Coach Baby, a tribute

Lito Tacujan (The Philippine Star) - October 14, 2015 - 10:00am

MANILA, Philippines - The Maestro. When did the title become part of the man? When did Baby Dalupan become the Maestro?

The Maestro is the title of the book on Baby Dalupan, the country’s legendary coach whom Ateneo is honoring on his 91st birthday with its formal launching Monday.

And we’re sure Baby Dalupan deserved to be called the Maestro for being a coaching icon revered by his peers and a distinguished gentleman of the game.

But we’re not sure if he’s comfortable with it. In fact, during the war years of the great PBA rivalry no one knew him as being as one.

And we’re sure the man, ever so humble, would be sitting, nay, enduring the entire proceedings uneasy being called that way.

For us in the sports beat who covered his many exploits in the 70s and early 80s, he was simply Coach Baby or, on a personal touch, a straight-forward and endearing “Coach.”

He was never the Maestro, because being one would entail breathtaking virtuoso performance on given occasions.

Not for Coach Baby. Virtuoso performance was like an everyday feat for the frail, lean man, particularly during the height of the Crispa-Toyota feud.

“Good game, Coach,” we would say after one of those epic encounters as his old kumpare the amiable Danny Floro stood nearby.

And always a man of few words then, he would utter terse, simple, even homespun postgame remarks.

He was never the articulate present-day mold of mentors who would fire away volumes, citing highlights and stats.

“Maganda laro ng mga bata,” he would say, dry and clean as the swish through the net of a trey.

They played well? He had just performed a swift incision and taken the heart of the fallen enemy and exposed it for everyone in the tumultuous Big Dome to look and marvel at some moments ago.

But that was Coach D, ever reticent, letting the players relish the trimmings of victories, of ghastly routs and great escapes.

It was often said during the Crispa glory years that the team was easy to handle and steer to the championship because it was oozing with talents.

How gravely wrong they were. It took a Baby Dalupan to strip away their bloated egos, put a rein on their self -esteem and blended them into one deadly unit that devastated the opposition.

He was a father and big brother to the star- studded Redmanizers, drawing awe, inspiration and respect, instilling discipline, determination, the virtue of hard work.

 He shared their joy and felt their pain.

Perhaps it was the secret for his longevity in the cut-throat world of the pro league.

It wasn’t being steeped on the new trend and technology that had become the main components of contemporary coaching.

But the care and concern for each player as he has shown proved a huge motivational tool and they responded and paid him back through many a crown and a grand slam.

For sure, it wasn’t the records and number of titles he earned through the years, and for which he is being honored but the memorable games that at the buzzer appeared like a virtual art work, a combine of disparate parts and individual skills flawlessly put together by the quiet man hunched on the far end of the team bench.

Those would be his legacy. And they will live on and forever embellish this nation’s basketball past and if by chance they got lost in the mists of time, Coach Baby’s place in the league remains secure.

For the genius of the man will forever manifest themselves in the generations of players who have been fortunate to be under his stern and strict tutelage.

And for us who were witness to the highs and lows of his career and would long remember the dramatic twists and turns of the games leading to a fitting climax like a classic piece of music under the baton of the man they later called the Maestro.

Congratulations and thanks for the memory, Coach.


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