FOR coach Jong Uichico, there's nothing quite like having the support of Eduardo "Danding" Cojuangco Jr.
Half his life, he's had the basketball godfather supporting him.
"We started a long way," Uichico told Spin.ph a day after Cojuangco passed away due to lingering illness at age of 85.
The soft-spoken mentor has been linked to Cojuangco ever since his playing days in the 1980s when "Boss ECJ" came to his alma mater La Salle.
If sports patrons now are boisterous in their support, Cojuangco was unique in his own way.
"Mahilig siya sa paduda," recounted Uichico.
"Iba yung style niya. Sasabihin niya sa amin, 'Itong team na ito, magaling yan. Hindi niyo kaya yan.' Kami naman, sasagot sa kanya na, 'Hindi, boss. Kaya namin yan.' Of course, masaya siya pag nanalo kami kasi in a way, parang nangcha-challenge siya. Pero pag natalo kami, parang katuwaan lang na sasabihin niya, 'Di ba sabi ko sa inyo, malakas yan.' Masaya pa rin siya."
Some may look at it as Cojuangco discouraging his wards, but Uichico said it's just his way of challenging his team to be better.
That relationship continued to the national team, and even when Uichico was hired to coach the Green Archers and later on, San Miguel in the PBA.
Even though Cojuangco rarely goes to the PBA games like he does for La Salle, Uichico said that the team always felt their boss' backing.
"Though he does not watch all the games, you'll know that he supports. Alam mo yung suporta niya kasi he knows what's happening and he's up to date. Pag pinatawag ka sa taas, gusto niya, kwentuhan lang kayo," he said, struggling to recollect the bevy of memories he had with his superior.
What Uichico appreciated more of Cojuangco was the level of respect he has for the people he hired for the job.
"Kumpara sa iba, hindi siya demanding as per my experience. He was fully supportive of the coach's moves and decision-making. Yes, he might have a suggestion, but at the end of the day, he will abide by doon sa diskarte ng coach niya," he said.
Uichico also shared that the Beermen was the favorite of 'Boss Danding' being the flagship franchise.
"Of all the teams kasi, talagang sa San Miguel siya kasi parang mother team eh. it does not mean that he doesn't support the other teams under the SMC umbrella pero San Miguel talaga siya," he said.
SMB won six PBA crowns in Uichico's tenure from 1999 to 2006.
He added two more as Ginebra's head coach from 2006 to 2012.
Uichico also shared that Cojuangco has always taken a liking for players who always gave it their all for the team.
"He puts premium not only on winning but also yung loyalty and effort in the game," he said.
"Of course, he always likes the star players and given na si Danny Ildefonso kasi magaling na mabait pa. But he also appreciates yung role players like si Freddie Abuda. Ayaw niya yung maraming antics, gusto niya simpleng laro lang kaya he appreciated the culture of San Miguel during my time na the players are just lie-low and tahimik lang pero lahat hardworkers."
With winning comes the rewards, and Uichico said that Cojuangco is unmatched when it comes to his generosity.
He even harked back to one game when their boss truly loved the Beermen's efforts even though they came up short.
"May mga laro na sinasabi niya sa akin na magbigay ng bonus kahit matalo. Sabi ko, 'Bakit po tayo magbibigay?' Ang isasagot niya lang, 'Kasi grabe laro ng mga bata. Pukpok lahat at buhos.' Gusto niya yung effort kahit matalo. Of course, it's not all the time," he said.
That, to Uichico, is the reason why players would always love to play under the San Miguel banner.
"Gusto ng players maglaro sa kanya cause he treated everybody the way they should be treated," he said. "Iba siyang klaseng boss. He's the boss but he won't make you feel that he's the boss."