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.

Friday, September 16, 2011

My hoop thoughts on Pido Jarencio

My hoop thoughts on Pido Jarencio
by rick olivares

While interviewing Pido Jarencio outside the UST dugout following their Final Four loss to Ateneo, the sixth year head coach of the Tigers for the first time acknowledged that there were those out for his head within their community. On one hand, he said that his entire team would be back including Chris Camus and Melo Afuang for one final go-around but I might not be here, he joked. What makes jokes funny is the grain of truth contained within.

Hours after the Big Dome had emptied of players, coaches, and fans, I was still inside the media room with many of my colleagues as we discussed the “problems” of many a school team. I actually find it funny that people wonder why La Salle has seen itself divided over issues with their coaches. People’s memories can be short.

It wasn’t too long ago, that some quarters demanded that Norman Black be removed. One of them went to University Athletics Director Ricky Palou to demand for Black’s removal. Then after the championship of Season 71, there he was distributing certificates and posing for photos with the team. Ang tigas ng mukha talaga. And if you go far back, there were those assholes who shouted “Sandy resign” when the team was losing to UP in the Champions League (when Sandy Arespacochaga was head coach). One even took a survey amongst the players to find out if they were in favor of his removal.

And there’s UP. Remember who some officials removed Joe Lipa after the team went 0-14. Yet the son of one of those officials went 0-28 in the juniors division.

There’s no shortage of this. I can talk about the problems of other teams.

My point? Politics and all this backstabbing and nitpicking will always be there. That is why teams park those wagons around them in an us-against-the-community mentality.

I don’t know all of what ails UST basketball but I do know this, in these years since Jarencio took over, he’s brought UST a championship that eluded him as a player. He’s also made the final four times. Did this team overachieve? Maybe. But not to Jarencio. When his Tigers beat some good team during the Filoil summer tournament, he told himself that this team could go somewhere. It took them half the UAAP season to figure that out. And for what it’s worth, he did a great job.

I am not lobbying for the coach to stay on. I’m just saying that it is what it is. He did much with not much while others had much but didn’t get anywhere.

Maybe it’s that sentimental part of me who once rooted for Ginebra San Miguel where Jarencio starred a generation ago.

But that wasn’t where I first saw him. I saw him play with the Glowing Goldies as UST was once known. But it wasn’t him or any of the other budding college stars we went to watch. My classmates then spoke with reverential tones about a Blue Eagle who could dunk that ball. Imagine that? The lure and power of the dunk. Who could back then?

Aside from Billy Ray Bates who defied gravity and suspended my belief, there was Ramon Fernandez but that was like once in a purple moon so you know how rare that was. So while in high school, some of my hoop crazy classmates who were hooked on the Blue Eagles (I was concerned with football and baseball) invited me to watch seniors hoops. And there was Jojo Lastimosa. Not yet the Jolas of the national squad and later of Purefoods and Alaska. But he had hops although he seemed awkward on the court. And there was Jay Gayoso who in a high school game slammed one on the NU Bullpups that everyone ran onto the floor with coach Rafael Dimalanta leading the way (he got a technical foul for that). Soon after that, there was Benjie Paras and he sure put the fear of God in many teams. But watching seniors hoops back then exposed me to Allan Caidic (UE), Glenn Capacio (FEU), Louie Alas (Adamson), Ronnie Magsanoc (UP), and Jarencio. And man, those were the days. Who knew that these guys would turn into real hoops legends? It was and always will be a fond memory watching those days when Caidic and Jarencio would shoot the daylights out of the gym. I don’t know of anything like that since. Well, maybe there were the battles between centers like Jerry Codinera and Benjie Paras, Marlou Aquino and Zandro Limpot (an amazing battle every time out in what I can best describe as dunkfests). But those shoot outs between Caidic and Jarencio were and are the stuff of legend.

As a college frosh, I saw Jarencio shoot down an Ateneo team that was young and talented. How many did he score that game? Thirty-five points? I am no longer sure. That bit fades with time. But what I do recall was him going to the Blue Eagles bench with about a minute left before he was subbed to shake the hands of each and everyone on the Ateneo team. That was classy. He knew then that team was going to win one day (and we did win two titles).

When I saw him languishing on Magnolia’s bench (they switched to San Miguel Beer the following conference), it was because that team was really deep and talented. When he found a home with Ginebra San Miguel, the Fireman was (re)born. I celebrated those “Jarencio three-points” as much as those “Jaworski three points”. I loved those death-defying drives of his with his knee protruding forward daring anyone to block those shots of his. He played with a lot of fire and emotion. Something I can empathize with. And later as a coach, I enjoyed sitting down with him and listening to those tales when it meant something to cheer “Gi-ne-bra” even if the Alaska Milkmen would routinely break our hearts.

Now as a coach, Jarencio is not only a competitor but also an entertainer and a welcome interview inside the press room (most quotable alongside Lawrence Chongson and Bert Flores). I’ve visited him quite a number of times inside the UST dugout this season and he’s taken the time to share a lot of his insights. Thanks for that. In that post-Final Four interview with many of us, he said he’ll be taking a break (about a week to recharge his batteries) from hoops as it has been non-stop from Petron to UST. His Tigers will be scattered in the D-League as UST will not field a team and the PBA’s new season opens in October 2.

Whether he’s back or not, Coach Pido has done a great job. It’s time to give him props.

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