BALANGA — Philip Cezar is no stranger to winning basketball championships.
Known as The Scholar, being a champion has been within his radar even before he started coaching. His first taste of a championship was during his college basketball years.
Thereafter, he played for the old MICAA and eventually to the PBA where he donned different jerseys such as Crispa, Great Taste, and Ginebra – all nothing short of the titles.
After playing professionally, Cezar transitioned to being a coach then steered San Juan Knights and PSBA Jaguars to two separate championships.
But just like any other coaches, The Scholar took a while before he rediscovered his winning touches in coaching.
The winds of change, however, blew on Monday night as Cezar once again proved why he is one of Philippine basketball’s all-time greats after he piloted the Manila Stars – his current MPBL team – to the division finals.
Finding the right mixture of veteran players and young stars allowed Cezar to put on one of the league’s powerhouse teams in the ongoing Datu Cup.
With the likes of Roger Yap, Riel Cervantes, Marcy Arellano, and Marvin Hayes among others and the services of young players in Chris Bitoon, Aris Dionisio, Mark Cruz, and Mark Lopez, Cezar created one cohesive unit.
But for Cezar, the key to success is the ability to work together.
“Kailangan daanin sa trabaho,” Cezar told FOX Sports Philippines. “Lahat ng teams na nanalo ako ng championship, hindi yan dahil malakas ang team namin. Dahil yan sa iisa yung gusto naming mangyari, yung manalo. Pero dahil gusto naming manalo, kailangan naming trabahuhin — lahat kami, players, coaching staff pati utilities.”
Unlike his mentors Baby Dalupan and the great Robert Jaworski, Cezar is not known as an X and O guy.
He, however, takes a page from his previous mentors’ coaching style as he instills in the minds of his players the importance of working as a team.
“Si Coach Baby tsaka si Coach Jawo, mga disciplinarian yan. Ako, hindi masyado, pero may kanya-kanyang diskarte kami paano i-motivate yung players,” added Cezar.
Just like his previous team, San Juan Knights, Cezar believes Manila is capable of winning the championship.
“Kaya nitong mag-champion. Kailangan lang talagang magtrabaho ng husto and sama-sama kami dapat dito,” added Cezar.
As fate would have it, Cezar would meet his former team, San Juan, which he led to the MBA championship wayback 2000.
“Maraming nagaantay dyan. Very interesting yung series na yan,” he added.
Photos from Manila Stars Facebook account