By Gio Gloria
Coaches can take on multiple roles within their teams, but a select few have the distinction of being known as program builders. They don’t need to make bold proclamations as their results speak for themselves; the championships and the success their players have with them and even after their time together loudly proclaim their ability to thrive in the competitive and fast-paced world of college basketball.
Such is the case for Jeff Napa, who over a nearly two-decade coaching career has had stints at the high school, college, and professional levels. In that span of time, he has led teams to the postseason and won championships, while along the way helping his players move on to opportunities to shine and greener pastures.
The titles and the wins are all easy to see, but the culture that has come with it has been the greatest asset he has brought to all the stops he has made. Sustained success is, after all, the goal for any college hoops program looking to remain relevant over the passage of time.
Of course, a coach must first and foremost have players buy into the system. After all, no buy-in means no success. A track record certainly helps, one that spans various levels and leagues of varying environments. Napa has done that, thanks to stints at the high school and college level, both in top-flight leagues like the UAAP and the NCAA.
That buy-in is evident in his current stint with the NU Bulldogs, who have been competitive regardless of what was on the scoreboard. Throughout Season 84, the Bulldogs were always in the hunt, and the energy and effort they displayed was both laudable and what kept them in the thick of things for much of their 14 games that season. It also helps that Napa himself was a former player with NU.
In the offseason, winning became commonplace for the Bulldogs, who won the PG Flex Linoleum-UCBL Preseason Tournament and swept the 2022 FilOil EcoOil Preseason Cup that had all the NCAA and most of the UAAP squads in the field. Napa may have mentioned that the FilOil Preseason tournament was “not a big deal”, but it wasn’t meant to downplay the teams in the tournament nor was it an indictment on the competition itself. Rather, it was an assertion that NU has bigger goals in mind.
Things got off to a great start in Season 85, as the Bulldogs overcame the feisty UE Red Warriors in their season opener.
NU’s ball movement and activity inside were evident since the Red Warriors themselves were trying to break a long losing streak. Patience was another thing that stood out as everyone got touches and the scoring was relatively balanced.
The patience may pay off, but with 13 games still to be played, there’s still a lot to work on and best believe that Napa will work on these moving forward. Maintaining that consistency is one thing, but considering the advantages that marquee tems have, Napa will have to make sure his team is more disciplined on both ends of the floor.
The Bulldogs management have so far been patient with Napa as he continues to build the program back to title contention and this also comes from his body of work with the NU’s juniors program. Giving him time will be critical since they’re running a marathon and not a sprint.
Jeff Napa laid down the foundation of success in his various stops and that in itself the best legacy he can ever hope for. He’s still adding to that and Season 85 with the NU Bulldogs could be the beginning of a great story.