Ronnie Magsanoc has the unenviable task of leading San Beda to another NCAA title. (Photo by Sid Ventura)Leading a team to a successful season is nothing new for Ronald "Ronnie" Magsanoc. Considered one of the greatest 25 players of all time in the PBA, the man they call the "Point Laureate" has always been the main force behind several championship-winning teams since his high school days. A smart point guard armed with long-range sniping, Magsanoc has held numerous titles in the sport including an NCAA juniors crown for San Beda, the only UAAP Seniors championship of the UP Maroons, and four PBA diadems for Shell.
But now, Ronnie takes on a new challenge, this time as head coach of the multi-titled reigning NCAA champions San Beda Red Lions.
So far, the 16-time NCAA titlists are looking very sharp, racking up seven straight victories in the Fil-Oil Flying V Pre-Season Hanes Cup against UAAP squads De La Salle Green Archers, UST Tigers, UP Maroons, UE Warriors and the current UAAP kings Ateneo Blue Eagles, and fellow NCAA teams Mapua Cardinals and Perpetual Help Altas, with Magsanoc at the helm. There appears to be good chemistry already in the Lions' den even when the new coaching staff took over just two weeks before the tournament. Magsanoc's deputies include long-time buddy Benjie Paras and fellow Meralco Bolts assistants Patrick Fran and Xavier Nunag, holdovers JB Sison and Mark Jomalesa, and San Beda Juniors coach Britt Reroma, with NLEX chief tactician Boyet Fernandez and Bedan Great Boni Carbonell as consultants.
The all-time Best 3-Point Field Goal Percentage holder in the PBA with 38.3% (1171 shots made out of 3057 attempts), Magsanoc heaved a big sigh of relief when he got his first-ever win as a head coach with a dominating performance against the Green Archers. But his biggest catch to date is the colossal come-from-behind victory versus defending Fil-Oil and UAAP champs Blue Eagles. The Lions were behind for most of the game, and trailed by as many as 18 points before shocking the Loyola dribblers with a big run in the fourth canto to hack-out the 63-61 upset win.
"It's a big relief and a wonderful feeling to win against these tough teams but it's not about me. It's about the school, the program and the boys," said Magsanoc, whose only head coaching experience was with a college department in UP's basketball intramural. After he retired from playing in the pros in 2002 however, Ronnie immediately joined the coaching staff of Ryan Gregorio in Purefoods, and until now in Meralco.
Magsanoc revealed that he never planned on pursuing a head coaching post as he has enough in his plate being an assistant with the Bolts and a regular sports broadcaster in the PBA's D-League. But when former SBC coach Frankie Lim resigned after being served a two-year suspension by the NCAA for his involvement in a brawl, Ronnie was offered the job by no less than the school's top patron Manny V. Pangilinan. "Naatasan tayo kaya ngayon kailangang maglingkod in the best possible way. It's also time to give back to San Beda where my two brothers Boyet and Ernie and I got our elementary and high school education. It's like going full circle. Pero magaan ang pakiramdam maglingkod kasi dito ako nanggaling," relates Magsanoc.
Although admitting he is overwhelmed with all the work that needs to be done, the mild-mannered Red Lions mentor expressed optimism with the coming NCAA season. "I think San Sebastian and Letran will be the teams to beat this year. But other teams have also improved, especially Perpetual Help and St. Benilde. The Lions under Coach Frankie have achieved a lot and we will try our best to emulate what they've done. All I can promise is that we will work very hard," adds Magsanoc.
The Red Lions have won five NCAA crowns in the last six years, with the last four under Lim. And with the departure of key players Garvo Lanete, Dave Marcelo, Mar Villahermosa and Sudan Daniel, the new head coach has the daunting task of keeping the championship in Mendiola.
Magsanoc hopes that this amazing start in the Lions' campaign will translate into another triumphant season, and thus another feather in his cap.
The Red Lions are currently in the United States training for the upcoming NCAA season.
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