WHEREVER he went, Aric del Rosario has never lost the one thing that made him endearing to players and even rivals alike: his compassion.
"Talagang mabait si coach Aric. Iniintindi niya ang kapakanan ng lahat ng players na hawak niya," said Ato Agustin.
Agustin was one of the faces of the Pampanga side which del Rosario steered to the inaugural Metropolitan Basketball Association (MBA) crown in 1998.
It's a trait that has long been part of the veteran mentor dating back to his days in University of Santo Tomas.
"He would always have his hand on his pocket whenever he's in a game because he prays the rosary. He's never without it," said Gil Cortez, the Dragons team manager.
"He also had his money clip because he was generous. Players who had the good fortune to come under his mentorship could attest to this. He helps out the best way he can to people, whether its players, utility persons, or probably even junior coaches who comes to him for help."
Del Rosario's kindness, however, has never been taken advantage of, especially with how stern his approach to the game was as he wanted his players to fully inculcate the system he's teaching.
"Marami akong natutunan kay coach Aric. Syempre parehas kaming Kapampangan kaya nagkakaintindihinan kami," said Agustin, who's now a San Miguel assistant coach. "Pero pagka nagturo siya, talagang gusto niya na makuha ng players yung sinasabi niya. Talagang tinututukan niya kami, lalo na yung sa chemistry ng team."
It was exactly that -- the chemistry -- which del Rosario wanted his teams to develop, believing that harmonious relationships off the court deliver great results on it.
"He always supported his players. He taught us to always play hard and with intensity, but most of all, to support each other in and out of the court," said Gabby Cui, another former Dragons player and current Gilas Pilipinas team manager.
As hard as he pushed his wards on the court, Del Rosario always reminded them to never neglect their studies, knowing that not all players make it to the big leagues and they have to always prepare for their futures.
"Hindi lang siya concerned sa way ng paglalaro mo, kundi concerned din siya sa magiging future ng mga players niya," shared Gab Dagangon, who played for del Rosario in Perpetual in the NCAA and later on for the Paranaque Patriots in the Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League (MPBL) Rajah Cup.
That familial approach is exactly what made del Rosario one of the most-loved bench tacticians in Philippine basketball.
"Yung samahan namin, parang pamilya talaga. Sa Pampanga, kung ako yung panganay, siya ang tatay namin," said Agustin.