IN a rare public appearance together, former players who are now coaches in their own right, paid tribute to their late mentor Ron Jacobs in a heartwarming moment during the Philippine Sportswriters Association (PSA) Annual Awards Night at One Esplanade on Saturday.
Jong Uichico, Allan Caidic, Olsen Racela, Pido Jarencio, and Siot Tanquingcen were one in saying they all owe their respective careers to the man respected by many for the way he changed the basketball landscape in this hoops-crazy country.
For the five of them, Jacobs was like a father first and foremost, more than the disciplinarian coach who everybody came to know.
“We would not be here if not for him. I know he’s up in heaven, and I know he’s guiding us and watching all of us here,” said Uichico, the long-time Jacobs understudy before becoming the champion coach that he is, first with the San Miguel Corp. teams and later, with the MVP group of companies.
“I want to thank coach Ron for the lives he had touch. I’m close to him and I’ve been him for all these years,” added the Tropang TNT mentor, who tried to hold back tears as he spoke on stage. “I miss him very much. He’s my mentor and my guide.”
Jacobs was awarded posthumously during the two-hour formal rites along with eight other personalities. He died on the eve of Christmas last year after being bed-ridden for more than a decade since suffering a massive stroke in 2001.
His wife Mennen personally received the posthumous plaque before his former players were made to speak on stage.
Caidic, who grew a reputation as one of Jacobs’ outside assassin with the famed Northern Consolidated Corp. team in the 80’s, said the former Loyola Marymount mentor ‘elevated Philippine basketball to the next level.’
“Naging scientific (ang basketball), motion offense, among others. Diyan kami nag-umpisa. So malaki talaga ang na-contribute niya sa Philippine basketball,” said the cage great.
Racela never get to play under Jacobs as a national player, but he was the starting point guard of the American mentor with the San Miguel Beer team which overachieved in the two years he handled it despite only having to rely on one legitimate superstar in Nelson Asaytono.
“Nagkaroon ako ng career because of coach Ron,” said the Barangay Ginebra deputy coach, who was plucked out by Jacobs as a back-up point guard at Purefoods to be his main man at the point for San Miguel the moment he came on board in 1997.
But more than a coach, Racela said there was one aspect of Jacobs which Filipino basketball fans were hardly aware of.
“For us his former players, he was more than a coach. He was a second father to us,” he said.
“He would always asked us kung kamusta na kami, not the players that we are, but as a person. Parang anak na ang turing niya sa amin.”