Rebound Magazine - - UAAPCOACHES - by Sid Ven­tura

WHEN SEA­SON 74 OF THE UAAP UN­WRAPS THIS JULY, THREE OF THE EIGHT TEAMS WILL HAVE NEW FACES CALL­ING THE SHOTS. THE UE RED WAR­RIORS HAVE CALLED UPON ONE OF THEIR BEST PLAY­ERS OF ALL TIME, JERRY CODIÑERA, TO TRY AND LEAD THEM IN THE POST-PAUL LEE ERA. THE NU BULL­DOGS HAVE HIRED VET­ERAN COACH ERIC AL­TAMI­RANO TO GUIDE THEIR YOUNG AND PROMIS­ING TEAM. AND THE UP FIGHT­ING MA­ROONS HAVE BROUGHT IN FOR­MER PLAYER AND COACH­ING LIFER RICKY DAN­DAN TO RES­UR­RECT THEIR MORI­BUND BAS­KET­BALL PRO­GRAM. Be­fore land­ing head coach­ing po­si­tions in the coun­try’s most pres­ti­gious col­le­giate league, Codiñera, Al­tami­rano and Dan­dan all paid their dues and worked their way up the coach­ing lad­der. Even be­fore that, they all shared the same court as fel­low play­ers in the UAAP back in the 1980s. Along the way to the here and now, their paths crossed sev­eral times in the na­tional team, the PABL, and the PBA. So af­ter all they’ve been through, it seems fit­ting that they will now com­pete against each other as head coaches.

We at Re­bound thought it would be in­ter­est­ing to look back at the ca­reers of the three, start­ing from when they were young play­ers in the UAAP. Al­tami­rano and Dan­dan were team­mates in UP for three sea­sons (1983-85), and one of their most in­tim­i­dat­ing op­po­nents was Codiñera, the tal­ented cen­ter of UE.

The 86 Sea­son and Be­yond

The three coaches share many com­mon ex­pe­ri­ences, in­clud­ing hav­ing played for Joe Lipa at one point in their play­ing ca­reers, but per­haps the most sig­nif­i­cant event that they were all part of was the 1986 sea­son, which cul­mi­nated in a cham­pi­onship se­ries be­tween UP and UE.

Dan­dan wasn’t part of that star-stud­ded UP lineup, hav­ing grad­u­ated the year be­fore, but he was on the Ma­roons’ bench as a neo­phyte as­sis­tant. “I was an ap­pren­tice back then,” he re­calls. “I last played in ’85, so in ’86 Coach Joe took me un­der his wing.”

He re­mem­bers how Al­tami­rano flu­idly ran the Ma­roons’ of­fense. “Ben­jie (Paras) was the main scor­ing threat in the post. Ron­nie (Magsanoc) was the main scor­ing threat in the perime­ter. Eric would cre­ate sit­u­a­tions for them. So that time, from the stand­point of coach­ing, you could re­ally see the value of Eric.

“Now, if you were UP’s op­po­nent, masakit ta­laga sa ulo iy­ong ’86 cham­pion team naiyon be­cause a lot of play­ers could hurt you. UP for the long­est time was known as a dough­nut team dahil walang gitna. When Ben­jie ar­rived, that plugged that big hole in the mid­dle. Then af­ter that, they had Joey Men­doza, Duane Sal­vaterra, Joey Guanio.”

Such a loaded ros­ter needed the right quar­ter­back, and in Dan­dan’s mind, Al­tami­rano fit the bill to per­fec­tion. “Eric was a cat­a­lyst. That team wouldn’t have gone that far with­out him.”

Codiñera echoes this as­sess­ment. “Feeder ta­laga siya (Al­tami­rano). May­roong Magsanoc doonna shooter. Point guard ta­laga siya. He di­rected play like a coach on the floor. Mata­gal kam­ing nag­ing team­mate, first sa RP team then sa com­mer­cial leagues. Masi­pag si Eric, very hard worker. Sa train­ing, very de­tailed siya. He may be slow, pero pass­first siya and shoot later.”

Al­tami­rano cred­its Dan­dan with help­ing his de­vel­op­ment as a point guard. “I have a lot of re­spect for Ricky Dan­dan. Even when we were play­ing to­gether, he was very heady. I al­ways asked (for) his in­puts and ad­vice when I was a rookie. He was the one who guided me when I was just start­ing in UP.”

Codiñera re­mem­bers Dan­dan as a for­ward who could shoot and de­fend. “ Kumpleto din siya,” he noted. Dan­dan ac­tu­ally played point guard in his early years with UP, but moved to shoot­ing guard and small for­ward once Al­tami­rano and Magsanoc ar­rived.

In the days be­fore the Fi­nal Four, the top team had a twice-to-beat ad­van­tage over the sec­ond-place team. UE topped the elim­i­na­tions with a 13-1 record, while UP was tied with FEU at sec­ond with an 11-3 record. The War­riors were gun­ning for a three-peat that sea­son, and they were led by Codiñera, the con­sen­sus top ama­teur cen­ter of the time. He posed a big chal­lenge for UP, with Paras still a rookie and not yet the dom­i­nant force he would be­come in the PBA.

“That was our battle cry, to make sure that Jerry does not beat us,” Al­tami­rano said. “He was the pil­lar of that UE team. We were just lucky that we beat them in the cham­pi­onship.”

“Jerry was one of the few early big men who played both in­side and out­side,” Dan­dan said. “In 1986, he was the cen­ter of UE. But Coach Joe, I re­mem­ber, de­signed a lot of de­fen­sive stunts for Jerry. So me­dy­ona-negate iy­ong ad­van­tage ni Jerry in­side.”

The Ma­roons ousted the Ta­ma­raws in a knock­out match to make it to the fi­nals. They stunned the War­riors in the first game, 86-75, to set up a win­ner-takeall Game 2, where the pass-first point guard Al­tami­rano sud­denly showed off his of­fen­sive skills, scor­ing a game high 26 points to lead UP to a 98-89 tri­umph and its first UAAP ti­tle in 46 years.

“ Na-twice-to-beat kami at that time,” Codiñera re­calls. “They had the nu­cleus of San Beda. Ang lak­ing tra­baho noong kal­a­ban nam­i­nangUP.”

Coach­ing Beck­ons

A few weeks be­fore the cham­pi­onship se­ries, Al­tami­rano

and Codiñera joined Magsanoc, Alvin Pat­ri­mo­nio, Jojo Lastimosa, Samboy Lim and Al­lan Caidic on the Lipa-coached na­tional team that bagged a bronze medal in the Seoul Asian Games.

The fol­low­ing year, Al­tami­rano was left off the na­tional team, but Codiñera was re­tained. On the bench, Lipa brought in Dan­dan as one of his new as­sis­tants. That be­gan a se­ries of in­stances where Codiñera would play for a team that had Dan­dan as an as­sis­tant.

“As­sis­tant ta­laga namin iyan,” said Codiñera of Dan­dan. “ Sa RP team, tapos sa Philips Sar­dines nag­ing guest player ako. Then sa FedEx sa PBA, magkakasama kami.”

Codiñera and Al­tami­rano both turned pro in 1988. But while the for­mer would go on to have a long, fruit­ful ca­reer, the lat­ter strug­gled with in­juries and only played six sea­sons.

It was dur­ing his play­ing days, how­ever, that Al­tami­rano would get his first taste of coach­ing. He was asked to coach the bas­ket­ball team of the UP Col­lege of Mass Com­mu­ni­ca­tion in the univer­sity in­tra­mu­rals, which he did from 1991 to 1992. Two of his play­ers were a cat-quick point guard named Ryan Gre­go­rio and mati­nee idol Richard Gomez. With Al­tami­rano call­ing the shots, the CMC team won the in­tra­mu­rals ti­tle in 1992. The competition wasn’t ex­actly over­whelm­ing, and most of the other col­leges didn’t even have a head coach, but the ex­pe­ri­ence was ben­e­fi­cial for Al­tami­rano nonethe­less.

Like his for­mer team­mate, Dan­dan also got started in the UP in­tra­mu­rals as coach of the ISPEAR (now CHK) team. From the very start he knew he wanted to be a coach, since un­like Al­tami­rano and Codiñera, he wasn’t a pro prospect. “It wasn’t an ac­ci­dent,” Dan­dan says of his ven­ture into coach­ing. “Even back then, and Coach Joe knows this, I was al­ways ask­ing him about cer­tain things. I was not a very good ath­lete. I was a third rung point guard. Then Coach Joe, kita na­man niya na masi­pag ako, hindi ako nag-aab­sent sa en­sayo, hi­nana­pan niya ako ng po­sisyon sa team. So I played, one, two, three, and some­times an ex­tremely un­der­sized four.

“Mostly I was sitting on the bench rather than play­ing on the floor. That got me think­ing of try­ing to learn the game from a teach­ing stand­point. And then I started coach­ing in the (UP) col­lege in­tra­mu­rals. For my practicum in St. Jude in Tan­dang Sora, I formed their first var­sity team there. So tu­loy-tu­loy na.”

“When Ricky got into coach­ing,” Al­tami­rano re­calls, “I had so much re­spect for him. I think he’s one of the (most) in­tel­li­gent coaches that we have in the Philip­pines.”

Dan­dan went on to coach the Univer­sity of St. La Salle in Ba­colod for six years, re­turn­ing to Manila in 1998 to coach the Manila Metros­tars in the in­au­gu­ral sea­son of the Metropoli­tan Bas­ket­ball As­so­ci­a­tion. The fol­low­ing year, Lipa was ap­pointed head coach of the Ate­neo Blue Ea­gles, and he brought in Dan­dan as his chief as­sis­tant. Af­ter Lipa stepped down in early 2002, Ate­neo asked Dan­dan to stay on as di­rec­tor of the univer­sity’s bas­ket­ball pro­gram, a po­si­tion he held un­til he was ap­pointed UP coach.

Al­tami­rano ac­tu­ally coached UP as well, al­beit much ear­lier, lead­ing the Ma­roons to the Fi­nal Four in 1996 be­fore ac­cept­ing the head coach­ing po­si­tion of the Pure­foods Hot­dogs the fol­low­ing year. In his very first con­fer­ence, Al­tami­rano led the Hot­dogs to the All-Filipino Con­fer­ence crown. His start­ing cen­ter? None other than Codiñera.

It was dur­ing this re­con­nec­tion that Al­tami­rano saw Codiñera’s po­ten­tial to be a coach. “With Jerry, even when he was play­ing for me, I knew that he had a knack for coach­ing be­cause when I was a rookie coach, he helped me a lot. His in­puts were very valu­able to me. So I knew al­ready then that this guy can be a good coach.”

On the other hand, Codiñera re­mem­bers Al­tami­rano as a very strict coach. “ Grabe, ta­la­gang drill­mas­ter siya. De­tailed coach. He was like… parang barkada lang. But the re­spect was there, it was mu­tual. Nag­ing prac­tice player siya, then as­sis­tant coach, then head coach. Very pro­fes­sional kami. Kung tra­baho, tra­baho. Sa

kanya, ganoon din. We won a cham­pi­onship with Coach Eric, then af­ter that we parted ways.”

Both Codiñera and Al­tami­rano even­tu­ally left Pure­foods. Codiñera was traded to Mo­bi­line for Andy Sei­gle, and wound down his ca­reer with the FedEx Ex­press, which had just ap­pointed Lipa as their new head coach. Nat­u­rally, Dan­dan was there on the bench as an as­sis­tant. It would mark the last time they would be on the same team with Codiñera as a player and Dan­dan as an as­sis­tant.

“I was an as­sis­tant coach when Jerry played for us in the PBL, the na­tional team and FedEx,” Dan­dan said. “Jerry was very coach­able. Madal­ing dal­hin si Jerry. He’s very smart. Iy­ong bas­ket­ball knowl­edge niya, masyadong malalim ta­laga. As an as­sis­tant coach back then, we re­ally had no prob­lems with him. Madali niyang ma-ab­sorb la­hat. He would make coaches look good.

“Think­ing big guy siya. Puwe­deng-puwe­deng­mag-coach ta­la­gasi Jerry. He’s had a lot of ex­pe­ri­ence play­ing in the pros. He’s a le­gend in the PBA. So the kids in UE will be very for­tu­nate to have Jerry as their coach.”

Codiñera re­pays the com­pli­ment by de­scrib­ing Dan­dan as a “cool guy.”

“ Hindi siya masyadong bossy type. Very broad­minded, masarap kausap, at makita mo maram­ing wis­dom sa coach­ing.”

Af­ter re­tir­ing in 2003, Codiñera fi­nally took the plunge into coach­ing, start­ing as as­sis­tant to Boysie Za­mar on the Philip­pines’ SE­ABA team. He also had a stint as an in­tra­mu­ral coach with the La Salle Grad­u­ate School be­fore coach­ing TeleTech in the PBL for one con­fer­ence. Bo Pera­sol then took him as an as­sis­tant with Air21 for two sea­sons. Then in a cu­ri­ous twist of fate, in 2008, Codiñera some­how found him­self on the UP bench as an as­sis­tant to Aboy Cas­tro. “It was Chot (Reyes) who ad­vised me. “He said ‘Aboy got the job in UP. You want to help him?’”

Mean­while, Al­tami­rano moved over to the Mo­bi­line Phone Pals, whom he promptly led to the PBA Cen­ten­nial Cup. He even­tu­ally re­turned to Pure­foods, then joined Jong Uichico on the PBA-backed na­tional team to the Bu­san Asian Games. Af­ter briefly coach­ing the Coca-Cola Tigers in 2005, Al­tami­rano turned to bas­ket­ball train­ing, set­ting up the highly-suc­cess­ful Coach E bas­ket­ball camp and run­ning the Nokia Na­tional Bas­ket­ball Train­ing Cen­ter. Most re­cently, he coached the Philip­pine Un­der-18 team to a fifth-place fin­ish in the FIBA-Asia youth cham­pi­onships.

“ Si Eric, back in the day, you could tell that he was go­ing to be a coach some­day,” says Dan­dan. “He played point guard for our team, and he was not very ath­letic, but so to speak he was a cere­bral bas­ket­ball player. He’s a proven win­ner. He’s won a cham­pi­onship in the PBA. He’s coached the ju­nior na­tional team to one of the best fin­ishes in that age group. And he coached UP also, so I don’t think the competition in the UAAP will be strange to Eric.”

Just like Dan­dan, Al­tami­rano cred­its his for­mer UP coach with help­ing shape his coach­ing ca­reer.

“We have to give credit to our coach, Joe Lipa. His phi­los­o­phy, that’s what we got from him, me and Ricky. Some of the things that we are ap­ply­ing right now came from our for­mer coach.”

Coach­ing Against Each Other

It’s 2011, 25 years af­ter that mem­o­rable cham­pi­onship se­ries and that Asian Games bronze medal. You could say all three men have come a long way. Ev­ery­thing the three have learned as coaches, they will now have to ap­ply against each other. Of course, the UAAP isn’t just about UP, UE and NU. There are five other teams that they all have to deal with, and frankly among the three per­haps only NU can be con­sid­ered a ti­tle con­tender. But each time there will be a UP-NU, UP-UE or NU-UE game this sea­son, there will be a sub­plot in the works. Whether it’s ex-team­mate vs. ex-team­mate or coach vs. ex-player, it will make the ac­tion on the side­lines just as in­ter­est­ing as the ac­tion un­fold­ing on the court.


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