Coach Nic
BLEACHER TALK - Rico S. Navarro (The Freeman) - June 14, 2020 - 12:00am

BEST Center. Milo BEST. SBP Passerelle. DEFENSE! These are the words that will forever be associated with Coach Nic Jorge. He passed away yesterday morning, but we are certain that he will never be forgotten. For basketball players, how can we ever forget those annual summer clinics where we yelled “DEFENSE,” met friends from other places and learned that character, fellowship and discipline were more important than the spider drill? For participants of the annual SBP Passerelle basketball tournament, how can we ever forget that first ever game played as if it were the most important game of our lives, and ended up shooting an air ball or committing a turnover the moment we got on the court? And yet we kept pushing ourselves to “be the best.” For parents, how can we not forget how we would bring our children to a BEST Center clinic backed by Milo, excitedly cheering from the sidelines and taking pictures of every move of our kids? And how can we forget going all-out to support our children at the SBP Passerelle games, win or lose?

I joined the BEST Center family in 2008 and was thrilled to have been invited to work with someone who I considered to be a legend of Pinoy basketball at that time. Like many, I was an admirer of the Milo BEST brand, who also had kids into sports; football at that time then basketball later. What endeared me to Coach Nic (aside from the fact that we’re both big) was his passion to develop the youth through sports, basketball in particular, then volleyball later. After founding the BEST Center in 1978, Coach Nic focused his efforts on his mission through basketball clinics that taught young basketball players the basics of the sport and incorporating instilling life skills as part and parcel of the package. The BEST clinics were acknowledged to be the first scientific school for basketball in Asia where the fundamentals were the main focus, and not the fancy, high-flying ways. Coach Nic brought this over to the country after learning from his various trips in Europe and the U.S. He said that if could only teach the basics of basketball to the youth, this will surely give them a better future in two ways: they learn the sport the right way, and more importantly, they grow up to become better people.

The SBP Passerelle basketball tournament was a natural offshoot of the clinic, with many BEST Center graduates seeing action for their respective schools. This was how Coach Nic wanted to help. He didn’t wish to put up a ballclub or team. He wanted to teach as many kids as possible who in turn would bring their skills to the team for which they play. It isn’t surprising then, that many of the country’s top players past and present (and the future) are products of the BEST Center clinic and/or the SBP Passerelle tournament. Benchmark? Six of the members of the GilasPilipinas team that played last February were once part of the BEST Center’s activities (Kiefer and ThirdyRavena, Matt Nieto, Juan Gomez de Liaño, Roger Pogoy and Isaac Go. Looking back, Coach Nic was spot on and opened the doors for the sprouting of the various basketball clinics and tournaments around the country. But no other basketball clinic has had such an impact on the sport than that of the BEST Center and Milo, or “Milo BEST,” as it is more popularly known.

But who am I to say all these? Let’s hear the entire country as they flood Facebook with their thoughts. I picked these from among the volume of comments (in time to beat my deadline).

Bill Velasco (Philippine Star): We can never write the history of Philippine basketball without the immense contribution of Nic Jorge. God bless your soul, Coach.

DelioAseron II (Manila): Sa Milo BEST poakonatuto ng basic skills at kasamarinsaunang nag champion naAteneo team sa Small Basketeers of the Philippines (SBP) nung 1986. Maramingsalamatpo at tunaynamalakingkontribusyonnyoposamundo ng basketball.

Russell Go (Baguio): COACH NIC CHANGED OUR LIVES. He made us fall in love with The Game and the hustle that comes with it. Great people like Coach Nic don’t really pass away. They are just out of our sight but remain to be our inspiration.

Pedro Alfaro (Zamboanga): We have been together for the past 30 years. I have learned a lot from you, not only in basketball but also in business and in life. Thank you for everything for being my mentor and a very good friend. You and your family are part of our success. The Basketball World will never forget you. I will continue the tradition of helping young kids.

Noli Ayo (Davao & Naga): He was a game changer in Philippine sports. Forever grateful to what he did for basketball and the way games are managed today.

Philippine sports lost a great man, but his legacy lives on. It’s time to rest Coach Nic. Thanks for what you have done for Philippines sports.

NIC JORGE
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