Cuffed by suspension, Aldin Ayo yearns for UST return
There is one intent observer—his presence obscured by a banishment he wishes to be overturned—whose heart bleeds at the sight of every defeat suffered by the University of Santo Tomas (UST).
“It’s like watching a friend getting beaten up, and there is nothing you can do about it,” said former Tigers coach Aldin Ayo, speaking to select alumni recently via Zoom.
Ayo, collegiate basketball’s two-league champion, sits on the sidelines of the restarted UAAP season—shackled by an indefinite suspension slapped on him after ferrying his Tigers to Sorsogon for a training camp that broke government-enforced health protocols put in place to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.
He refuses to spill the story behind that training camp—there will be a right time for that, he said—and expressed every intention of moving on.
But from his current position, in the outer fringes of a program he had painstakingly mapped out, moving on is not without baggage. And unloading that internal turmoil means dealing with the uncontainable urge to jump into the fight with his Tigers.
“When I signed up with UST, we were looking at a six-year program,” he said. The young and oft-overmatched Tigers currently slugging their hearts out this season are part of the program—with another load of talent waiting in the sidelines.
“It’s hard watching the struggles when you know you can help. Against UP (University of the Philippines), we had the lead and I really felt that we could have pulled off a win in that game,” he said.
“I just really want to be able to help,” Ayo added.
And the emotions took over.
Ayo had to stop several times to wipe off tears as he spoke of swapping out other sure coaching offers for the uncertain hope of one day returning to the Tigers bench. He has his reasons for holding on to that homecoming dream.
“The community, for one,” the 44-year-old coach said. “Even when I was at La Salle, I already had UST in mind. Why? I watched as the team went 1-13 with [coach Boy] Sablan. The community never deserted the team. You’ll never find that kind of support anywhere in the UAAP.”
“And then I experienced that,” he added. “When we went 5-9 my first year there, the community was still there.”
“And they don’t intrude with your program. They leave you alone to do your job. And for a coach with my personality, UST will always be a perfect fit,” Ayo explained.
That fit is currently unglued. In the meantime, Ayo said he will continue yearning for another shot at reassembling his chaos-by-design system with this current batch of youngsters and the other shiny recruits lined up, ready to jump into the mayhem.
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