FORTUNATO 'Atoy' Co has officially been named head coach of Mapua’s men’s basketball team on Wednesday, with the cage icon hoping to translate his success as a basketball player into a major revival for the Cardinals' program.
The former Cardinal and Crispa Redmanizers star, who signed a three-year deal on Tuesday that was formally announced through the school’s website, takes over from Chito Victolero as he inherits a team that last tasted an NCAA championship more two decades ago.
The ‘Fortune Cookie' is a former PBA MVP, a two-time PBA grand slam champion, and a member of the PBA’s 25 Greatest Players, but his coaching skills will be put to the test as he returns to the cage scene after going on a hiatus that was as long as Mapua’s title drought.
“It is a big challenge for me to prove that I’m not only a good basketball player but a good coach as well,” said Co, who last coached in 1991 when he led the Redmanizers to the second of their back-to-back championships in the defunct Philippine Amateur Basketball League.
Co, who ventured into showbiz and politics after his last coaching stint, is well aware of the huge expectations of leading a team to its first title since 1991, but wants to take things one step at a time.
“Yes, I feel the pressure but I don’t like to make promises,” he said. “We will do our best. What I would want is to see my team fighting up to the end.”
“Hopefully, with all the support, in three years we will be playing for the championship. This year, my dream is to get into the Top Four. That would be a big achievement for the team, for me and for everybody.”
Co bared plans to bring his own conditioning and strengthening coach and adding more recruits to his lineup for the upcoming collegiate wars.
“There are a lot of factors to consider to improve our game, foremost of which is to ensure that my players are in tip-top shape and for them to have a high morale when the next NCAA season begins,” he said.
A ceremonial signing at the school grounds is set to take place on Friday and will be attended by Mapua president and chief executive officer Dr. Reynaldo Vea.
“His years of playing and leading his team to victories will certainly be an invaluable asset as he coaches the Cardinals,” Vea said. “As background for a coaching role, there can be no substitute to actual court experience that produced positive outcomes.”