Thank you, coach Baby Dalupan
LIKE many Filipinos of your era, you were given a little boy nickname in childhood. You must have been a beautiful baby to be given such a delightful name. And the tag stuck, long after you grew to handle men in their athletic pursuits.
It’s never an easy task mind you, what with all the egos in a basketball team and only 40 minutes of playing time to share.
And yet you did it superbly. You taught us how to deal with players as adults, whether they were college superstars, professional league heroes or the last person on the bench. Each one had a role to play and they played it to the hilt whether it was Crispa, Ateneo, the national team, Great Taste or Purefoods. Each player knew they were part of something special when it was a Baby Dalupan team.
And each time you were hoisted in that traditional victory ride, you relished the moment with your players, and then explained that you were so lucky to be coaching such great talent. You humbly claimed it was never about you but we who were on the sidelines of your greatness knew a little more, I guess.
You were the “Maestro” in fielding players, knowing exactly when to send in a scoring star or a benchwarmer waiting for that one moment in time. They all responded and your titles in all levels you coached are testaments to your great skill.
The coaches you faced will also have their tributes to you, just as when we toasted you when we launched your book. Tim Cone considers you the father of all Philippine coaches. Yeng Guaio never has a regular starting five as a subtle salute to you. The players you coached, who now call their own shots in different leagues and have their own Dalupan moments in an offensive pattern inspired by you.
We who followed you have other stories: I stood beside you in a bonfire Ateneo hastily staged after winning its second straight NCAA championship in 1976. As the blaze lit up school spirit, you were there, proud to be an alumnus but perhaps prouder as a father to a team of young men who carved a memory for a lifetime.
The equally young men and women in that bonfire were just as proud having you there. Bonfires were not planned events back then and the spontaneity of it all and your presence made it more endearing.
Then, when I was lucky enough to break into the PBA as an announcer, I watched how you masterfully juggled your Great Taste and Purefoods rosters to score victories and championships.
As I had written before, my favorite moment was when your Great Taste was leading by two and you told my classmate Joy Carpio in a huddle to make the first free throw and deliberately miss the second since there were only two seconds left.
Carpio worries when I tell this story because people may misinterpret the move. But no, it was pure Dalupan smarts. Off the miss, all the players grappled for the rebound, time expired and Great Taste won.
There are more stories to tell and they will be retold as your players, rivals, family, friends and schoolmates come to pay their final respects to you. It should be a time for wonderful reminiscing of a baby who lived a full life, touching countless others and leaving our sporting world inspired.
Thank you, coach Baby.
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