NOWADAYS, Ryan Gregorio is known as the special assistant to Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas president Al Panlilio and an alternate governor for the Meralco Bolts in the PBA.
Years ago, however, Gregorio was one of the more successful young coaches in the PBA after he captured three titles in the league for Purefoods in a career that began as a video coordinator under Eric Altamirano for the University of the Philippines in the late 1990s.
In his coaching career with Purefoods, Gregorio perhaps also holds a unique distinction as having coached the franchise players of the team from different eras, from Alvin Patrimonio to James Yap. As he celebrates his 48th birthday, let’s recall Gregorio’s PBA titles with the Hotdogs.
2002 Governors’ Cup
Gregorio notched his first-ever PBA title this year when he led Purefoods to a title at the expense of Alaska in seven thrilling games. Four-time MVP Alvin Patrimonio was already in the twilight of his career, and only had Rey Evangelista as the only remnants to the TJ Hotdogs team of the 1990s, but had a young Kerby Raymundo and veteran Ronnie Magsanoc as teammates that conference. The Governors’ Cup featured a two-import format with Derrick Brown teaming up with Kelvin Price for the TJ Hotdogs.
After losing the first two games of the series, Purefoods rallied to win the next three only for Alaska to force a rubber match. But the Hotdogs pulled through with Brown and Price having 21 and 19 each and Raymundo winning the finals MVP after pouring in 14 in the 91-76 Game Seven win.
Even the veterans made quality contributions with Evangelista and Magsanoc tallying 12 points and Patrimonio adding 11 in what became his last PBA title of his career. Gregorio also became the first rookie coach in the PBA to win a Game Seven championship.
2006 Philippine Cup
Gregorio captured his second PBA crown in the all-Filipino conference where Purefoods defeated Red Bull in six games of the best-of-seven series.
The TJ Hotdogs had an impressive run, topping the elimination round with an 12-4 record and grinding out the finals spot after a seven-game series against Alaska. Purefoods faced Red Bull in the finals where the Hotdogs opened a 2-0 lead before dispatching their opponent, 90-83, in the finals, avenging their loss against the same team in the Fiesta Conference.
Marc Pingris emerged as the finals MVP to cap of the season in which James Yap won his first season in the PBA. The title was also equally special for Jun Limpot, who finally captured a championship after 13 years in the league.
2010 Philippine Cup
Perhaps the most impressive PBA title Gregorio won came when Purefoods swept Alaska in the year’s all-Filipino tournament. Coming in as the third seed, the Hotdogs toppled Tim Cone and the top-ranked Aces, 4-0, for his third crown of his coaching career, and only the third sweep in a PBA finals.
Gregorio’s squad went through a wringer, beating ninth-seeded Rain or Shine in a knockout game in the best-of-five series, and defeating second-ranked San Miguel in six games in the semifinals.
Aside from winning the Best Player of the Conference, Yap won the Finals MVP after four consistent games during the series finished with an 18-point performance in Purefoods’ 86-76 win over Alaska in the series clincher, adding another victorious chapter to the history of the franchise.