EVEN at an advanced age, coach Aric del Rosario has never slowed down in giving players opportunities.
And his former players in Perpetual know that they can never repay the opportunities the legendary mentor gave them in Las Piñas.
"He's always been there since day one," said Bright Akhuetie. "He gave me the opportunity to play the game that I love here."
Del Rosario was already 71 when took the Altas head coaching job in 2011 and stewarded the team to relevancy, reaching the NCAA Final Four thrice in four seasons.
Along the way, the decorated coach from University of Santo Tomas was able to handle hardworking players, none more famous than Ginebra guard Scottie Thompson who won the 2014 NCAA MVP award.
But it's not just on the stars, with players like Harold Arboleda, Jong Baloria, and Gab Dagangon earning their spurs in the NCAA.
"Hindi naman ako yung pinakamatangkad at pinakamagaling, pero pinush ako ni coach at chinallenge niya ako. Kaya siguro ginawa niya akong captain ball noon, pero lagi kong sinasabi sa mga kakampi ko na kahit sino pwedeng maging leader. Pare-parehas kami sa mata ni Coach Aric," said Arboleda.
"Siya mismo ang nag-recruit sa akin sa Davao papunta sa Perpetual," shared Dagangon. "Excited ako maglaro noon para sa kanya kasi si coach Aric yun eh, legendary coach."
And it's no surprise that these players owe their achievements to del Rosario.
"Ano man ang narating ko sa larangan ng basketball, ikaw ang nakatulong sa akin at sa marami pang iba," said Baloria, the 2013 scoring champion.
Dagangon quipped, "Sobrang laki ng naitulong niya sa buhay at career ko."
Del Rosario's stint in Perpetual may not have resulted in any championships, but these players consider that time as a win, knowing fully how big of an impact del Rosario was to their lives.
"He stood by me so many times, even at my worse and I'll always make him proud," said Akhuetie, who now suits up for University of the Philippines.
The former UAAP MVP added: "Tatay Aric is like a mentor both on and off the court. He treated the team as family not just players. He was a father to us -- loving and kindhearted man. He also taught me a lot about life. He got me to where I am today and for that, I'm forever grateful to him."
It's not just with the Altas, with del Rosario continuing to extend his hand to his former players in Parañaque when the Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League (MPBL) opened shop.
"Iba yung natulong sa akin ni coach. Lagi niyang sinasabi, kahit sa MPBL, na bumubuhay siya ng patay. Ako nahawakan niya ulit, si Gab, si Balo, ang dami namin," said Arboleda, who now plays for Zamboanga Family's Brand Sardines. "Grabe talaga ang sakripisyo niya sa amin."
"Lumapit ako sa kanya noon at tinulungan niya ako para maglaro sa Paranaque. Dahil sa tulong niya, naging okay naman ako sa MPBL," said Dagangon, now a part of Basilan Steel.
"Hindi man ako naging successful katulad ng iba na nahawakan niya na naging PBA players, pero yung pinakaimportante is yung mga payo at turo na nakuha ko sa kanya. Kung may pasasalamatan man ako sa basketball career ko, walang iba yun kundi si Tatay Aric."