The Evolution of Jerry Codinera, Arellano Chiefs
( - September 7, 2016 - 9:11am

MANILA, Philippines – The Big Man issued Big Man instructions.

“(Mike) Nzeusseu has started to get into the game and he likes to get the ball here,” he pointed out using a white board marker. “The first thing is to deny the entry pass then making sure that he doesn’t get to his strong side. Deny him that position so he will pass out. If not, double immediately. If he goes for the shot, he will use the glass so be ready to cut off the angle.”

The Big Man, who made a name for himself as a defensive stud in the UAAP and later in the PBA, then looked at his guards.

“We’re gotten into early foul trouble in each quarter, guys,” he underscored. “Adjust tayo sa tawag. Play the passing lane but be careful sa sundot at reach-ins. Know who they want to give the ball. Make good reads.”

The evolution of Jerry Codinera from a top — and I do mean top-as-in-one-of-those-GOAT — player to head coach has been a quantum leap. While manning the slot for the University of the East Warriors during the mid-1980s, he oft barked orders on who was cutting, sneaking in, and for teammates, who was missing his man. That meant he read the game well, something that the late great Baby Dalupan quickly harnessed.

In the PBA, that rock in the middle was nicknamed “the Defense Minister” and also for his scoring prowess was named one of its 40 best of all time.

The jump came for Jerry Codinera came when he served as a skills coach under head coach Aboy Castro for a couple of years in the University of the Philippines. There he worked with bigs like Magi Sison and Raul Soyud.

“Yung mga drills niya sa amin at yung mga moves, siya lang nag-imbento nun,” laughed Sison at the memory. "As in yung mga dukot sa ilalim ng ring, mga hang time sa pag-lay-up plus yung mga kunting gulang moves. Lahat yan tumatak sa akin. At magaling din siya mag-motivate."

Codinera's return to his alma mater as head coach did not merit success, and there were doubts as to his ability. Not after an unhappy reunion, he surfaced at Arellano University and turned a previously underachieving team into a power.

In his first year with the Chiefs, they went to the NCAA finals where they were felled by San Beda. Arellano was no fluke. And they have continued to contend to this day.

No one is doubting his coaching chops anymore.

The Chiefs are in a dogfight. Tabbed as a pre-NCAA contender for the crown that seems to be slipping from Letran, they have found it rough sailing.

“It hasn’t been easy,” says Codinera inside the AU locker room some 30 minutes before tip-off. A few of his players, including national team player Jiovani Jalalon, are sprawled on the floor; getting stretched.

“That says something about the competition of the league. But that is the way it should be. A championship is sweeter when you work for it and it isn’t handed to you,” he added.

He knows all too well how fleeting success can be. While playing for the Warriors, he won the first two titles of his college career then lost then next two finals series to UP and Ateneo respectively. In the pros, his stacked and loaded Purefoods teams made the finals four times in their first three years and lost everyone of them. That is until his old UE mentor, Dalupan, joined them in 1990 when they finally nabbed the Third Conference crown that season.

“You learn to appreciate things better and look at the details no matter how small because if you overlooked them before, that could be the one to help you win it,” Codinera theorizes.

During the game against the tough Lyceum Pirates last Tuesday, September 6, the Chiefs held them off albeit barely as Jesper Ayaay, Edcor Marata and their exciting and slam-dunking center Nzeusseu hit some big shots versus AU; 36-29, Chiefs at the half. Then came Codinera’s reminders.

“Make them work for it; attack them,” are his last words before team returns to the court. The Chiefs do well but Lyceum shifts to a higher gear and overtakes them. Codinera’s shooters — Dioncee Holts and Zach Nicholls — are off target. The only time Arellano can get on the board is when they run; which isn’t too often. Holding a slim lead, Codinera calls for a timeout. Of his wards, it is only Jalalon, forward-center Lervin Flores, and combo guard Kent Michael Salado who have played well. Everyone else has struggled.

Remember the “small things”? He has his diminutive dynamo in Jalalon, who is in all likelihood the next Jayson Castro; a living testament to speed kills. “Sometimes, you just give the ball to your top gun and tell everyone else to get out of the way,” Codinera would later concede.

Jalalon proceeds to do just that as he takes Ayaay (with token help from Marata) to school hitting five consecutive pull-up jumpers from the top of the key. Salado ices it with two free throws for a 78-75 win that gives Codinera and AU their 11th win in 14 outings (with four left to play).

“Tiwala (trust),” Jalalon simply puts it. “Binibigay ni coach yan sa ‘yo. Kailangan suklian mo."

On their way to the press room for the post-match interviews, Codinera says, “Sometimes you cannot overthink things; you have to keep things simple.”

He and Jalalon exchange low fives.

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