Someone asked me how my blog and newspaper column came to be titled "Bleachers Brew". It's like this, it's an amalgam of sorts of two things: The bleachers area in the stadium/arena where I used to sit when I would watch baseball, football, and basketball games and Miles Davis' great jazz album Bitches Brew. That's how it got culled together. I originally planned on calling it "The View from the Big Chair" that is a nod to Tears For Fear's second album, Songs from the Big Chair. So there.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Bleachers' Brew #96 Filipino Hoosiers

(This appears in my column in the Monday, February 25, 2008 edition of the Business Mirror)

This is a story about nationalism and the love of the game. And sometimes it’s about putting one’s name and reputation on the line.

Chito Narvasa a former collegiate and professional basketball coach and an investment banker was walking the streets of Zamboanga with fellow Basketball Coach Association of the Philippines (BCAP) official Tanny Gonzalez, an athletic director of a Manila-based school, when an excitable and sweaty man approached them carrying a white board.

It turned out that the man’s local team often lost against its archrival because they could never beat their press. And in a fit of desperation, he contacted Narvasa and Gonzalez like someone asking the Dalai Lama about the meaning of life.

An amused Narvasa quickly drew up some formations on the white board with various options depending on what the defense gave them. The young coach soaked in every bit of information then vociferously pumped the two men’s hands with heartfelt thanks.

The following day, the two BCAP officials were in the city square when the same coach found them once more. He thanked them for their instructions because his team finally beat their foes as they broke their dreaded press.

“Patay tayo diyan,” laughed Narvasa as he and Gonzalez recounted the incident over a late lunch at UCC in Temple Drive. “Imagine if it didn’t work then our credibility would be shot.”

The local basketball scene is still a mess and let no one tell you any different. Everyone is still pretty much doing their own thing yet BCAP for the longest time has done more with its nationwide infrastructure in helping the sport prosper and grow than anyone else.

“We’re not out to tell people who should coach the national team or how basketball should be run,” explained Gonzalez who is the Athletic Director of Lyceum. “We don’t even put up tournaments. We are for coach’s education because we believe that if we produce good coaches we will produce better players.”

“We’re peacemakers in the basketball scene,” chimed in Narvasa who once served as an assistant to Chot Reyes in Purefoods and was later head coach of Shell following Rino Salazar’s stint. “We have no vested interest except in sharing knowledge with one another and protecting the livelihood of the Filipino coach.”

Of late, BCAP has been looking outside North America for basketball education – towards Korea to be exact. For the last 20 years or so, coaches have followed a more scientific technology by the American style of play. And through that we’ve seen a more man-to-man type of game that predicates double-teaming and role-playing. Such as system gave birth to superstar complex. That means you now have players who are the first option, the second option, the defensive specialist, and so on. What that does is categorize players such as the elite, second, and third levels.

In Korean basketball or even in European basketball, every player on the floor is a weapon where emphasis is placed on shooting and fundamentals. “We’re not saying the American model is wrong because it does work,” added Narvasa who is the third head of BCAP following Turo Valenzona and Yeng Guiao. “What BCAP is doing is providing another option.”

Narvasa’s philosophy is basically an extension of that of his former college coach, the Maestro Virgilio “Baby” Dalupan. Narvasa played for an Ateneo team that won back-to-back titles in 1975 and 1976 under Dalupan himself a former Ateneo dribbler who shared the court with the late great Luis “Moro” Lorenzo. Under Dalupan (who was simultaneously handling the Blue Eagles and the Crispa Redmanizers in the Philippine Basketball Association), there was no fixed starting unit. Players were inserted into the first five on the basis of the team they were facing and how well they practiced in the previous day. “You are how you practice,” said Dalupan who is now living comfortably in retirement.

“Anyone could shoot under that system,” recalled Narvasa who played the point guard position. “As long as you were free and had the shot then you could take it. Walang sisihan. There aren’t many coaches who espouse that kind of play now but Yeng Guiao is a prime example of that style. And you can see how he gets results from his team. Kahit sino bunutin gagawa.”

It is through Narvasa’s AYN Sports that they have brought in famed coaches like Louisiana State University’s Dale Brown, former Los Angeles Lakers guard and Women’s National Basketball Association Coach Michael Cooper, former Seattle Supersonics forward Detlef Schrempf, and Korean coach Pang Yul. And this week, they’ll be bringing in former Korean hotshot, the legendary Shin Dong Pa to impart his knowledge of the game to coaches from all over the archipelago in a session at the old Rizal Memorial Coliseum.

Surprised to hear about what BCAP has done? “We’re not in the business of hogging the limelight,” noted Gonzalez. “We just want to do our part in helping the country grow through sports. Some other people can run the show.”

Fr. Nong Realuyo, a parish priest from Bicol is one of two members of the clergy who are BCAP accredited coaches. The good father used to coach high school boys and his attendance in a BCAP clinic solidified his belief that the game will not only instill discipline in the youth but will keep them away from vices. “Sports is the best way to teach the value of teamwork, discipline, camaraderie, and focus of vision,” said Fr. Realuyo who organizes tournaments in Legazpi City. “And it expands your network of friends.”

One other member of BCAP is current Philippine Sports Commission Chairman William “Butch” Ramirez who used to manage the Davao chapter. BCAP has become an accredited consulting body for the PSC in the provinces as it taps its nationwide network of coaches. It is also through this that the BCA conducts its coach’s clinics. “It’s all about spreading the love and knowledge of the game at the provincial and grassroots level,” added Fr. Realuyo. “And we try to go a little farther by introducing values formation, sports medicine, and ethics.”

One time, Narvasa, Guiao, and Gonzalez were conducting a clinic in Davao when they noticed that the local coaches would go to the games unkempt, wearing short pants and slippers. “”Guys,” pointed out Narvasa. “Suggestion lang… kung gusto niyong maging respetado ng mga player siguro magbihis naman tayo ng medyo maayos. Hindi naman kailangan na para tayong pupunta ng kasal pero magbihis naman tayo. Para tayong mga pulis sa kanto.”

The following day, the attendees turned up wearing more respectable attire when one of them approached Narvasa to apologize. “Walang problema,” smiled the BCAP head. “Coach ka nang anong team?”

“Yung team ng PNP. Pulis po ako.”

Basketball. Gotta love it for its unifying abilities.

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From Larry Fonacier:
Love this article, sir. I really believe in my heart that the Koreans and Europeans play the game the most effective way. In that kind of system everyone feels important and needed, no one is boxed. I'm proud to have been part of that system under coach Yeng (Guiao), because I had a lot of fun and I felt like my talents were maximized in his team. Also under coach Joe's (Lipa) Korean style, lahat masaya.

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