Atoy rebuilds Mapua for future
Joaquin M. Henson (The Philippine Star) - September 3, 2013 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Coach and PBA legend Atoy Co said yesterday he’s looking forward to reestablishing a winning program at Mapua but the Fortune Cookie knows it won’t be easy and there will be a lot of headaches along the way.

The Cardinals are mired in last place in the NCAA senior men’s basketball standings with a 1-9 record so far this season. Their only win was a 104-99 double overtime decision over San Sebastian last July 1. Since the victory, Mapua has lost eight in a row.

“We’re asking for patience,” said the 61-year-old Co, the PBA’s MVP in 1979. “We’re working on a three-year program but it may take as long as five years unless we’re able to recruit players like Kiefer (Ravena) and Jeron (Teng). We’ve got seven rookies and four second-year players in our lineup. It’s like we’re starting from scratch.”

Co himself is a rookie college coach. His only previous coaching stint was with Crispa when he piloted the Redmanizers to the PABL title in 1991. “Over the last two years, my friend Manny Sy would invite me to watch the UAAP and NCAA and we would analyze the games so when I was invited to coach Mapua, I was prepared,” he said. “The coaching style today is so different from how it was before. When I used to play, coaches relied on the players’ pure talent, their versatility. The game has changed. Before, the play was rough. When you drove in, expect to go down. Today, the game is still physical, a lot of body banging, elbowing but with no intention to hurt. Baby Dalupan coached by instinct and the game was wide open. Then, Tommy (Manotoc) introduced science to coaching. He installed a system, made scouting reports and taught us about rotation, helping and trapping. Tommy’s system is still applicable today with some adjustments. At Mapua, we’re using the San Beda system of (assistant coach) Ed (Cordero).”

Co said Cordero is a big help with the Cardinals. “At practice, I personally try to teach our players how to do things,” he said. “I sometimes jog and shoot with them. I teach them how to shoot the turn-around, fadeaway which was my bread-and-butter during my time. Even at my age, I think I can still keep up with the young players. Coaching involves a lot of teaching. It’s now my full-time job. I’ve given up golf and staying late at our sports bar in Metrowalk (Atoy’s) which my son, now 28, runs. I wake up at 5 or 5:30 to be at the gym by 7 to start practice. Right now, we practice at San Andres Gym while our gym is under renovation. It’s difficult if you don’t have your own gym, you can’t practice when you want to.”

Co said while this season has been a harsh experience, there is some fulfilment. “I accept our limitations,” he said. “We’ve lost some games which we could’ve won if not for late mistakes. Sometimes, we do four-hour practices. It’s like coaching a high school team, starting with basics. But I’m happy when the players do things right. We’re experiencing growing pains, difficult to accept but we must take responsibility. Discipline is very important to me. Like in (Joseph) Eriobu’s case when we benched him in the EAC game.”

Eriobu, 21, is a half-Filipino, half-Nigerian player born in Hong Kong. He went from Perpetual to NU before landing at Mapua. Against San Sebastian, he shot 30 points. But his inconsistency has been a sore point. “No matter how good you are, if you don’t defend, if you don’t rebound, if you don’t execute, I won’t play you,” said Co. “After we lost to St. Benilde by 20 points, I decided to take drastic measures. That’s when I decided to bench Eriobu, to teach him a lesson. If a player isn’t helping out, it ruins our continuity and fluidity. My job is to be like a father to the players. What I do is for the good of the team. But like a father to a son, I’m open to give players a second chance. I’ve been the Mapua coach for four months now and like the players, I’m also learning. In the EAC game, we were up, 70-69, with 6:48 left but couldn’t hold on. We made bad decisions, lost possessions and gave them the opportunity to score in transition. We threw away five chances to stay in the game and ended up losing by nine.”

Co said the challenge is recruiting players who can strengthen the Mapua program. “We’re looking at players from different high schools but they’re the same players being scouted by teams from the UAAP and NCAA,” he said. “Our priority is to upgrade our talent level. We’ve got two imports in residence, both 16. One is a 6-9 Nigerian and the other is a 6-8 Cameroonian. But they won’t be able to play until 2015. We’re trying to get better players, not as good as Kiefer but players who will want to compete.”







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