Joe Lipa, architect of 1986 title winners, says UAAP Season 84 champions 'most-talented' UP team he's ever seen

UP won their first UAAP title since 1986 with a 2-1 series win over Ateneo in the Season 84 finals. UAAP Media Bureau

Joe Lipa, the legendary coach and UP icon who piloted the UP Fighting Maroons to the UAAP title in 1986, paid the ultimate complement to the 2022 version of the team that won the school's first UAAP championship since that fabled title run of the 1986 team.

"This is the most-talented UP team I have ever seen," Lipa said of the Season 84 Maroons.

That's high praise coming from one of the best basketball coaches in Philippine history. Lipa added that the 2022 team is even better than his 1986 team.

"Yes (they're better)," he told ESPN. "Iba ang talents ng mga batang ito. Wala kang itatapon dito sa team na ito. Almost all of them are very athletic."

Regardless which team is better, there are several similarities between them. Both finished in second place behind the defending champions. Both had to survive a knockout game to make it to the finals. Both suffered heartbreaking losses in the prior season that denied them a seat in the finals.

Additionally, some players on the current team remind Lipa of his own players.

"(Joel) Cagulangan reminds me of Eric (Altamirano) and Ronnie (Magsanoc), who are good under pressure. And the athletic ability of (Zavier) Lucero, he reminds me of Benjie Paras. (James) Spencer reminds me of Ramil Cruz and Joey Mendoza. He is a clutch shooter. (CJ) Cansino is also a clutch shooter. He's a very intelligent player and he reminds me of Ramil Cruz. Very smart player."

When asked to compare Season 84 Rookie of the Year Carl Tamayo with arguably the most popular player on his team, Benjie Paras, Lipa said both players possessed different skill sets.

"Tamayo is a tremendous athletic talent. It's different. First of all, Benjie is more of a post player. He relies on strength and his quick jump. Tamayo is very agile, very athletic and very mobile."

Lipa said the best-of-three title series could have gone either way, but that ultimately UP was destined to win.

"It was a matter of breaks of the game. UP defended very well, Goldwin (Monteverde) coached very well, and we ran our offense very well. On the part of Ateneo, Tab Baldwin coached very well also. But the breaks of the game really favored UP to be a team of destiny.

"Of all the teams in the UAAP, it was they who have proven themselves cool under fire. In a hopeless situation, they salvaged it, and they became tougher and tougher."

In fact, Lipa sees a chance for this team to do something his team wasn't able to achieve: repeat as UAAP champions.

"If the team will be intact, unless there is tremendous recruitment or changes in the other teams, UP will be dominating it for the next two or three years."

Lipa is also very happy for Monteverde, his former player at UNO High School, who has now joined him in the exclusive club of people who have coached the Maroons to a solo UAAP men's basketball title.

"Goldwin entered UNO in 1989. I was no longer coaching UNO but I was there as adviser to Milton Yu. I saw Goldwin there, and he impressed me with a cool demeanor and a very heady player. He was already a thinking player. He relied more on his mental aptitude.

"I wish him the best of luck. Good luck there, Goldwin, and keep up the good work."

Lipa said he was overjoyed watching Cagulangan give UP its first title in 36 years

"Just like any member of the UP community, I was very, very happy with our championship. After 36 long years... they deserve to be champions. The coaching staff was good, they worked very hard, and the players are very talented."

Just like his own 1986 team.