LEGENDARY coach Virgilio `Baby’ Dalupan was overcome with emotion as he strained to get a glimpse of old faces among the many black-and-white photos of University of the East's multi-titled basketball teams.
Now practically blind at 88, Dalupan had to be assisted by wife Lourdes, who diligently described to him every photo displayed at the makeshift museum built at the hallway of the building named after Dalupan's father, Francisco – the founding president of the Recto-based school.
Guess who walked in to console the man they fondly call as the `Maestro?’ None other than the biggest star to come out of Dalupan’s stable of Red Warriors, Robert Jaworski.
“He told me he can no longer see,” Jaworski said of his touching conversation with Dalupan. “But I told him, hindi problema ‘yan dahil ang tao, wala po sa mata ang pakiramdam kundi nasa puso ninyo. Kaya okey pa kayo.”
It’s Jaworski’s ability to touch someone’s heart that makes him stand out, according to Dalupan, the most successful coach in the history of Philippine basketball who was honored with a UE Golden Global award and made an honorary UE alumnus emeritus.
“Maganda siya makisama sa tao,” Dalupan said in a rare interview granted with Spin.ph.
“Kung minsan, natutulungan niya at dahil sa kanyang stature, na-eenganyo ang mga players dahil nanggagaling sa kanya ‘yung magkaroon sila ng lakas ng loob,” he added.
Dalupan and Jaworski’s partnership in college produced two UAAP titles from 1965-1967, in what served as the springboard for the Warriors’ unprecedented run of seven straight championships. The Maestro would go on to win 12 UAAP titles before taking his act to the PBA.
In the pros, the careers of mentor and student were inevitably intertwined.
Jaworski would go on to become the biggest star of the Toyota Tamaraws team whose rivalry against the Crispa Redmanizers, coached by Dalupan, was unparalleled in Philippine basketball history.
Fittingly enough, both Dalupan and Jaworski were inducted into the PBA Hall of Fame at the same time in 2005.
But for all the years that they’ve spent as partners and rivals, Dalupan said he cherished most the time spent with the young Jaworski with the multi-titled Red Warriors team.
Jaworski was the quintessential player, according to Dalupan.
“Wala akong mapipintas sa kanya,” Dalupan said. “Disiplinado siyang player. Kapag oras ng ensayo, nandyan siya at minsan pa nga ay maaga pa. Hindi siya umaabsent.
“Kung minsan may mga player na nagdadabog kapag nasasabihan. Wala akong nakita sa kanyang ganoon. Kung ano ang utos ng coach, susundun niya,” he added.