JRG, sportsman nonpareil

(The Freeman) - February 27, 2021 - 12:00am

CEBU, Philippines — Jose “Dodong” Rivera Gullas, JRG, was an outstanding sportsman during his time. He humbly rose from the ranks as a champion player to coach, team manager and trail-blazing president of Cebu’s premiere inter-school athletic league, which is now the Cebu Schools Athletic Foundation, Inc. (CESAFI).

As a cager, JRG was the co-captain of Eduardo “Skipper” Cabahug when the UV Green Lancers, under the tutelage of his brother Eduardo “Eddiegul” R. Gullas, defeated NCAA champions Ateneo Blue Eagles, 74-63, to win the 2nd National Inter-Collegiate Championships at the Rizal Memorial Coliseum in Manila in 1957. It was first ever televised game in Philippine basketball history.

After his playing years, JRG continued to make an impact as coach. He called the shots when UV stunned the UE Red Warriors, mentored by the legendary Virgilio “Baby”Dalupan, in the semifinals of the 1967 National Inter-Collegiate Championship at the Rizal Memorial Sports Complex in Manila. The Lancers eventually seized the crown after they tamed the Southwestern University (SWU) Cobras in the tournament’s first all-Cebu finals.

Even if he already stamped his class both as player and coach, JRG never stopped in his pursuit for excellence. That was his chief driving force in carving another niche as team manager who motivated his wards to always perform above par and reach greater heights.

Guided by his principles and work ethics, JRG was at helm when UV won two National Inter-Collegiate titles – the first was when they bested the La Salle Green Archers, then led by Lim Eng Beng who was later honored as one of the PBA’s 25 Greatest Players of All Time, at the USC-Main gym in 1974. Two years later in Baguio City, the Lancers sealed a double championship under JRG’s stewardship after they vanquished the UE Red Warriors to snare the coveted crown of the prestigious tilt.

From a decorated baller to a multi-titled team manager, JRG also made a name as an outstanding league leader, interestingly on three different eras starting off in 1971 when he was installed as President of the Cebu Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA), the precursor of the CESAFI. He went on to take reins of the league when it became the Cebu Amateur Athletic Association not just once but twice back in 1989 and 1999, coincidentally the year it was last known as CAAA prior to being renamed CESAFI.

Aside from basketball, there’s another game that is closer to JRG’s heart - tennis. Together with Eddiegul, his son Johnvic and tennis patron John Pages, JRG established the Gullas Tennis Cup in 1995 to encourage the young ones to indulge into sports and stay away from bad vices. Over the years, it has evolved into the most sought-after junior tennis tournament in the Visayas and Mindanao region.

When the legendary Michael Jordan retired in 1999, Lenny Wilkens, one of NBA’s most winningest coaches of all time, had said:“Players come and go but there will never be another Michael Jordan.” In the same breath, everything will come to pass but there will never be another Jose “Dodong” R. Gullas in the world of Cebu sports, an all-around sportsman beyond compare. – EBV

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