Sports Sports Feature

The Pumaren principle: Through the years of Ritualo and Yeo

Franz Pumaren solidified his legacy as one of the greatest head coaches of the DLSU Green Archers after steering them to five championships, even accomplishing a four-peat from 1998 to 2001. Being the mind behind the intimidating “Pumaren Press”, he approached his 11-year tenure with discipline and leadership. His unique image at the helm was both a calm yet sturdy presence, which sparked a successful run with the Green-and-White.

Having mentored a plethora of athletes, Pumaren was known to be strict yet caring to them. Respected Lasallian athletes like Renren Ritualo and Joseph Yeo had plenty of experiences going through grueling situations behind the scenes with their coach before tasting the glory of winning consecutive championships. The decorated coach along with the two former stars reminisce and shed light on what it took to bring the crown to Taft, as well as lessons they have learned since those unforgettable moments. 

Championship highs 

“When I was in La Salle, it was all [an upward trend]. It was all a learning process for me…walang down [year],” Ritualo on his stint with the Green Archers.

With the level of success they were able to achieve, there was one markedly constant figure throughout their reign: coach Pumaren. “Each team that I handled [was] really something special,” Pumaren remarks to The LaSallian. “They brought all these memorable seasons and games—[but] I could say that the [team in] 2000 was the most memorable because that was the weakest lineup that I’ve handled, and in spite of that, we won a championship.”

Looking at it from a player’s point of view, their fondest memories in Taft vary and go way beyond the basketball court. For Yeo, it was the different interactions he experienced off the court. “Being a student-athlete, especially for a basketball player in La Salle…‘yung mga students, na-appreciate nila lalo na kapag nananalo kami. During our time, mas madalas kami manalo kaysa matalo. Marami silang good [things] na sinasabi sa iyo,” he recounts.

(The students really appreciated us especially when we would win, and during our time, we won more than we lost. They always said good things about us.)

For Ritualo, the event that had become one of the most impactful events of his life did not come from any of his playing years, but it came right after that. The ninth floor of the Enrique Razon Sports Complex features an elite handful of jerseys hanging from the rafters—one of them being Ritualo’s. 

The Green Archer legend did not expect the magnitude of the impact of having his jersey retired, as he expresses, “After years and years na, dito ko nararamdaman na ganito pala kabigat. ‘Di ko ma-explain kung gaanong kabigat ‘yung responsibility ko to be a role model to you guys; kahit wala na ako sa school, I still represent the school because you will always see [my jersey].”

(After years and years, I realized how significant it was. I can’t explain how large my responsibility is as a role model to you guys; even if I’m not in the school anymore, I still represent the school because you will always see [my jersey].)

Ability to adapt

As the game of basketball evolved over the decade, one must make the necessary adjustments to adapt and thrive. Starting from post-up plays then transitioning to long-range shooting, the eras of the beloved sport continue to bring out the intelligence and playmaking from both coaches and players.

Keeping up with the evolution of the game relies on having the openness and willingness to persevere and learn. “Even if you think magaling ka na, ‘yung nanalo ka ng championship, ‘yung mga awards, dapat [you are] still willing to learn. You have to adjust every time, every year—from high school to college then to [professional leagues],” Yeo points out. Evident in his career, Yeo was initially dubbed as “The Ninja” for fearlessly attacking the rim, and later evolved his arsenal by averaging 14.4 points in his last season in the PBA. 

 (Even if you think you’re skilled already or you’ve won a championship and awards, you should still be willing to learn.)

Meanwhile, Ritualo, upon entering the coaching profession, describes that the process of acquiring improved skills and greater knowledge has a beauty to it. The director of Aclan Sports mentions, “[Coming] from a player’s perspective, ibang-iba ‘pag naging coach ka and when you mature. Although I am not playing, I am still aware and I’m actively learning all the stuff.” 

(It is very different when a player becomes a coach.)

With three-pointers emerging as ever more valuable, the former Green Archer appreciates the thrill and highlights such a system of play offers, especially since hitting threes was part of his repertoire during his time as a student-athlete. Meanwhile, Ritualo unleashed one of his most iconic three-pointers during Game 2 of the 1998 Finals against the FEU Tamaraws, where the Green Archers captured the crown after being runner-up the past years.

Pumaren shares similar sentiments as his former proteges, explaining that coaches “have to attend seminars and update [themselves]” to continually adapt to “changing times”. Being one of the renowned coaches in the country, he firmly believes in the importance of hard work in training, as this will definitely reflect in game-time situations.

Moreover, the current head coach of the AdU Soaring Falcons sees the worth of respect and communication between a player and coach, expounding, “You have to know when to adjust to them, when to joke around. Each [player] has an individual attitude and you should know them really well.”

More than the game 

Having the opportunity to represent your alma mater is a great honor. With this honor comes a ton of hard work and responsibility behind what is being shown during basketball games. On and off the hardcourt, both coaches and players learn many things from one another in their own path to success. For Ritualo, the root of their achievements came from their desire to become better players, “‘There is no substitute for hard work’, ‘yun ‘yung laging sinasabi ni [coach Franz]—hard work beats talent. [Even] if you are not that talented as a player or as an individual, kapag pinagsikapan mo talaga—which we did as a team—makukuha mo ‘yung goal mo, which is a championship.”

(“There is no substitute for hard work”, that was what coach Franz always told us. If you really put in the effort for it—which we did as a team—then you will achieve your goal.)

Coaches are known for their ways to devise different gameplan strategies for their team, but they also lay the foundation for the players’ personal growth. For Yeo, he feels that his relationship with his coach contributed greatly to his success, considering him as a father figure. Further, Pumaren’s “very disciplinarian [and] very strict” approach, the former Archer affirms, had helped to “bring out [the] best” in the players. 

“I owe my whole career sa basketball kay coach Franz,” Yeo emphasizes.

Having a good connection with your coach can also allow you to learn many lessons that can affect your life beyond the sport. “What I teach is not just about basketball, but also about life; it’s all about handling pressure and your future,” Pumaren shares. “It’s a priceless moment seeing those players being successful in life and making it to the [professional level] along the way. Having a good family and [knowing that] they were able to establish something—that’s what’s important to me.”

In what could be said to be one of La Salle’s most glorious eras, Pumaren, Ritualo, and Yeo were key figures in those very successful years. They were able to build their legacies here in Taft as individuals and as crucial components of championship squads, contributing to the rich history of the Green-and-White not just through their trophies, but also through the system of play and work ethic that will continue to inspire the next generations of basketball stars.

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