WHEN Barangay Ginebra and GlobalPort clash on Tuesday in their PBA Governors Cup debut, two former players who also happen to be the newest head coaches in the pro league cross paths again.
Ginebra's Jeffrey Cariaso and GlobalPort's Pido Jarencio happen to have a long history of playing with and against each other, having been on opposite sides of the fence in countless Ginebra-Alaska duels that stood as one of the biggest rivalries in the pro league in the mid-nineties.
Cariaso and Jarencio squared off in a PBA Finals twice: Alaska and Cariaso won the first showdown in the 1996 Governors Cup finale on the way to a grand slam, but Ginebra, with Jarencio alternating in the point and off-guard positions, settled the score by beating Alaska in the 1997 Commissioner's Cup title series.
The two played against each other countless times in careers that spanned over 15 seasons and more than 600 games, but they weren't always rivals. Cariaso and Jarencio biefly were also teammates alternating in the two-guard position with Tanduay in the 2000 season.
Their coach at Tanduay? Now Ginebra team manager Alfrancis Chua.
There are a lot more similarities. Both are coming off stints as assistant coaches in San Miguel Corp-controlled teams, both have September birthdays, and the two are hoping to lend stability to teams that have gone through several rounds of coaching changes.
Cariaso is Ginebra's fourth coach over the last six conferences (after Siot Tanquingcen, Ato Agustin and Chua) while Jarencio is in his second conference with a GlobalPort team that has had three previous coaches in Glen Capacio, Junel Baculi, and Ritchie Ticzon.
But did you know that Cariaso's Ginebra debut should have happened way earlier had it not been for a trade. 'The Jet' was actually the sixth pick overall of the 1995 draft by Alaska, which used the draft right it acquired from Ginebra in a previous deal that sent Bong Solomon to the Ginebra camp.
Cariaso went on to win Rookie of the Year honors with Alaska.
All the talk ahead of Cariaso's debut is about the triangle offense he has installed at Ginebra, but there's no doubt that he will be bringing in a defensive mentality to the team as well. Cariaso afterall is the only player in PBA history to win Mythical Team and All-Defensive Team citations in the same season with three different teams (Alaska, Tanduay, and Coca-Cola).
But there's no doubt that the two are proven winners.
Cariaso, who turns 42 on September 12, has won a total of 13 PBA championships - nine as a player (six with Alaska, two with Coca-Cola, and one with Mobiline) and four more as an assistant to Tim Cone at San Mig.
The Fil-Am guard was also a member of the Mythical First Team thrice, the Mythical Second Team twice and the All-Defensive Team four times. He also was the Best Player of the Conference in the 2002 All-Filipino tournament with the Coca-Cola Tigers.
On the other hand, Jarencio was the pro league's Most Improved Player while playing for Ginebra in 1992 - or eight months and 27 days after his star guard at GlobalPort, Terrence Romeo, currently the league’s current youngest player, was born.
Jarencio, who turns 50 on September 5, won two championships as a player (with San Miguel Beer in the 1987 Reinforced Conference and with Gordon’s Gin in the 1997 Commissioner’s Cup) and one as an assistant coach (with Petron Blaze in 2011 Governors Cup).
He also won one UAAP championship as coach of his alma mater, the University of Santo Tomas Tigers, in 2006.
But going to Tuesday's game, only one number matters. If Ginebra wins on Cariaso's debut, he will end up matching Jarencio's career total of one win as a head coach (GlobalPort went 1-8 in Jarencio's first conference as a coach in the Commissioner's Cup).