YENG Guiao will always remember the late Rhoel Nadurata, the former University of the East Red Warrior, national team member, and his long-time lieutenant, for his fierce loyalty.
Guiao realized that very early in the long time they spent together as coach and assistant.
“I was about to transfer to Pepsi at the time from Swift. And I told him, may choice naman siya to stay with Swift because he’s close with Mr (Rafael) Hechanova, the uncle of Joey (Concepcion),” recalled Guiao.
“But he chose to join me at Pepsi,” said Guiao. “We were inseparable after that.”
Nadurata died on Tuesday evening following complications with lung cancer. He was 74.
Guiao was emotional as he recalled his days with the man he referred to as his "second father."
“I’m deeply saddened. We worked together for more than 20 years. He was like a second father to me. He’ll definitely be sorely missed,” said the current vice-governor of Pampanga as he tried to hold back tears in a talk with Spin.ph.
One of basketball’s most durable partnerships began early in Guiao’s coaching career in the PBA with the Swift team under the Concepcion franchise.
Guiao had the late Tembong Melencio for assistant in his first two years, until Nadurata came along and took over the job.
“I can no longer remember what happened to coach Tembong, but it was coach Rhoel who replaced him,” said Guiao. “It was Paeng Hechanova who recommended him to Mr. (Joey) Concepcion.”
Nadurata, a part of the last Philippine team to win the gold in the 1962 Asian Games and an alternate in the 1968 Mexico Olympics, was coming off a stint as UE coach – after guiding the Warriors to the 1990 Finals against La Salle – back then when he accepted the job as Guiao’s chief assistant.
“Actually, kilala na siya ni Gov (Bren Guiao),” said the younger Guiao referring to his late father, the former Pampanga governor.
“I remembered watching him playing alongside basketball greats such as Caloy Loyzaga, of course, Tembong Melencio, (Robert) Jaworski, Ed Ocampo, among others.
“So, it was him (Nadurata) who became my link with the past, and ultimately, helped me get on track with my coaching career.”
Even when Guiao drifted from coaching, Nadurata still stayed by his side. Following their unsuccessful stint with the Pepsi franchise, Guiao moved to the Philippine Basketball League, where Guiao served as commissioner and `Tata Rhoel’ became the head of the technical committee.
When Guiao returned to the PBA as Red Bull coach, he naturally brought Nadurata along in one of the most successful stages for the enduring partnership.Then it was on to Burger King, and later at Rain or Shine, where they won the last of their six championships together in the Governors Cup.
During that last title run, Nadurata, who once run as councilor in Kalookan City, was already frail and ailing, but Guiao kept him in his staff, and the loyal assistant stood by the coach's side to the very end.
Guiao said he has no idea what really ailed Nadurata except for his diabetes.
“Obviously, his health was deteriorating. But everytime I was asking him about it, ang lagi niyang sinasabi `yung diabetes niya,” said the former national team coach. “It was only later when his children told me about his real condition.”
Guiao was able to visit his longtime assistant at the hospital just before his death.
“Pero hindi na siya nakakakilala,” he lamented.
Nadurata’s deteriorating health prompted the entire Rain or Shine team to dedicate to him every game the team played in the Philippine Cup.
“It was just an agreement among ourselves within the team,” said Guiao.
Unfortunately, the Elasto Painters lost to the Barangay Ginebra Kings in their last outing, 98-94, Sunday night.
Two days after, Nadurata, the Rain or Shine assistant coach, was gone.
“I have a lot of respect and gratitude to coach Rhoel for what we did together,” said Guiao. “Nakakalungkot siyempre, but I’m sure, he’s in a better place.”
(Rhoel Nadurata's remains now lie at Floresco Funeral Homes located at A. Mabini St. near Kalookan City Hall)