Aric del Rosario, Turing Valenzona and Ato Tolentino. These three veteran coaches had made their mark in the local basketball circuit as they’ve won multiple championships in the collegiate leagues.
As early as the 1980s, these three mentors had been active on the sidelines, weaving their magic to leading their respective squads’ championship runs.
Del Rosario burst onto the coaching scene of the UAAP, leading the UST squad, then known as the Glowing Goldies to become a title contender.
But not until 1993 when Del Rosario would propel the Tigers to a perfect season as the España-based dribblers would sweep all their 14 games in the UAAP on their way to winning their first championship in a long while. Before the Final Four was implemented, the league upholds a rule that a team which will go on undefeated at the end of the double round eliminations will be declared as champion.
Del Rosario would spearhead another championship run and for the next three years, the black, gold and white colors of UST would continue to fly high as the Tigers would complete a four-peat in the UAAP (from 1993 to 1996).
But while Del Rosario was stamping his class in the UAAP, Valenzona was also having his own magical journey in the NCAA.
For five years, the San Sebastian Stags were dominating the country’s oldest collegiate basketball league from 1993 to 1998, with Valenzona at the helm of three of the five-year campaigns of the Recto-based cagers.
And then, there’s Tolentino, the fiery mentor of the University of Manila, which he led to numerous titles while competing in other leagues outside of the two prestigious collegiate events.
Tolentino also guided the Philippine Christian University Dolphins to their only NCAA championship before his son, Elvis, took over the coaching reins and brought the Dolphins to compete in the NAASCU.
Believe it or not, these coaches – already in their 70s – have no plans of slowing down as they continue to play a major role in their respective teams in the Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League.
Del Rosario is calling the shots for the Parañaque Patriots.
The Gamboa Coffee-backed squad is currently competing in the quarterfinal round of the fledgling league against the Bulacan Kuyas-Ligo Sardines.
For Del Rosario, putting up a team is like building his own family – his players serving as his kids and the squad appearing to be his second home.
“Ang sabi ko nga sa mga anak ko atsaka sa pamilya ko, pasensya na kayo sa akin ha, ito kasing basketball ang buhay ko,” Del Rosario told FoxSports.ph. “Mabuti naman, nauunawaan nila ako. Siguro, kung hindi ako nagko-coach ngayon, bakaw ala akong ginagawa.”
Proving that his team is more like a family, Del Rosario brought with him people who are close to his heart.
He has delegated his son, Lester del Rosario , who’s with him when he is coaching Perpetual Help, to his new squad. The veteran bench tactician also took in Josell Angeles, whom he worked while they were still together with Talk N Text in the PBA as assistant coach and player, respectively.
The players of the Patriots were also long-time wards of Del Rosario – from Jemal Vizacarra, his player at UST, to Juneric Baloria and Harold Arboleda of Perpetual Help among others.
For Valenzona, getting involved with the Muntinlupa Cagers-Angelis Resort is one way of keeping himself sharp and staying in the game.
The team’s current coach, Aldrin Morante, is his former player in San Sebastian, and Valenzona won’t hesistate sharing a piece of his mind to his old ward. At 75, ball is life is still very much in the veins of the mentor who led Far Eastern University, San Sebastian and Tanduay Rhum in the PBA to numerous championships.
“Dyan (basketball) tayo nag-umpisa, dyan na rin tayo mamamatay,” added Valenzona. “Kapag walang basketball. Kapag walang basketball, mapapadali ang buhay natin. I’m 75. Halos magkasunod lang kami nina (Robert) Jaworski. Nauna lang ako ng kaunti.”
“May time pa rin ako sa basketball. Nagtayo nga ako ng clinic sa Manila. Pero ayaw ko na ring mag-coach kasi masakit na sa ulo. Tulong lang ako dahil yung mga andito mga taga-San Sebastian, sina Aldrin (Morante) tsaka si (Paul) Reguerra.”
Now 70 years old, Tolentino’s his head coaching days may be over now, but he plays a key role in making sure his son, Elvis, will do his job well.
“Yung tatay ko, ako na lang yung pinagagalitan hindi na yung mga players,” said Elvis, who believes that there’s no better adviser than his own dad.
Times have changed. We’ve seen new faces, both the players and coaches. But there are people who are constant figures in the game of basketball, people like Del Rosario, Tolentino and Valenzona, who refused to shy away from the game and continue to pursue their passion.