Jong Uichico indeed enjoyed success during his PBA journey. But even a coach as great as him faced tough challenges from opposing mentors that tested his mettle along the way.
The nine-time champion bench tactician revealed the coaches that made it hard for him while he served as a speaker in the Hoop Coaches International Webinar hosted by the Blackwater Elite.
And on top of his list is Tim Cone, who’s now the most accomplished PBA coach with a record 22 championships.
“Coach Tim is so hard [to go up against],” Uichico said in the webinar organized by Blackwater alternate governor and consultant Ariel Vanguardia.
“Coach Tim is very disciplined in his approach.”
Uichico only faced Cone in the Finals once as a head coach. The former emerged triumphant, as his San Miguel defeated Alaska in six games to claim the 1999 Governors’ Cup title.
That, after the Beermen lost to the Aces in both the All-Filipino Conference and the Commissioner’s Cup Finals in 1998, when SMB was still under Ron Jacobs and Uichico was the lead assistant.
The two would battle each other again in the playoffs afterward. The last time was in 2015, when Uichico and Talk N Text beat Cone’s Purefoods Star to end the latter’s reign as Commissioner’s Cup kings.
The Tropang Texters took down the Hotshots in the semis and eventually won the title at the expense of Rain or Shine Elasto Painters, giving Uichico his ninth PBA championship.
Besides the current chief tactician of Barangay Ginebra San Miguel, Uichico also mentioned Chot Reyes.
“Coach Chot has a think-out-of-the-box approach — so many surprises,” he said of the five-time PBA Coach of the Year.
“Coach Chot has so many surprises and his team plays hard every time.”
Uichico first fought Reyes for Reinforced Conference supremacy in 2003. It did not go in his favor, as the Coca-Cola Tigers took down his San Miguel in seven games to capture the crown.
But Uichico would get even four years later. After becoming the head coach of Ginebra, Uichico steered the Gin Kings to the 2007 Philippine Cup championship by beating Reyes’ San Miguel.
Uichico and Reyes swapped places in 2006 as per the decision of the San Miguel Corporation, and so the said title won by the former was his first in his maiden conference with the Barangay.
The former national team mentor also got to work with Reyes and Cone in the Gilas Pilipinas program.
He was the top deputy of Reyes in the Gilas 2.0 crew, which earned silver in the 2013 FIBA Asia Championship that enabled the Philippines to return to the World Cup after nearly 40 years.
Then last December, him and Cone helped the Filipino cagers snag the gold medal in the 30th Southeast Asian Games here in Manila. Together, they gave the country its 18th men’s basketball gold in the meet.
It’s not just Cone and Reyes, though, who gave Uichico problems. Siot Tanquingcen is also up there.
In 2005, as the Beermen were keen on ending its four-year title drought, Tanquingcen ended up spoiling those plans. His Ginebra ousted San Miguel in the Philippine Cup semis, 3-2.
Four years later, Uichico got the chance to exact revenge on him in the 2009 Fiesta Conference Finals. Unfortunately, he failed, as his Gin Kings lost to the Beermen in seven games.
For Uichico, it was tough going up against Tanquingcen because he’s very much familiar with him — Tanquingcen was an assistant of Uichico when he took over SMB.
“He’s not in the PBA anymore, but Coach Siot Tanquingcen because he knows me, he knows my every move,” said Uichico, who shared head coaching duties with Tanquingcen in Ginebra in 2011.
“I have a losing percentage with him because he knows my thinking.”