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PH basketball figures mourn the great Baby Dalupan

MANILA, Philippines – Virgilio “Baby” Dalupan, fondly called “The Maestro” being the consensus greatest coach Philippine basketball has had, passed away Wednesday night. He was 92.

The entire Philippine sports circle mourned his passing – a brilliant mind with the most number of championships won in elite Philippine basketball.

From the old MICAA days, his glorious rides with the UE Warriors in the UAAP, with the Ateneo Eagles in their last years in the NCAA and to his championship exploits in the PBA – most notably with the Crispa Remanizers, Dalupan’s legendary accomplishments are immeasurable.

The Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas, the Philippine Basketball Association, champion coaches and several players he molded to become all-time greats paid tribute to the man who was, is and will forever be a true icon.

“We in SBP deeply mourn the passing of coach Baby Dalupan. He was the most multi-titled coach in elite Philippine basketball – combining his collegiate, commercial, PBA and national team stints into 52 championships,” said the SBP in a statement.

“He likewise served flag and country when he coached the national team five times in various international tournaments, including the 1959 FIBA World Championship and the 1970 Asian Games,” the statement also said. “We will miss coach Baby but will fondly keep him in our hearts and minds, always remembering.”

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Tim Cone, the man who surpassed Dalupan’s record of 15 championships in the PBA, conceded Dalupan is the greatest coach, pointing out no one can come close to matching all his titles from the amateur commercial to the pros.

“I'm so heartbroken. We lost a truly good man and the greatest coach. I will miss him terribly,” said Cone, personally chosen by Dalupan to write the foreword in his autobiography launched last year.

 “All of us in the PBA need to honor coach Baby. We need to acknowledge how he impacted us all, how he was the father of all us coaches,” Cone also said. “What I will remember about coach Baby is how far ahead of his time he was, and what a wonderful father he was to his daughters.”

Norman Black, a PBA grandslam-winning coach like Dalupan and Cone, also heaped praises to Dalupan under whom he played as import with the Great Taste team in the mid 80s.

“It was an honor to have played for coach Baby. Along with coach Tommy Manotoc, coach Baby has had the most influence on me as a basketball coach,” said Black.

“Knowing X’s and O’s is something every coach should be good at but coach Baby also taught me how to motivate and get the best out of my players,” Black added. “I’m sure even coach Tim Cone would agree that coach Baby is the best basketball mind that the country has had.”

Dalupan was coach and father figure to future cage greats including Robert Jaworski, Bogs Adornado, Atoy Co, Philip Cezar, Abet Guidaben, Freddie Hubalde, Jimmy Mariano, Alvin Patrimonio, Jerry Codinera, Allan Caidic and Ricky Brown.

Though half around the globe in the United States, Brown was among the first to extend a message of sympathy and condolences to the Dalupan family.

“A true iconic, Philippine basketball legend like no other left us all last evening. You can rest in peace now, Coach,” said Brown on his Facebook account, accompanied by a photo of him with his Great Taste coach. “This photo is the last time I saw coach Baby at his home in Manila. My last words to him were simple and real: ‘Thank you for everything you did for me. Love you always, coach Baby. Take good care and God bless.’"

After taking Crispa and Great Taste to greatness in the PBA, Dalupan had his farewell championship ride with Purefoods in the 1990 Third Conference curiously versus Cone and Alaska.

In their lone championship showdown, Dalupan bested Cone, steering Patrimonio and his teammates to an amazing rally from 0-2 down in a best-of-five finale.

“Philippine basketball has just lost the epitome of coaching greatness. Thank you for the memories coach Baby,” said Rene Pardo, representative of San Miguel Purefoods Corp. (Star Hotshots) to the PBA board.

PBA commissioner Chito Narvasa personally experienced the mentorship, care and guidance of Dalupan in their days at Ateneo.

“Many words have already been used to describe the greatness of the man, brilliant, courageous, innovative, magical, determined, etc., until eventually he was aptly described as ‘an imaginative mentor, an artist with delicate brush strokes molding obscure fellows into methodical, conspiring cage killers.’ His presence did not diminish his players’ talents but instead nurtured these and made them better,” said Narvasa, among Dalupan’s key stalwarts in Ateneo’s back-to-back NCAA championships in the late 70s along with Padim Israel, Joy Carpio and Steve Watson.

“All throughout his career, he conducted himself with integrity, dignity, class, decency and respect for others. Yet in spite of all his achievements and recognitions, the man remained incredibly humble. He raised the prestige of a basketball coach so high that he inspired many others to follow in his footsteps,” Narvasa also said.

“To Tita Nenang and the family of coach Baby, on behalf of the PBA community, please accept our sincerest sympathies on his passing. He will forever be engraved in our hearts as the father of Philippine basketball coaches,” Narvasa added.

Chot Reyes, another champion PBA coach, said he was inspired by Dalupan whom he called: “My inspiration, mentor, friend – The Maestro.”

Dalupan was among the 12 great individuals who made the first batch of honorees enshrined in the PBA Hall of Fame in 2005. In 1994, the PBA Press Corps honored him by naming after him the trophy handed to the Coach of the Year in the annual PBAPC Awards. Dalupan had also been award a Lifetime Achievement Award by the Philippine Sports Association.

Before the San Miguel Beer-Globalport game Friday at the Big Dome, the PBA will observe a moment of silence then pay him a tribute, offering “a final buzzer.”

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