BONG Alvarez wants to go into coaching - his way, he said, of giving back to a sport that had been so good to him.
Now if only he's given a chance.
The man known for his dazzling plays and aerial artistry during his days as the PBA's ‘Mr. Excitement’, is dying to get involved in basketball again through coaching – at the college level to be exact.
Although he has no prior experience handling a team in leagues as competitive as the UAAP or NCAA, the Quiapo kid who became one of the iconic figures in local basketball, believes his name and the reputation he built as one of the most talented players of his era, would be good enough to qualify him as such.
If only it was that easy, but it’s not.
Apparently, controversies he became involved in late in his career and during his post-basketball days continue to hound him, tarnishing what was once an ideal playing career that had been the envy of many.
That has been the case for his alma mater, San Sebastian, which repeatedly turned down the application of one of its most famous alumni to join its coaching staff, now being handled by his former Stags teammate Egay Macaraya.
“Kay Coach Turo (Valenzona) ko na nga pinabibigay (resume). Ang sinasabi niya ayaw daw ng mga pari sa akin,” related Alvarez, referring to the former multi-titled San Sebastian coach and longtime consultant of the school.
Now 47, Alvarez remains adamant about serving his school that he’d rather not try his luck with other teams. But he can't hide his frustration over the repeated snubs.
“Sa eskuwelahan nga na naka eight championships ako, di tayo mapasok. E dun pa kaya (sa iba),” he said.
In terms of coaching influences, Alvarez said his former Alaska coach Tim Cone, with whom he won his first ever PBA championship, tops his list, describing the most successful pro mentor in the country as someone who motivates his players very well.
He also gives Norman Black the and Yeng Guiao the thumbs up.
“Si Coach Norman sobrang bait,” Alvarez said of the grand slam coach, who he had the chance to play for at San Miguel.
“Si Coach Yeng, ang period nun mura, e,” he said laughing as he recalled his time playing for the fiery mentor at Red Bull.
But while Alvarez may be wet behind the ears as far as coaching is concerned, there was no doubt he was one helluva player during his prime.
At age 14, Bong said he can already dunk the ball with grace and ferocity, and immediately showed his potential with the University of Manila, where he suited up in high school and was its youngest player during his rookie season.
“Doon ako nabatak ng husto, kasi puro mga beterano na ang kasama ko. Halos araw-araw bugbog ako,” he said of his stint with the Hawklets.
Toughened at a younger age, everything became a breeze for Alvarez when he stepped into college and eventually, in amateur commercial leagues.
He was so good that fans of the opposing teams in the NCAA would collectively curse Alvarez, in a bid to rattle the high-flying Stags star, the moment he steps on the famed Rizal Memorial Coliseum floor for warm-ups.
“Sa aking player lang nangyari yun sa liga ng basketball. Papasok pa lang ako, minumura na ako nun, buong coliseum yan a,” said Bong, recalling the famous chant ‘Alvarez! Alvarez! Pu#@8 Na#@&*! that became the staple in NCAA games especially during the championship series between San Sebastian and old rival Letran.
Blessed with natural athleticism and an awesome vertical leap, Alvarez was an even bigger hit by the time he turned pro in the talent-laden 1989 PBA roookie draft class as the third overall pick of Alaska.
Alvarez went on and registered the second highest single-game individual record in the league of 71 points during his sophomore year in a 169-138 Alaska win over Shell.
With power and fame come great responsibility, and Alvarez failed to handle it well.
After a falling-out with Alaska in 1992 due to a contract dispute, Alvarez was traded to Sta. Lucia the following year for Bong Hawkins. Although still a deadly player, he would later spin into a journeyman career that will saw him spend time with Shell, San Miguel, Ginebra in the PBA, Pasig Pirates in the Metropolitan Basketball Association (MBA), the Pennsylvania Valley Dawgs in the United States Basketball League (USBL), and then, back in the PBA for FedEx, Talk ‘N Text, and finally Red Bull where he last played in 2005.
The pride of Abra, who now weighs 200 lbs. but continues to take pride in his well-maintained abs and biceps, said he doesn’t see any current player – pro or otherwise – who reminds him of himself during his prime.
But there are two PBA stars that impress him the most – Terrence Romeo and Marc Pingris.
“Bilib ako run, ang tapang na player,” he said of the blonde-haired GlobalPort combo guard. “Tsaka parang pinagaling mong (Johnny) Abarrientos na mag dribble.
“Yung Pingris naman, sobrang sipag.”
Alvarez, who said he is currently in the cargo forwarding business, knows he can be of help to any team, especially in the aspect of developing players in the mold of Romeo or Pingris, because as he himself puts it, ‘Galaw pa lang ng player, alam ko na.’
And it’s through coaching that he believes he’ll be able to make a difference at this stage of what has been a rocky post-basketball life.
“Mapasok lang talaga tayo sa coaching,” he said.
If only he will be given the chance.