Boyet Fernandez
STAR/File
Believing in Boyet Fernandez
THE GAME OF MY LIFE - Bill Velasco (The Philippine Star) - February 3, 2020 - 12:00am

There is nothing overstated about San Beda head coach Boyet Fernandez. In person, he’s soft-spoken, almost muted, shakes hands with a slight bow, and talks like someone from a previous generation. He speaks plainly, and usually after a pause to process his thoughts. It is so unlike the larger than life personalities of many successful basketball coaches. No bluster. That’s one reason why you rarely hear about him in the press. But when you just scratch past the surface, what you find will impress you. Fernandez’s record of winning is the envy of many head coaches at every level. He just does everything at a lower volume, so it’s easy to skip over the growing pile of his achievements.

The young Boyet Fernandez first gained a reputation as a winner as a three-time Negros Occidental Private Schools Sports Cultural Educational Association (NOPSSCEA) seniors basketball champion at Colegio de San Agustin Bacolod from 1986 to 1990. There, he started to develop a reputation as an old school, hard-nosed guard. Stockier than most of his contemporaries, he was never the fleetest or most athletic, but he would run through a wall for a loose ball. That’s an attitude you can’t teach kids.

Fernandez then came to Metro Manila and suited up for Sta. Lucia Realty in the PABL which later became the PBL. There he also sharpened his name as a tough, physical defender. He was recruited for the national pool, and after a stint with the “B” team in the Guam Invitational, he was called up to the main team. There, he played with more well-known early stars of the 1990’s, and was a steadying force on the SEA Games gold medal team of 1993.

That year, he also joined the PBA Rookie Draft, selected an impressive sixth overall by the Sta.Lucia Realtors, another star-studded team. But whereas the likes of Marlou Aquino, Kenneth Duremdes, Dennis Espino, Jun Limpot and others were known for their size or skywalking highlights, Boyet’s brick and mortar style ground game and consistency were eventually noticed. Fernandez also played for Alaska, the RFM franchise and Purefoods, always in the rotation as a valuable lead or back-up guard. Adding new dimensions to his game, he won the PBA All-Star Game Three-Point Shootout twice. 

Upon retiring, Fernandez expanded his repertoire into coaching, and was given an assistant coach spot with the Realtors. The tough guard simultaneously led RCBC to winning or placing in the Bankers Athletic Association every year from 2006 to 2010. In August or 2007, he ascended to head coach of the Realtors.

“For me, it’s very simple,” Fernandez told The STAR. “You give the players what they need to get better, and get them to buy into the system you’re implementing. And if there are any problems, solve them among the members of the team.”

In the next few seasons, Sta. Lucia won an All-Filipino Conference championship, Fernandez coached the South All-Stars to a win in the PBA All-Star Game, and he was named the 2008 PBA Press Corps Coach of the Year.

In February of 2014, Fernandez took on the head coaching job with the fledgling NLEX Road Warriors in the PBA Developmental League, and promptly guided the team to six championships in seven straight finals appearances, a remarkable run just on the face of it. Then, the Red Lions called, and Fernandez got even more out of his players. In 2017, he transferred to the Cignal HD squad, and took the Hawkeyes to consecutive finals appearances and championships, as well. All these achievements, the public seems to have forgotten.  

Since 2016, Boyet has been coaching San Beda, and has regularly made the finals in the NCAA tournament, the Fil-Oil Tournament, and the Philippine Collegiate Champions League, as if he had a reserved seat. San Beda won back-to-back NCAA seniors crowns, Fernandez got back-to-back Coach of the Year awards.

In the last season, the Red Lions were considerable underdogs, given that they had lost key players to graduation and the PBA, including rare gems like Robert Bolick. And yet, the team – under him – didn’t skip a beat, sweeping tournaments and booking another seat in the NCAA Finals, where they lost to the deserving Letran Knights. For this writer, taking this particular team that far may be as impressive as winning it all with more talent-laden units.

Boyet Fernandez’ teams have won so much so often, some observers have gotten spoiled. Others have settled into a ho-hum “what has he done for me lately” attitude. But when you take a closer look, the man has made the best out of everything – and everyone – given to him. He just doesn’t like to toot his own horn.

BOYET FERNANDEZ
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