Like many coaches, Colegio de San Juan de Letran’s Aldin Ayo began his career on the court. The former Knight was part of the squad that nabbed back-to-back titles in 1998-99. However, you may be surprised to learn his other source of inspiration.
While most of his fellow Knights were taking up marketing and management, Ayo spent his years at Letran working towards a degree in philosophy.
It’s an unconventional choice for a basketball player, but Ayo says it allowed him to think about his sport on a deeper level. “My thesis was inspired by my experiences as a player,” he says. “Hindi ko gusto kapag sobrang naghihigpit ‘yung coaches. I was drawn to oriental philosophy and the idea of letting nature unfold on its own.”
Ayo is talking about his thesis on Lao Tzu’s wu wei, a concept in Taoism that translates to “non-action” or “non-doing.” In Taoism, the goal of spiritual practice is to cultivate a purely natural way of behaving—the paradox of spontaneous movement.
He carried this idea with him as he coached the Knights back to a finals berth this season. You hear it all the time in their huddles: “Be spontaneous. Enjoy the game.”
“Wu wei is related to this idea of ‘action through inaction’. Whenever we do something, it shouldn’t be out of fear,” he says. “Hindi dahil pinapagalitan ko sila, hindi dahil napipilitan sila. The players have to do it on their own—kasi gusto nilang gawin.”
This doesn’t mean Ayo goes easy on them. “Strikto siya sa practice. Gusto niya tama lahat ng galaw namin,” shares Kevin Racal, who made a career-high 28 points in Game 1 of their Finals against San Beda. “Pero kapag sa game, kalmado na siya.”
Rookie Jerrick Balanza concurs: “Mabibilang ko sa mga daliri ko kung ilang beses siyang nagalit sa amin. Tsaka kahit magalit siya, may matututunan ka kasi constructive.”
Ayo admits he isn’t the naturally calm type. (Remember that one time he threw a chair in the direction of the dugout in protest over the referees’ officiating?) Staying calm, he says, is a conscious decision he makes to better motivate the team.
And it’s worked so far. If Lao Tzu says internal motivation is the key, look no further than Rey Nambatac, who has played through injury after injury, saying “ayaw kong nakaupo lang.” The Knight’s unsung hero McJour Luib, whom Ayo describes as “one of our best closers,” says: “Kung ano ‘yung hindi nagagawa ng teammates ko, ‘yun dapat ginagawa ko.”
“Walang player na nag-e-enjoy pinapagalitan.” May mga players na kung sinigawan mo, lalong hindi matututo,” Ayo explains. “Ang akin lang, hinahanap ko ‘yung paraan ng pagsabi na pinaka-effective para maintindihan nila ‘yung dapat gawin.
“One of the biggest reasons I took this job was I wanted to give back what Letran gave to me,” shares Ayo. Coaching the Knights back to the NCAA finals is his way of thanking Letran—not just for letting him play in college, but for shaping the way he thinks today.