AS soon as news of Robert Jaworski’s possible return to the PBA circulated, one of his former players, Marlou Aquino, had just one piece of reminder for the present crop of Ginebra players.
Better shed your superstar mentality.
“Hindi naman sa nagbibigay ng advice sa mga players ngayon, kasi baka sasabihin nga tao, 'Iba noon, iba ngayon,” said the 6-9 center out of Sta. Barbara, Pangasinan, who spent the best years of his career playing for Jaworski under the Ginebra banner.
“Pero ang sa akin lang, kapag lalaro ka kay Coach Sonny, hindi pupuwedeng lamang ka sa mga kakampi mo. Dapat pantay-pantay kayo. Walang superstar-superstar,” he added.
“Kasi kung lalaro ka sa kanya, itatanong mo lang sa sarili mo, 'Mas sikat ba ako sa tao na ito?’”
Asked how it would be like for Jaworski if he makes a PBA comeback amid news that he is in talks with San Miguel Corp. big boss Ramon S. Ang on a possible return to Ginebra, Aquino could not help but compare the style of Ginebra players during his time and now.
“Noong kami kasi nun, hindi namin inuuna ang sarili namin, hindi kami takot ma-injure, bugbog kung bugbog. Kasi naglalaro kami noon para sa mga fans,” said the 40-year-old big man.
“Kahit siguro pilay-pilay na kami noon, pag naghiyawan at palakpakan na ang fans, nawawala lahat. 'Yun kami noon, walang injury-injury. Laban kung laban,” Aquino added.
The many-time All-Star also declared that Ginebra’s brand of game back then was so physical that it would put the tough play of current PBA toughie Rain or Shine to shame.
“'Yung style ng laro namin nun talagang physical. 'Yun naman nakilala ang Ginebra eh. Parang Rain or Shine ngayon, kaya lang mas matindi pa,” he said.
Aquino's longtime teammate, Bal David, said a lot of things are bound to change at Ginebra if and when Jaworski is asked to take over the reins again.
"Alam naman natin impact ni coach, para rin ma-feel ng ibang players especially nung mga baguhan kung paano mag-coach ang the Big J," said the former Ginebra star. "I'm sure pag na-adopt nila ang system ni coach, maraming mababago, alam mo na ibig kong sabihin."
Aquino believes that Jaworski still has what it takes to lead a team to a championship, even if coaching and basketball technology have greatly evolved since the last time the 'Big J' coached 16 years ago.
“Tingin ko pwede pa 'yung style ni Coach Sonny. Kasi noong time namin, hindi nga kami kasing scientific ngayon pero may mga coaches rin noon na halos kapareho na ng ngayon ang style,” said Aquino, now an assistant coach for the the Adamson Falcons.
Aquino also pointed out that Jaworski won several championships while coaching against the likes of Yeng Guiao, Chot Reyes, Norman Black and Tim Cone - coaches who still rule the pro league to this day.
“'Yung style naman ng system namin noon, nasubukan naman namin against those coaches. Nag-champion pa nga kami, di ba?” said Aquino.
“Yung triangle offense nga ni Coach Tim, buhay na 'yun noon. Pero tinalo rin naman namin sila sa championship,” he added. “Nasa diskarte na lang 'yan. Saka malay natin, nag-aral at nag-observe din ng mga bago (na sistema) si Coach Sonny!”
And how it would be in the event the 'Big J' returns, he was asked.
“Naku, malaki 'yun. Maganda 'yun. Malaking bagay 'yun hindi lamang sa Ginebra at PBA, kundi pati na rin sa Philippine basketball. Ang ganda nun, kaya sana matuloy,” said Aquino.
“Sasabog talaga ang mga venue ngayon. Mas dadagundong ang mga coliseum,” added the 1996 Rookie of the Year awardee.
The PBA great also has no doubt in his mind that a Jaworski-led Ginebra team can fill coliseums as big as the soon-to-open Philippine Arena, reputedly the biggest domed arena in the world with a capacity of 55,0000, in Bocaue, Bulacan.
“Oo naman. Eh noong nag-champion nga kami dati, nag-motorcade kami sa Metro Manila, para kaming Manny Pacquiao," he said. "Puno ang mga lansangan noon, lalo na dun sa Roxas Boulevard, paano pa ngayon. Mas marami nang tao."
For podcast of full interview with Marlou Aquino, click here