Coach wants more improvement from La Salle
MANILA, Philippines – De La Salle head coach Juno Sauler had no time to contemplate the significance of his achievement after leading the Green Archers to the Finals of the UAAP Season 76 men’s basketball tournament.
With La Salle's 71-68 victory over Far Eastern University last Wednesday, Sauler, who took over as head coach with just two weeks to go before the start of the season, became the first rookie head coach to tow his team to the UAAP Finals since Lawrence Chongson did the same thing with University of the East in 2009.
It is also La Salle’s first Finals appearance since Season 71, wherein they were swept by rivals Ateneo in two games.
But the soft-spoken Sauler’s only concern is making sure that the Green Archers continue to improve in the days leading up to the best-of-three Finals.
“What’s more important to me is how well we play in the next coming games,” said Sauler. “Like I said, the result or the outcome or the rankings is secondary.”
“My priority is, I want myself to improve, I want my players to improve, and I want my whole team to improve. That’s what I tell them always,” he added.
“I don’t even tell them that you have to win today’s game. Coming into today’s game, I just said that we need to do what we’ve been doing, and just improve. Be better. Be better in today’s game.”
Sauler’s words have clearly made an impression on his players, as La Salle is clearly the most improved team over the course of the season. After a 3-4 win-loss record in the first round, they have won nine consecutive games, including last Wednesday’s victory over FEU that gave them a Finals berth.
But true to form, Sauler said he is not particularly concerned with La Salle’s winning streak and stressed only a need for improvement for the Green Archers.
“That’s what we talked about, even early in the season – just improve on every game, improve daily in practice, and wherever it brings us, then we’ll be satisfied with it, as long as we keep on improving,” said Sauler.
“So even during the streak, and until now, our main focus is going to practice and be mentally prepared, day in and day out. Work on what we need to do to improve, and wherever it takes us, we’ll take it,” he added.
The Green Archers are still waiting for their Finals opponent. National University and University of Santo Tomas will dispute the other berth on Saturday at the Mall of Asia Arena.
“Both teams are tough,” said Sauler. “It would be an exciting game in the knockout. We just have to prepare for whoever wins.”