The Maestro of Philippine Basketball, Virgilio "Baby" Dalupan. Photo by Arvin Lim
Legends pay tribute to beloved coach
MANILA, Philippines – Up to this day, Virgilio "Baby" Dalupan is considered as one of the very best coaches, if the not the best ever, in Philippine basketball folklore.
From 1975 until his retirement in 1991, he coached three PBA teams: the fabled Crispa Redmanizers, Great Taste Coffee/Presto, and Purefoods. Along the way, he racked a total of 15 PBA titles and was the winningest PBA coach for 23 years until Tim Cone broke his record with a 16th PBA crown in 2014.
Dalupan was winning titles even before he stepped into the PBA. He won a total of 20 collegiate titles as head coach of University of the East and Ateneo De Manila University, aside from leading Crispa to 10 championships during pre-PBA era.
The “Maestro,” as his fans affectionately call him, also led the Philippine national team to a title finish in 1970.
On Monday, his fellow legends paid tribute to the PBA giant at the Ateneo De Manila University as he turned 92.
Former PBA player and coach Robert "Sonny" Jaworski said he would never forget Dalupan, who mentored him during his UE days.
“I played with him for four years. It was very fortunate that out of the eight tournaments, we won seven,” the “Big J” said. “It's a treasured opportunity... he's a very decent man, he's also extremely patient and kind.”
“The best thing about him is he knows who the guy who gonna do this, who's the guy who's gonna do that… he's very good at that.”
READ: Book on coach Baby Dalupan's life launched
Jaworski said his respect for his former mentor did not diminish even when their teams faced off in the PBA.
“Alam mo ‘yung first love hindi mo malilimutan yan, para kaming magsing-irog na naghiwalay pero iniisip ang bawat isa. Alam kong mahal niya ko at mahal ko rin siya.”
Another rival, former PBA coach Dante Silverio, said Dalupan brought out the best in him during the Crispa-Toyota rivalry in the 1970’s.
Silverio won their first two title jousts against Crispa in 1975. Dalupan, however, foiled Silverio’s Grand Slam hopes by taking the championship during the third conference.
“Coaching against Baby? It's scary because Baby is one of the fiercest coach you can encounter in basketball,” said Silverio.
“But I did have a lot of fun doing it because he made a coach out of me. He's always in the desire of somebody up and coming. Baby taught me a lot. I learned a lot from Baby when it comes to basketball.”
Some of his players remembered Dalupan for his strict style of coaching. He would never hesitate to bench or suspend a star player who wasn’t giving his best.
“Si coach, disciplinarian, sobra,” said “Tapal King” Philip Cesar. “Sinuspindi din ako nyan, not once but twice. [‘Yung star player] wala sa kanya iyon eh. Basta nakikita nyang tinatamad ka, ‘di maganda ang performance mo, lagot ka.”
Coach "Baby" Dalupan, PBA Commissioner Chito Narvasa and Barangay Ginebra coach Tim Cone. Photo by Arvin Lim.
William “Bogs” Adornado remembered how Dalupan sent one of his players home for coming late to games and practices.
“Si Fabiosa madalas ma-late talaga yun maski sa practice sa games. One time, sa Araneta ang game, late na naman, hindi niya pinag-play,” said Crispa’s former small forward. “Pinauwi n'ya.”
But both Cesar and Adornado agreed that Dalupan has that special talent in picking the right players for the right situation.
“Ang nakikita ko sa kanya eh marunong siyang mamili ng player, marunong maglaro, hindi marunong maglaro, alam nya kung paano sila gamitin,” said Cesar. “'Pag kinuha ka niya, alam niya kung saan ka niya ilalagay.”
“Ako, mahal ko yan. Kahit marami akong karanasan diyan.”
Perhaps the best description of Dalupan came from the last coach he defeated for a PBA championship -- Tim Cone.
Cone had his first taste of the PBA Finals during the 1990 PBA Third Conference, but ran against Dalupan and his Purefoods squad.
Cone remembered having conversation with Dalupan and his family regarding what the fabled basketball personality did during his coaching heydays.
“The one thing about those stories is every time Coach Baby spoke, he never used the word I or me,” said Cone. “It was always ‘us’ or ‘we,’ it was always about the players or other coaches or always someone other than himself. He always deflected the credit for any of his accomplishments.”
“For me it’s was a true lesson in humility. The greatest coach of our time, and it was never about him. And that's my greatest insight in why he was the greatest coach, the ‘Maestro.’” -- With a report from TJ Manotoc, ABS-CBN News