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    These NCAA coaches cultivated breeding ground of future PBA stars

    Apr 3, 2020

    THERE'S no question that in its near-century-long existence, the NCAA has bore witness to some of the best players the country has ever seen.

    But the same goes for the bench tacticians.

    SPIN.ph decided to take a deep dive in the history books and figure out who deserves to be called as the best coaches in the NCAA.

    Note: Former member schools, notably Ateneo and La Salle, have been omitted from this list.

    San Beda - Frankie Lim

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    It was a tough choice for San Beda given the pedigree of coaches it has had in its storied past.

    There is Fely Fajardo, who handled the team from 1950 to 1954 and led the Red Lions to two NCAA championships in 1951 and 1952 behind the legendary Caloy Loyzaga.

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    Arturo Rius also deserves a nod, leading San Beda to two crowns in 1955 and 1959, the last of which with Alberto "Big Boy" Reynoso.

    Of course, there's also Loreto "Bonnie" Carbonell, who won back-to-back NCAA titles in 1977 and 1978 behind players like Loyzaga, Frankie Lim, JB Yango, Chuck Barreiro, and Elmer Reyes.

    But it was a former player of his -- Lim -- who takes the cake by guiding San Beda to four championships in the modern era.

    The stern Lim was the engineer of the Red Lions' championship runs in 2007 and 2008, where they completed a three-peat run behind Ogie Menor, Borgie Hermida, Pong Escobal, Yousif Aljamal, and 2008 NCAA MVP Sam Ekwe.

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    Though San Beda was denied of a fourth straight crown the following year, it came back with a vengeance as the side, then bannered by Season MVP Sudan Daniel, Hermida, and Garvo Lanete completed a perfect 18-0 romp to the throne in 2010.

    The Red Lions won back-to-back crowns in the next season, which had then-rookie Baser Amer, which laid the foundation to the school's five-peat run.

    Lim's time in San Beda, however, ended in controversy after a preseason scuffle, but there's no contention with the glory he brought to his alma mater during his time from 2007 to 2011.

    Boyet Fernandez, who also has four crowns to boot, can stake his claim to this title in the future, but for now, Lim is the king.


      Letran - Larry Albano

      Old hands still remember the dominance of Letran in the early 1980s behind the man they called "Skywalker."

      But the man calling the shots from the sidelines during that three-peat year was none other than Larry Albano.

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      Taking over for champion coach Nemie Villegas, Albano made immediate impact for the Knights as they won the 1982 NCAA crown behind Samboy Lim and that year's Season MVP Jerry Gonzales.

      It turns out, it was only a harbinger of things to come.

      Letran lorded the NCAA in the next seasons, most memorably its eight-game sweep in 1984, where Lim was adjudged as the MVP, and also had players like Romy Ang, Tonichi Pujante, and Tino Pinat.

      Aside from his success in the seniors division, Albano was also the coach of the Squires in 1979 when Letran scored a double championship together with Villegas, who was then handling the Knights.

      Albano was rumored to make a comeback in 2013 following the departure of two-time NCAA champion coach Louie Alas, but that job ultimately went to Caloy Garcia.

      San Sebastian - Turo Valenzona

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      Turo Valenzona's lore is already established, steering FEU to 11 titles in the UAAP.

      But that didn't stop him from weaving his magic in the NCAA.

      Replacing Francis Rodriguez in 1992, Valenzona turned the Golden Stags into killers like in his previous exploits and steered the team to four straight crowns from 1993 to 1996.

      It helps that he's had a bumper crop of players during that stretch in Rommel Adducul (who won MVP honors in 1996 and 1997), Rodney Santos, Ulysses Tanigue, Banjo Calpito, Brixter Encarnacion, and Topex Robinson.

      That Golden Stags crew swept their way to the championship in 1994 and annexed their win streak to 19 games, falling only to the Reuben dela Rosa-led Mapua in the final game in the second round in 1995. It didn't matter, though, as San Sebastian still bagged the title that season.

      Valenzona left San Sebastian in 1997, leaving the reins to Bai Cristobal to complete the five-peat.

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      He did return in 2000 and added two more titles to his haul, leading the Golden Stags to back-to-back championships in 2001 and 2002 behind Mark Macapagal, Leo Najorda, and Christian Coronel.

      Valenzona had a brief stint for San Sebastian in 2011 when Ato Agustin left, but that only lasted over the summer before Topex Robinson was installed as the head coach.

      Mapua - Joel Banal

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      Of the six seniors titles Mapua has, only one coach was able to win multiple crowns for the Cardinals.

      It's none other than Joel Banal, who coached the team to back-to-back NCAA championships in 1990 and 1991.

      Replacing Valerio Lopez at the helm, Banal was Mapua's head coach from 1987 to 1997 and brought glory back to his alma mater.

      But it wasn't until three years later when the success finally came as the Cardinals leaned on Kevin Ramas, Benny Cheng, and Marcelino Olano to sweep San Sebastian in the Season 66 Finals in 1990.

      Surprising as it was to some, Mapua proved that its championship run was no fluke as it repeated the following season in memorable fashion.

      With San Beda holding a one-point lead in the waning seconds of the Game Three of Season 67, Cheng scored the game-winning putback off of Rizaldy Ramos' miss in the last five seconds as Mapua took the thrilling 91-90 victory for the team which also included Reuben dela Rosa, Gary Topacio, and future Mapua coach Randy Alcantara.

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      JRU - Francisco Calilan

      It's almost five decades since Jose Rizal University won its last NCAA championship, but back in those days, the Heavy Bombers truly were juggernauts.

      And the architect of JRU's success then? It was Francisco "Kiko" Calilan.

      A reserve for the Philippine basketball team which competed in the 1948 London Olympics, Calilan was a member of the 1951 Asian Games gold medal-winning squad which featured Caloy Loyzaga, Lauro Mumar, and Moro Lorenzo.

      Six years later, he was appointed to take charge of his alma mater, where he won five titles in his 31-year tenure which lasted until 1989.

      Calilan commandeered JRU to back-to-back NCAA titles in 1963 and 1964 before doing it once again in 1967 and 1968.

      But there's none more memorable than the Heavy Bombers' 1972 NCAA championship, where he had the luxury of fielding PBA great Philip Cezar, together with his brother David, alongside Ed Carvajal, Olimpio Santos, son Cris Calilan, and comedian Jimmy Santos.

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      Calilan also served as an assistant coach to Ron Jacobs for the Hector Calma-led Philippine team in the 1982 ABC Under-18 Championship, which won the gold medal here in Manila.

      St. Benilde - Dong Vergeire

      The only coach to steer St. Benilde to the crown surely deserves his spot in this list.

      Dong Vergeire anchored the Blazers' dream season in 2000, with Sunday Salvacion, Jondan Salvador, and Al Magpayo delivering the Taft side's only gold medal in men's basketball since joining the league in 1998.

      Arellano - Jerry Codinera

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      Coming from a tough stint in University of the East, Jerry Codinera was able to bring Arellano to respectability and even had two Finals stints to boot.

      His first in 2014 featured a Chiefs side bannered by Nard Pinto, Prince Caperal, and Dioncee Holts, before the 2016 side of Jio Jalalon and Kent Salado brought them back to the championship series.

      Both runs, however, ended in runner-up finishes, bowing to San Beda.

      Lyceum - Topex Robinson

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      Change truly came for Lyceum when Topex Robinson took the Lyceum job in 2014.
      From being one of the league's bottom feeders, the Pirates surprised the public and turned themselves into contenders as they swept the eliminations in 2017 behind the might of CJ Perez.

      Robinson steered Lyceum back to the Finals in 2018, although it could only settle for bridesmaid finishes in back-to-back seasons.

      Perpetual - Aric del Rosario

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      Hopes were high upon Perpetual's installation of Aric del Rosario as its head coach in 2012 and the results speak for themselves.

      Parading players like Jong Baloria, Harold Arboleda, and Scottie Thompson, the Altas were a tough cookie to crack, making it to the Final Four from 2012 to 2014.

      Unfortunately, del Rosario did not have much luck of the draw, with San Beda booting Perpetual in three consecutive seasons in the semifinals.


        EAC - Gerry Esplana

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        Emilio Aguinaldo College has never made it to the NCAA Final Four since it joined in 2009.

        But Gerry Esplana sure gave the Generals a run for it in 2013, when they had their best finish at fifth place with their 10-8 card.

        Banking on players like Jan Jamon, Igee King, and Cedric Happi Noube (who was even named in that season's Mythical Team), EAC was just one win short of making the cut that season and remains on the hunt for that breakthrough semifinals run.

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