FORMER national coach Dong Vergeire, who steered the Philippine team to the championship of the 1997 Southeast Asian Games in Jakarta, passed away early Friday morning due to heart complications.
PBA deputies Louie Alas (Alaska) and Boycie Zamar (Ginebra) were among the first one to be informed about his death, the two having served as Vergeire’s assistants with the national team in the late 90s.
He was 47.
An ex-De La Salle Green Archer, Vergeire is also remembered as the coach responsible for giving St. Benilde its first and only NCAA title in 2000.
He previously served as head coach of the San Beda Red Lions that lost back-to-back against San Sebastian during the 1996 and 1997 Finals.
“Maayos na coach. Walang insecurities sa mga assistant coaches niya at hindi madamot mag-share ng knowledge,” Alas recalled to Spin.ph of his working years with Vergeire.
Alas said he saw Vergeire the last time during the PBA D-League Aspirants Cup semifinals at the Blue Eagles gym.
"Nagkita kami, nanood din kasi siya. Binati ko nga, sabi ko pare ang ganda ng katawan mo ngayon. Mukhang kundisyon kasi siya," he recalled of the incident.
"Kaya it was a total shock for me when Boycie told me about the sad news."
Both Alas and Zamar would eventually succeed Vergeire as national coach, with Alas helping the Philippine team to retain its SEA Games title in 1999 (Brunei) before Zamar did the same in 2001 (Kuala Lumpur).
Vergeire was also part of Aric del Rosario's coaching staff during the championship run of University Santo Tomas in the UAAP in the mid-90s.
He was also the first coach of Pangasinan in the defunct Metropolitan Basketball Association, and later on build a coaching career in the Indonesian Basketball League.
Vergeire once revealed that he and best friend, former Formula Shell mentor Perry Ronquillo learned the intricacies of coaching while watching the De La Salle games on the bench.
Buried at the end of the Green Archers’ bench, both Vergeire and Ronquillo would while away their time by analyzing and breaking down between themselves the respective plays of both teams on the court.
The two would later work together and win a championship with Burger Machine in the Philippine Basketball League.
“When he was my assistant at Burger Machine, I relied on him a lot for advice. We would argue long and hard as to the merits of a particular strategy,” said Ronquillo of his kumpare and former teammate in his facebook account.
“I wanted him to throw everything he knew at me so we could come up with the best strategy for the team. Sobra ang respect ko sa tao na yan.”