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, May 31, 2010

Bleachers' Brew #211 He's Still Got Game

This appears in my May 31, 2010 column in the sports section of Business Mirror. Erratum: Thanks for pointing out the mistake on Danny Florencio!

He’s Still Got Game

Old school? Aric del Rosario has been involved with the game of basketball for over five decades now. And he tells Rick Olivares that he’s still got game.

Aric del Rosario is a basketball junkie.

By all rights and purposes, he should stay home retired and become a couch potato. He’s earned it after all – two championships as a player for UST, four later as his alma mater’s coach, a bunch of titles as an assistant to Alaska in the PBA during the 1990’s, one as a benchmaster of the Pampanga Dragons, and a one-time stint as coach of the national team.

Except that he is entering his fifth decade of being involved in the game of basketball in various capacities – player, coach, and league commissioner of various alphabet soup leagues.

Maybe in his younger days he would brag about the championships he’s won. Maybe he won’t. Maybe it will take the prodding of liquor.

Except that he seems almost embarrassed that someone else is singing high praises of a resume few coaches have.

He still works seven days a week. He’s commissioner for the Fr. Martin Cup that is played four times a week. On the three other days? He is co-commissioner of the Fil Oil Invitational Tournament.

You think his wife is used to it?

In the den of his home he has two television sets. At night, they are oft switched on at the same time – one for the PBA games and another for the NBA.

His wife throws up her hands – “Maghapon ka na nasa Arena paguwi mo pa basketball pa rin!" If she needs to watch the latest tele-novela she can do so upstairs in their room.

He smirks. He no longer patrols the sidelines yelling, cussing, and gesticulating like he used to when his Glowing Goldies lorded it over the UAAP. Even then he looked like a grizzled veteran. Not a basketball player mind you. But like Mickey. The crusty old “Mickey” that was played by Burgess Meredith in Rocky.

But age is a state of mind. He isn’t one of those old dogs who cannot be taught new tricks. His stint as commissioner of the NCAA and Fil Oil has given him a different perspective on things. He isn’t ashamed to admit that he was also wrong back then. That at times, he was a pain. He understands the referees and officials and the work that needs to be done to keep the game safe and sound. He can appreciate the scientific approach to the game. The new breed of coaches with a different savvy. He observes and learns. But he’s still old school in many ways.

When he played for UST, he started at forward alongside Danny Florencio. His coach for two years was Fely Fajardo and during his last two years, Caloy Loyzaga. He played against Joe Lipa who starred for UP. And there was of course, “the Big J” – the UE Warriors’ Robert Jaworski who stymied him in his last few years as the Big Red Machine won seven straight titles.

The Warriors proved to be a thorn in his side. In his first year as coach of UST, he had a young spitfire of a guard in Alfredo “Pido” Jarencio. There was Bennett Palad, Julian Rabbi Tomacruz, Gido Babilonia, and Alfrancis Chua. They were stopped cold by the Warriors of Allan Caidic and Jerry Codinera.

The loss in the finals was painful and even if he would guide the Goldies to a four-peet a decade later, he still feels the pain for Jarencio et al.

He still feels pain when UST – now called the Growling Tigers – lose and people call for him to return to the gold and black’s sidelines.

Maybe he will. Maybe he won’t. But he knows it’s not his time anymore but even up to last year in 2009, he was coaching in the Liga Pilipinas. It’s the only thing he is really good at, he admits with a chuckle. If he stays home, the Kapampangan in him will cook and cook and he’d grow fat. He’s a little more round in the edges, a little more gray in the hair with lines in his face, but more or less, Coach Aric is still the same. “You should see my kids,” he challenged. “Ang tataba.”

He may have seen it all but in a room full of old warriors that includes another great – Ato Badolato. The old war stories fly thick. The youngsters who work in the tournament’s backroom seem unimpressed. But when the media come in – and most of them are hoop junkies too – his eyes light up and he talks. He dispenses old school wisdom and stories that cackle with mischievousness and basketball trivia.

Has there ever been an all-star line-up of coaches such as what they had in Alaska in the 90’s? There was Tim Cone, Chot Reyes, Joel Banal, and himself. Great times. Great stuff. Don’t think coach has gone sentimental and will get teary-eyed. Instead, he lets loose a cussword. Even after all these years, he is still in disbelief. Long removed from his playing days but on the other side of the court was his old nemesis Sonny Jaworski who was the heart and soul of Ginebra San Miguel. This time, his team, Alaska, turned the tables on Jaworski as they played many a spoiler’s role to Ginebra.

When someone asked if del Rosario would deign to coach for another school he is quick to answer. “Oo naman. Basta wag lang sa UAAP. Hindi ko kaya mag-coach laban sa aking alma mater. Buong pamilya ko diyan nagpunta. Hindi maaring walang sasama ang loob. Sa ibang liga okay lang.”

The Fil Oil Invitational will wrap up in two weeks. And two weeks after, the 86th edition of the NCAA will get underway where Del Rosario is once more commissioner. His wife throws up her hands but she understands. Her husband is in love with only two things – family and basketball.

Was it ever mentioned that Aric del Rosario is a basketball junkie?

1 comment:

  1. danny florencio is still alive and kicking. he works in a hospital in the US West Coast. he comes home to the Philippines to visit regularly.