Baby Dalupan’s genius: Lessons from a maestro
A loving tribute-cum-birthday party was held for coaching legend Virgilio “Baby” Dalupan this week. Now 92 years old but still sprightly and sharp despite struggling with his eyesight, Dalupan cherished the company of family, colleagues and his former players from different eras.
A book titled “The Maestro of Philippine Basketball” was launched at the event at Singson Hall of the Ateneo Grade School. Like most works of this kind, it took some time from conception to actual production.
Two of Dalupan’s seven daughters, Ebing and Jojo, intimated to me that the coach even doubted if anybody would be interested in his story. “Ang kapal ata? [It’s quite thick],” Dalupan uttered when he first felt the finished product. The book is rightfully thick because it is loaded with pictures and text bringing back to life Dalupan’s illustrious basketball career.
Dalupan clearly mattered to the generations he touched or battled against. Current PBA conference champion leader Tim Cone, who had overtaken Dalupan’s previous record, glowingly called him “the father of all us coaches.”
An acknowledged Toyota fan, Cone marveled at how Dalupan’s teams just kept on winning. He even found this out when he tried to win his first PBA title at Dalupan’s expense, leading his Alaska team to a 2-0 lead in a best-of-five against Purefoods. In masterful fashion, Dalupan rallied his young players and bounced back to win the title by taking the next three games.
But how should the present generation look at Dalupan? The book presents several lessons from a life well lived, doing what one was passionate about and having a ball along the way.
First lesson is to trust your players and treat them as adults. Cone said Dalupan was a “leader of men.”
Alvin Patrimonio revealed that Dalupan’s practices were not that hard but you were expected to deliver when called to perform. Dalupan considered his players as responsible individuals, until they show him otherwise.
This allowed players to be good performers in a basketball system that was easy to understand. It was based on common sense.
Robert Jaworski, who played on those University of the East champion teams under Dalupan, related in the launch that the coach chided a teammate who kept yelling, “Rebound!” whenever he took a shot. Dalupan said that the player did not trust his shot but changed his attitude when the coach asked him to stop clamoring for an offensive rebound before shooting.
The second lesson is keep opponents guessing. Much has been said about Rain or Shine Yeng Guiao’s unpredictability with his starting lineup and has been said to be patterned after Dalupan’s style. Players just knew that they could be called to start and had to be ready. Opponents had to be prepared as well for Dalupan’s player shuffling.
Third, is to read the game situation. I was already covering him when one of my favorite slices of Dalupan coaching occurred. He was with Great Taste then when an opponent called a timeout to map out a play for the last two seconds should Joy Carpio make two free throws. Great Taste was leading by a point.
In his huddle, Dalupan asked how much time was left, and then told Carpio: “Pasok mo ’yung una, mintis mo ’yung pangalawa [Make the first and miss the second].” A decent free throw shooter, Carpio wondered about the instructions. “Hayaan mong magkagulo sa rebound [Let them go crazy for the rebound],” Dalupan added.
Carpio followed Dalupan to the letter, made the first and missed the second. Time expired while the players fought for the rebound. Two seconds expired and Dalupan and Great Taste walked home with the win.
Dalupan’s genius and mastery will be relevant for coaches for all time. That’s what maestros have done.