant coaching job with the Kia franchise in 2016 before being handed head coaching duties a year later.

He stepped down after just two games in the 2017-18 season but shortly returned to the PBA as an assistant to coach Caloy Garcia with the Elasto Painters. Gavina also concurrently serves as the head coach of the Bacoor Strikers in the Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League (MPBL).

"Having coached and developed players both in the PBA and MPBL has provided me valuable insights in being able to address the importance of having an 'I want to be here' attitude instead of 'I have to be here' mentality. The moment I've changed their mindframe, it allows me to instill a sense of ownership and pride in a player's approach to improvement," he said.

"Once I'm able to hardwire into a player's mind the necessary effort, focus and attention to detail it takes to excel at a high level, usually growth happens organically with that player and team and that attitude permeates through the rest of the team. Success is just a byproduct of their effort after that."

De Vera, meanwhile, is the latest UST alumnus to join the fray. After suiting up for the Ateneo Blue Eaglets in high school, he enrolled in UST where was on the Growling Tigers' training team but never got to crack the UAAP varsity team.

He last served as the head coach for TIP, which regularly put up solid seasons in the PBA D-League, the National Capital Region Athletic Association (NCRAA) and the Philippine Collegiate Champions League (PCCL), and was part of the Engineers' basketball program for eight years. TIP, however, disbanded its varsity teams last May.

Prior to that, he was an assistant coach with the FEU Tamaraws while also serving as head coach of the Baby Tams in the 2000s. From 2008 to 2010 he was an assistant coach of the UP Fighting Maroons under coach Aboy Castro and later Boyet Fernandez. He also had a brief stint as an assistant coach at Boracay Rum in the PBA D-League.

In a short message to ESPN5, De Vera admitted he "isn't the sexiest pick out there" but believes he is "the most qualified".

"It started as a hypothetical conversation of sorts with a person in the loop... then [I] was asked for my resume," said De Vera. "I'm a really competent coach. My eight years in TIP solidified my craft as a player development specialist and to build a competitive program from the ground up."

Other applicants who have formally applied are Gilbert Lao and Ed Cordero, while Siot Tanquingcen, Chris Cantonjos and Estong Ballesteros are reportedly also in the mix.

Former UST players Jeric Fortuna and Kim Lo have also applied as assistant coaches, sources told ESPN5.com.