ARIC del Rosario is widely regarded as the man behind University of Perpetual Help’s resurgence in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament.
The man behind the multi-titled mentor also deserves credit.
Lester del Rosario may be the assistant coach on paper, but it’s an open secret that Aric’s son is the one calling the shots while his father, the listed head coach, plays more of a supporting role for the Altas.
It has been that way since last year when father and son came aboard and transformed the Las Piñas-based dribblers from a perennial dormant squad to a legitimate title contender in the country’s oldest collegiate league.
Convinced to come out of retirement to bring to the Altas the winning tradition he had with his previous teams in the UAAP (University of Santo Tomas), MBA (Pampanga Dragons) and the PBA (Alaska), the older Del Rosario in turn delegated most of the day-to-day chores to his son, who has done a notable job in leading the Altas.
After reaching the Final Four last season for the first time in eight years, the Altas are currently in joint second place with defending champion San Beda in the ongoing season.
“Binibigyan ko siya ng kumpiyansa at exposure kaya pinapaubaya ko sa kanya,” Aric said in a chat with Spin.ph during a break in Altas practice. “At kasi ako naman kung baga sawa na ako.”
Still, Lester rarely gets the spotlight as it’s his father who comes to post-game press conferences after an Altas victory.
Lester is not complaining, content to remain in the shadows of his father, who steered UST to four straight championships in the mid-1990s, won championships in the PBA as an assistant at Alaska, won an MBA title with the Pampanga Dragons, and the Southeast Asian Games with the national team.
“Walang problema yun. Actually, yung ginagawa ko, yung sistema, lahat yun sa kanya galing. Utang ko sa kanya,” Lester, the second of five siblings, said. “Lahat ng credit, sa kanya yun.”
Aric, for his part, said he wants his son to succeed on his own eventually.
“Kung ano yung narating ko, kung ano ang pumasok sa utak ko, gusto ko ilipat ko sa kanya eh kasi nakikitaan ko talaga siya na maging isang coach,” said the father, whose two other sons, Patrick and Edsel, are also into coaching.
Aric and Lester have been inseparable since the father coached the UST Tiger Cubs in the 1980s when his son was part of the team. Lester was also part of the UST squad that Aric steered to that dynasty in the mid-90s, before playing for his dad's Pampanga Dragons.
Lester eventually started to follow in his father’s footsteps in 2006, when he became an assistant and later an interim coach of UST, putting together the core of the Tigers squad that eventually won the UAAP title under Pido Jarencio.
He also became an assistant at Toyota in the defunct PBL and for Jose Rizal University in the NCAA, before joining his father at Perpetual.
“Yung break na binibigay niya sa akin ngayon, nagpapasalamat ako,” said Lester, the concurrent head coach for three years running of the National College of Business and Arts varsity squad, which plays in other minor collegiate leagues in the metro. “Hindi ko ine-expect na ganung (setup) ang gagawin niya sa akin dito eh.”
“At least pag nakikita ko yung mali niya, kino-correct ko during the game — kung kelan tatawag ng timeout, kung sino papalitan — yun pa ang medyo kulang niya eh, yung mga crucial na decisions,” replied Aric, who nevertheless believes Lester is ripe to officially become the head coach next season.
“Sa tingin ko pwede na siya pakawalan,” said the older Del Rosario, who’s in the second of a three-year contract with the school. “Siguro next year, kung papayag yung may-ari, sa likod na lang ako para yung credit mapunta naman sa kanya.”
Underscoring his son’s persevearance, Aric related that Lester would usually stay awake until the wee hours of the morning just to scout opponents and review tapes.
But if he eventually ends up as a full-fledged head coach, Lester still wants his father to continue guiding him.
“Basta habang nandito ako, hindi siya mawawala sa tabi ko.”
“Kasi pag uwi ko, kasama ko pa rin siya sa bahay.” Ayaw akong iwan eh,’ Lester, a father of two kids, was quick to add with laugh. The two still live in the same house in Quezon City.
“Hindi ko masasabi kung daddy’s boy ako pero meron lang talaga kaming special bond na hindi na kami napaghiwalay since naglalaro pa ako.”
A similarity they share is the ferocity in handling their wards.
“Pareho kaming intense mag-coach,” Lester said. “Kahit malaki yung lamang, pagka mali yung players namin, hindi kami pumapayag na mag-easy-easy yan hangga’t hindi natatapos yung game.”
But more than anything else, Lester said it is the mutual respect between the coaches and the players that has fostered a winning culture in the school.
“Yun yung na-build namin dito. Pag may respeto ka, mamahalin ka ng players mo. Siguro naman nakikita naman natin ang resulta. Pero hindi ako nagsasalita ng tapos. Hopefully tumuloy-tuloy.”