By Ivan Stewart Saldajeno
MANILA – “Faith, service, communion.”
Topex Robinson simply uttered La Salle’s core principles in a tweet, moments after the university announced his appointment as its new men’s basketball coach.
On Thursday, the Green Archers ended weeks of speculation after confirming Robinson’s appointment to replace Derrick Pumaren as their head coach ahead of the upcoming University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP) season.
“De La Salle University is proud to announce the appointment of Michael Christopher ‘Topex’ Robinson as head coach of the men’s basketball team effective today, Jan. 19, 2023,” La Salle said in a statement.
The team looks to end seven years of futility and reclaim the UAAP title, and Robinson could be the missing link as he has been a champion in the amateur ranks, both as a player and a coach.
Robinson was among the last batch of players in San Sebastian’s five-peat National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) champion squads during the mid-‘90s before he turned pro in 1999.
Upon retiring from playing in 2011 – with three pro titles under his belt – he returned to his alma mater to become its head coach, leading a team led by current Magnolia teammates Calvin Abueva and Ian Sangalang to the 2011 Philippine Collegiate Champions League (PCCL) title.
He then moved to Lyceum in 2015, and behind the leadership of current San Miguel star CJ Perez and Cebu City Chooks star Harry Nzeusseu, the team swept the 2017 NCAA regular season, although the team got swept by the eventual champion San Beda in the finals.
The following year, however, turned out to be Robinson’s breakout year as head coach as he led the Pirates to the PCCL title, avenging their NCAA Finals loss to the Red Lions in the national championship game, and the PBA D-League Aspirant’s Cup championship.
In 2020, Robinson replaced Louie Alas as Phoenix’s coach in the PBA, leading the team to its first semifinal appearance in the bubble season in Angeles.
In the 2022-23 Commissioner’s Cup, Robinson steered the Fuel Masters to five straight wins after a 0-3 start, which came amid rumors that the franchise could be put up for sale.
They eventually made the quarterfinals but were eliminated by the Hotshots.
Last week, Phoenix announced Robinson’s resignation as head coach, which turned out to be the major sign that he is La Salle-bound.
Jamike Jarin, also a known champion in the amateurs, will steer the Fuel Masters as interim coach for the Governors’ Cup.
On the other hand, the Green Archers thanked Pumaren for his two seasons with them as their gaffer.
Behind Pumaren, La Salle made it to the UAAP Final Four in Season 84 and won it all in the PBA D-League Aspirant’s Cup, which served as one of the preseason events for Season 85.
Unfortunately, the Archers’ D-League success did not translate to UAAP glory as they missed the Final Four, losing to Season 85 hosts Adamson Soaring Falcons in the wildcard game, and they decided not to renew ties with him when his contract ended at the end of 2022.
“DLSU extends its appreciation to former head coach Derrick Pumaren for his dedicated service to the Green Archers,” La Salle’s statement concluded. (PNA)