Jacobs' greatest games

SPORTING CHANCE - Joaquin M. Henson -

Last Tuesday, PBA Hall of Famer and legendary American basketball coach Ron Jacobs turned 69. He received visitors in his Makati condominium unit although still unable to speak and walk after suffering a stroke 10 years ago.

Jacobs is bedridden but cared for with love and devotion by his wife Menen. Despite his disability, Jacobs is well-nourished and looked after. His hair is regularly cut with no white speck visible. Jacobs continues to be supported by San Miguel Corp. chairman Eduardo (Danding) Cojuangco Jr. and president Ramon Ang who provide the necessary resources to give him round-the-clock professional care. Without the backing of Cojuangco and Ang, Menen said she wouldn’t know how to sustain Jacobs’ life and is forever grateful to his benefactors.

There is some disfigurement in Jacobs’ body because of atrophy even as he undergoes daily therapy. But his mind is alive and for every breath that he takes, Menen has hope that someday, with God’s help, he will recover.

On his birthday, Jacobs’ visitors included Rep. Henry Cojuangco (1st District, Tarlac), Joseph Uichico and wife Cathy, Allan Caidic and wife Milotte, Binky Favis and wife Ella, Juno Sauler and wife Agnes, Danny Ildefonso and wife Ren, Atoy Co and wife Monette, Samboy Lim, Olsen Racela, Siot Tanquingcen, Art de la Cruz and Hector Calma.

“Coach Ron looked good and was happy to see old friends,” said Uichico. “He stayed in bed. We went to his room two or three at a time and he recognized us. His hair was just cut and he was well-groomed.”

Jacobs, a former West Coast Athletic Conference Coach of the Year with Loyola Marymount University, went to Manila in 1980 on Cojuangco’s invitation to take over the national team’s helm. He fell in love with the country and settled here. Jacobs won a PBA title with Northern Consolidated in 1985 but his three most unforgettable victories were at the Asian Youth Championships in 1982, the Jones Cup in 1985 and the Asian Basketball Confederation (FIBA-Asia) Championships in 1986.

* * * *

As a tribute to Jacobs, let’s recall his greatest basketball moments.

Before a standing-room-only crowd of 30,000 that included First Lady Imelda Marcos, Jacobs piloted the Philippines to the Asian Youth title at the Araneta Coliseum on Oct. 17, 1982. The Philippines beat China, 74-63, in the finals with the late Alfie Almario firing 20 points. Calma compiled 11 points, eight rebounds and seven assists in 36 minutes. The late Teddy Alfarero contributed 10 points and five rebounds. The other players in the squad were Uichico, Jun Tan, Louie Brill, Tonichi Yturri, the late Rey Cuenco, Richard Mendoza, Elmer Reyes, Leo Austria and Derick Pumaren.

The Philippines led, 35-31, at the half in the game officiated by Uruguay’s Mario Hoppenhaym and American Ron Omori. The Filipinos’ defense led to 23 Chinese turnovers, leading to 10 more field goal attempts, and they also shot 13 more free throws. Wang Libin tallied 19 points for China with Zhang Yongjun chipping in 13, Wang Fei 11 and Min Lu Lei, 10.  

* * * *

In July 1985, Jacobs once more brought honor to the Philippines as he steered San Miguel Corp. to a 108-100 overtime win over the highly favored US All-Star collegiate selection for the Jones Cup crown in Taipei. Purdue University’s Gene Keady called the shots for the Americans who were bannered by future NBA cagers 6-10 Joe Wolf, 6-8 Kenny Gattison, 6-7 Harold Pressley and 6-4 Kevin Henderson. The US team also listed 6-0 Tommy Amaker and 6-8 Jay Bilas of Duke, 6-3 Anthony Watson, 6-5 Carven Holcombe, 6-11 John Brownlee, 6-4 Frank Ford, 6-4 Troy Lewis and 6-6 Todd Mitchell.

San Miguel’s cast was made up of naturalized players Chip Engelland, Jeff Moore, Dennis Still, Lim, Caidic, Calma, Franz Pumaren, Yturri, Yves Dignadice, Almario, Tan and Reyes. Reserves were Jerry Codiñera, Peter Aguilar, Al Solis and Naning Valenciano. Tournament organizers allowed the Philippines to suit up three naturalized players as they carried Filipino passports. 

In the title contest, the teams battled to a 40-all halftime count. After the US opened a six-point lead in the second half, Lim erupted for three straight triples and Caidic sparked an 11-2 burst that put San Miguel on top by seven with nine minutes left. But the US stormed back and led, 87-86, with 14 ticks to go. Moore sank a free throw to send it into extension which the Filipinos dominated.

Engelland finished with 43 points, spiked by eight triples. Lim and Caidic combined for 42. Gattison led the US with 28 points. Keady was humbled by the setback and in his autobiography, never mentioned the stain of bowing to the Philippines.

* * * *

Then came the ABC Championships in Kuala Lumpur. Jacobs led the Philippines to an 82-72 win over China for the title on Jan. 5, 1986.  Unlike in the Jones Cup, FIBA allowed only two naturalized players for each national team. Jacobs chose Moore and Still to combine forces with Caidic, Lim, Calma, Dignadice, Reyes, Franz Pumaren, Yturri, Almario, Codiñera, Pido Jarencio and Benjie Gutierrez.

A crowd of 10,000, including Cojuangco and his wife Gretchen, showed up at the Stadium Negara to witness the Philippines’ victory in the 13th edition of what is now the FIBA-Asia Championships. The previous Philippine triumph in the competition was in 1973. The Philippines has not won the title since Jacobs’ feat. Referees Gordon Allan Rae of Canada and Necit Kapanli of Turkey worked the contest.

Caidic paced the Philippines with 22 points and Lim netted 16. “We were mentally fatigued,” said Jacobs after the victory. “This was the most strenuous job we’ve done. We may have won easy but it was the toughest I’ve ever done.”

Jacobs also captured a Jones Cup crown for the Philippines, represented by Northern Cement, in 1981 but those three plums – the 1982 Asian Youth, the 1985 Jones Cup and the 1986 ABC titles – were by far the most memorable championships in his storybook career. Jacobs, a legend in his own time, will always be revered as the man who revolutionized Philippine basketball and brought the game to the next level.











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