Coach Aric, 80: Dad to his UST Tigers

Philippine Daily Inquirer - - FRONT PAGE - —STORY BY MUSONG R. CASTILLO

Aric del Rosario, the well-loved bas­ket­ball coach of the Univer­sity of Santo To­mas (UST), died early Thurs­day morn­ing. The stars of the col­le­giate pow­er­house he steered to four straight ti­tles in the 1990s remember him as a coach with an eye for talent who treated his play­ers like his own sons. “He was like a sec­ond father to me,” said former UST star Ger­ard Fran­cisco. Del Rosario suc­cumbed to a mas­sive heart at­tack.

Close to 2,400 kilo­me­ters away, Ger­ard Fran­cisco heard the heart­break­ing news. “He was like a sec­ond father to me,” the former Sta. Lu­cia star in the PBA and mem­ber of two Univer­sity of Santo To­mas cham­pion teams in the UAAP told the In­quirer over the phone af­ter learn­ing of coach Aric del Rosario’s pass­ing just past mid­night on Thurs­day. “I learned a lot from the man, not only about play­ing the game, but about life.”

Del Rosario suc­cumbed to a mas­sive heart at­tack, ac­cord­ing to Fran­cisco, who talked over the phone to Lester, the coach’s old­est son who was a team­mate of Ger­ard dur­ing the Santo To­mas dy­nasty in the mid-1990s.

“He was in a very jolly mood in the morn­ing,” Fran­cisco quoted Lester as say­ing. “He was even cook­ing for the fam­ily in the morn­ing when the [heart] at­tack hap­pened. It was just one time and he passed peace­fully.”

Fran­cisco will for­ever be as­so­ci­ated with the UST Growl­ing Tigers and Del Rosario, the man who painstak­ingly built that team from scratch to win four straight ti­tles from 1993— that year be­ing the last that the league awarded the cham­pi­onship to the team that sweeps the elim­i­na­tion round.

Al­ready a per­ma­nent res­i­dent in Sin­ga­pore where his wife, Krista, is on the front line of the COVID-19 fight, Ger­ard had a lot of stories to tell dur­ing the time he played for Aric.

“Al­ways go to bed early, be­cause play­ing the fol­low­ing day lack­ing the needed rest is bad for your knees,” Fran­cisco said in Filipino, re­call­ing one of Del Rosario’s ad­vice to him that he al­ways heeded.

“His pas­sion for the game and his eye for talent are what I remember most dur­ing my time with coach Aric,” Pa­trick Fran, a mem­ber of the sweep team, said. “I have never seen any­one have such an eye for talent that coach Aric had.”

“Imag­ine, we had a player, Nor­man Loyao, who was a full-time sem­i­nar­ian,” Fran said. “That’s the eye that coach had—he en­listed a sem­i­nar­ian and I don’t know of any school in the UAAP which had that type of a player. And he (Loyao) was good—you can ask Johnny A (Abar­ri­en­tos) be­cause Loyao gave him all sorts of prob­lems.”

Del Rosario, a scor­ing star for the then-glow­ing Goldies in the 1960s, just turned 80 on Jan. 2. Aside from his ex­ploits with his alma mater, he was as­sis­tant to Tim Cone dur­ing the most glo­ri­ous years of Alaska in the PBA, count­ing the Grand Slam of 1996. He also was the first coach to win a ti­tle in the de­funct Metropoli­tan Bas­ket­ball As­so­ci­a­tion with the Pam­panga Dragons in 1998.

But more than his con­tri­bu­tions to the game he loved, Fran­cisco and Fran knew ex­actly what coach Aric was to them.

“Def­i­nitely, it is like los­ing a father,” Fran con­cluded.

I learned a lot from the man, not only about play­ing the game, but about life

GER­ARD FRAN­CISCO Former UST star

—PDI AR­CHIVES

His ex­ploits may be just faded pho­to­graphs in old, dusty news­pa­per ar­chives, but in the hearts of the lives he touched, Aric del Rosario’s memory will for­ever shine bright.

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