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Embodying Topex Robinson’s Principles: La Salle’s Path to UAAP Success

It already seems trite, the way words like culture or buy-in are tossed around by coaches as the reasons for a team’s success.

So when La Salle’s best players talk about those terms without even mentioning them, you know Topex Robinson did something right.

“First of all, it feels so good [playing for Robinson]. What others describe as a player’s coach, it was all in coach Topex,” Season 86 Most Valuable Player (MVP) Kevin Quiambao said, admitting that somehow, Robinson’s past heartaches became his own.

“With all the hardships that coach Topex went through; in Lyceum, they went to the Finals two straight times and lost. I took that to heart,” he said. “And then I said that can’t happen again knowing that he’s got my back.

“I should also have his back.”

Never giving up

Kevin Quiambao cuts the net after leading La Salle to the UAAP championship in men’s basketball. –MARLO CUETO/

Quiambao had that and more. He produced 24 points, nine rebounds and two blocks and also had one last ounce of will to carry La Salle past the University of the Philippines (UP), 73-69, in Game 3 of the UAAP men’s basketball Finals late Wednesday at Smart Araneta Coliseum.

The Green Archers ended a seven-year wait for the crown and they did it on Robinson’s first year as head coach.

“This is my first championship as a college head coach, after so many tries, you just don’t wanna give up. When you doubt yourself and you don’t have the courage to move forward, know that there’s somebody behind you,” Robinson said.

The soft-spoken, yet eloquent, mentor always preached culture in every bench stop in his career. At La Salle, he was no different. The Green Archers simply did a better job translating those words into action.

La Salle absorbed a 30-point gut-punch in its Game 1 encounter with the Fighting Maroons, 97-67, where Quiambao admitted to being ineffective after being limited to 11 points on four-for-10 shooting. He also just had six rebounds.

But Robinson kept motivating his wards. “There’s no use crying over spilled milk,” he told them. He talked Quiambao into coming off the bench, a ploy that helped the Archers forge an 82-60 series-tying Game 2 win.

“That first game loss was really challenging for me. I kinda asked [myself] if I [should be here] coaching, but every time I see these guys, they gave me the courage to move forward because I draw my strength from them,” Robinson said.

‘Winning environment’

Aside from Quiambao, Mike Phillips was also among those who credited La Salle’s emotional return to the top of men’s varsity basketball to Robinson.

“One of the biggest things I am proud to have [Robinson] as my coach is all the work that he put into the environment that we have in the court, in the locker room, in practice … that’s really what keeps us in the game, keeps us throughout the hardships,” said Phillips, the third-year big man of the Green Archers.