Coach Jong Uichico had indeed picked up so much from his late, great mentor in Ron Jacobs, whom he shared a bond so deep.
But of all the lessons he had learned from the American tactician, the most important was that coaching is beyond the Xs and Os.
“Coaching is just not between the white lines. Yan ang natutunan ko kay Coach Ron,” Uichico told Tiebreaker Vodcasts’ Coaches Unfiltered, presented by SMART and supported by Mighty Sports and Choi Garden.
“Baka akala ng coaches ang dali-dali lang ng coaching, pagdating ng practice two hours tapos tapos na. That’s not coaching. There is still more to that.
“For example, magaalaga ka ng player, that’s part of coaching. You will see to their welfare, that’s part of coaching,” he furthered.
Practice what you preach, as they say, and that’s exactly what Jacobs had done, the multi-decorated Uichico shared
“He’s very accommodating to his players. ‘Pag may kailangan ang player, he’s there right away,” he said.
“The coaches are willing to spend the time and are willing to care for your players, yan ang number one na nakita ko kay Coach Ron.”
Uichico saw all that, having developed a deep connection with Jacobs, who came to the country in the 1980s and handled the national team program.
That began when Jacobs included Uichico, then playing for La Salle, in the Northern Cement team that ruled the 1982 Asian Youth Championship.
They would then work together in the PBA come 1997 when Jacobs took over San Miguel’s head coaching reins from Norman Black.
But the Basketball Coaches Association of the Philippines opposed such hiring in 1998, and Uichico eventually inherited the Beermen from Jacobs.
The two would reunite for the 2002 Asian Games as Jacobs was named the national team head coach but he suffered a stroke, and the spot was turned over to Uichico.
Definitely, they go way, way back. And Uichico recalled the time he told Jacobs of his aspirations to become a coach.
And what he got from that conversation is among the lessons he has been imparting to other coaches as head of Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas’ Coaches Academy.
“When I told him that I’m going to try coaching, we sat down and asked me if I was willing to spend the time,” he shared.
“That was the only question that he asked me. It doesn’t matter if I know or I did not know, am I a good or a bad coach is immaterial.
“But if you are willing to spend the time, then sa tingin niyo you have the potential to become a good coach. That’s what I tell all the coaches,” he added.
Uichico did put in the time, and that allowed him to become one of the best coaches in the land as he won nine PBA titles with SMB, Ginebra, and Talk N Text.
He had also made a mark on the global stage, having steered the country to two Southeast Asian Games gold medals in 2013 and 2017.
But beyond the achievements, the relationships he formed along the way is what the 58-year-old cherishes the most.
“After their playing years, or even after my coaching years, you still get to ask, kumbaga ‘pag humingi ka ng pabor, they’re still willing because may pinagdaanan kayo, hirap o ginhawa. So, the experience that you had together, hindi lang the championships but the experience that you went through together will carry on after their playing days or after your coaching days that when you get to see them, you still get to talk a lot of things,” he said.
“For example, San Miguel Beermen, we still get together, masaya pa. Ginebra, sila Jayjay [Helterbrand], Mark [Caguioa], when we see each other, parang nami-miss mo rin sila. I think that relationship, the things that you went through will go a long way after kasi yung championship after a while wala na rin yun, pero yung kwento mo doon sa mga player mo, iikot at iikot yun eh.
“They might be telling their stories to their children, sina Dave at Shaun [Ildefonso], baka kinekwento ni Danny I yung experience niya sa akin so it might trickle down to the next generation, pero yun ang lasting kasi paikot-ikot ang kwento,” Uichico added.
“That’s what I treasure — the relationships, the experience that we’ve gone through with all these players.”