From legendary coach Virgilio “Baby” Dalupan to the “Living Legend” Robert “Sonny” Jaworski and to sharpshooter Allan Caidic, University of the East has been a force to reckon with in the UAAP men’s basketball tournament, having won 18 championships overall in a tie with perennial rival University of Santo Tomas.
The Red Warriors, however, struggled to get back on top since a potent UE team, bannered by Caidic and solid big man Jerry Codiñera, ruled the country’s premier collegiate league in back-to-back fashion from 1984 to 1985 over UST gunslinger Pido Jarencio and the Growling Tigers (then known as Glowing Goldies).
While most of the credit has been given to Caidic and Codiñera, who were RP Youth Team standouts then, the Red Warriors won’t make it to the top—in successive feat—without the most crucial part of every championship crew.
“Napaka-selfless ng team na ‘yun,” Jimmy Mariano, the architect behind that Red Warriors’ success, told FOX Sports in a phone interview on Friday.
“Kahit may Allan at Jerry ako sa team, ‘yung other players, they are willing to sacrifice para matulungan ‘yung dalawa.”
Mariano, 75, proudly referred to the likes of David “Boycie” Zamar, George Ella, Orlando Javier, Carlos Fermin and Godofredo Lim-Uy Jr, father of actor Xian, among others, who composed UE’s “The Others” that helped UE become the winningest school in league history in the 80s.
“Masaya sila sa ginagawa nila. Walang jealousy maski kanino. In-accept ng bawat isa ‘yun role nila sa team,” said Mariano.
Codiñera, now Arellano U’s mentor, echoed Mariano’s observation.
“Very glaring ‘yung 1-2 punch namin—si Allan at ako. Pero malaki ‘yung trust namin sa mga kasama namin. They may be low-key players but they get the job done,” he said.
Domination over UST
The Red Warriors met the Glowing Goldies twice in the Finals, coming out victorious in both tries.
Mariano couldn’t help but feel “lucky” to have the players he wanted during the Red Warriors’ title run.
“Sa basketball or in any game, may halong swerte ang mga panalo. Kasi kung malakas ang team mo pero hindi ka sinuswerte o malas ka, hindi mangyayari ‘yun,” shared Mariano, who made his mark in the UAAP as one of UE’s top gunners during the 1960s.
“That time, napaka-swerte namin kasi ang composition ng team, willing to sacrifice,” he added.
While UST enjoyed the height advantage with the presence of several 6-foot-6 players like Nonong Espino, older brother of Dennis, Julian Rabbi Tomacruz, Raymond Fran, Gido Babilonia and Reyboy Rodriguez, UE refused to give an inch with Codiñera leading the way.
“Halos lahat ng malalaki nila (Glowing Goldies), nakalaban ko. Ayaw ko na nga isipin ang game na ‘yun kasi bugbugan talaga in terms of the physicality,” he said.
Now focused on helping the Young Turks at Cainta Catholic College learn the basics of the game he loved the most, Mariano couldn’t help but compare the difference of aspiring cagers then from now.
“Dati ang mga players, masyadong devoted ‘yan. Masyado silang devoted at naka-focus dun sa ginagawa nila,” he said.
“Ang mga players ngayon, ibang klase. Nagsisimula pa lang, gusto agad laging laman ng interview. Gusto makita agad sa TV kasi ‘yung focus nila parang makakapag-PBA na. Hindi nila iniintindi ang team. Iniintindi nila muna ‘yung sarili nila. yun ang kaibihan. Hindi muna sila sakripisyo sa school. So ‘yung loyalty bawas, hindi 100 percent.”
Good thing for Mariano, he has assembled a UE crew which put the team’s interest over anything else.
“Para sa akin, ‘yun ang talagang susi sa pagkapanalo namin. Mahirap ma-develop sa isang team ‘yung ganung characteristic. Pinapasimple lang rin kasi nila ang laro kaya lahat masaya,” he said. – Jerome Lagunzad
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