Jong Uichico: Hardest part was saying goodbye
MANILA, Philippines—Former national coach Jong Uichico felt nothing out of the ordinary after having gotten past the hardest part of his decision to leave San Miguel Corp. (SMC) and join the Smart Gilas program.
“The hardest part was saying goodbye to SMC,” said the eight-time champion coach a day after it was officially announced that he was released by Barangay Ginebra, where—on paper—he shared head coaching duties with Siot Tanquingcen. “Imagine, I spent almost two decades with them.”
Uichico admitted he also needed to steel himself before informing the Cojuangcos of his decision. San Miguel Corp. chair Danding Cojuangco was his long-time benefactor while Henry Cojuangco headed the basketball front office for SMC during the franchise’s glory years at the turn of the millennium.
“They’re like family to me and I’ll always be forever grateful to them. I’m also thankful for the opportunities that SMC gave me.”
Uichico said he even had a “conversation” with bed-ridden mentor Ron Jacobs and discussed his decision with the stroke-hindered legendary American coach.
Uichico said he is preparing himself for his new job as part of the coaching staff of the national team program. He said he decided to accept the Smart Gilas post and leave Ginebra to give his career a fresh start.
“It was really a career decision,” he said. “I think the national team will provide me with a fresh challenge.”