THE last man to lead the country to an Asian basketball title 17 years ago is truly proud of what Gilas Pilipinas accomplished in the recent Fiba-Asia Championship.
According to Jong Uichico, the legendary Ron Jacobs was gladdened to hear that Gilas earned a place in the 2014 Fiba-World Cup in Spain following a runner-up finish to Iran - the best finish by the Philippines in the Asian championships since Jacobs' NCC team won the gold in 1985 in Kuala Lumpur.
‘’He’s definitely happy. I’m sure he’s proud that the Philippines had a shot at the championship and did very well. Kaya alam ko masaya siya,” said Uichico, one of Chot Reyes’ deputies at Gilas and a longtime Jacobs understudy.
Bedridden for over a decade now after suffering a massive stroke in 2002, Jacobs was updated by Uichico himself during the course of the qualifier for next year’s world basketball championship.
“We were updating him so he knows what happened. Kuwento ka lang ng kuwento. You just keep on talking to him,” said the son of former Crispa team manager Tony Uichico.
Uichico disclosed that Jacobs – whom he treated like a second father - could no longer communicate well. But he knew his mentor well enough to know that he was happy to hear about Gilas' achievement.
“Nakakarinig naman siya, he can comprehend, but he just can’t speak, he just can’t react,” said Uichico with a tinge of sadness in his voice. “Before there was hand signal, but now there’s no more, medyo nag-deteriorate na (ang condition n'ya).”
“He has some facial expression when he’s happy, when he’s sad. And I know very well na masayang-masaya siya,” Uichico added.
After guiding NCC to the 1985 Jones Cup title and the 1984 Champions Cup, Jacobs was set for a grand comeback with the national team to the Asian Games in Busan, South Korea 11 years ago, but never got to call the shots for the PBA-backed squad after suffering a stroke.
Uichico, a trusted lieutenant of Jacobs who eventually succeeded him at San Miguel Beer, found himself elevated to national coach in lieu of his mentor.
“That was his (Jacobs) team,” recalled Uichico, who played for NCC until 1985.
As everybody knows, the campaign ended in heartbreak when the Philippine team lost in a tightly-fought semifinal match against Korea, 69-68, on a game-winning three-pointer by an assassin named Lee Sang Min.
The country would have its revenge 11 years later as Gilas Pilipinas – injures and all – nosed out the Koreans in the Fiba-Asia semifinals, 86-79, to clinch one of three berths to the Fiba-World Cup and a place in the Finals opposite Iran.