Newly appointed Mapua men’s basketball coach Fortunato ‘Atoy’ Co Jr. insisted on Friday he has not lost touch with the game despite being away from the sidelines for more than two decades.
What gives the 61-year-old former Cardinal and Crispa Redmanizers superstar confidence ahead of his first coaching assignment since his days as coach of the Crispa Redmanizers team in the old PBL is that he has kept abreast with the latest collegiate basketball trends during the lull.
“Yes, I’ve been watching collegiate basketball games these past two years so that’s why I know the trends,” Co said on Friday during the ceremonial signing of his three-year deal at the school grounds in Intramuros.
“I can say nandudun pa rin (coaching touch). Hindi naman mawawala yun eh, at kaya nga nandidito sila eh,” Co added, pointing to his appointed assistants in Ed Cordero, Bai Cristobal, and Randy Alcantara.
With the help of his deputies – Cordero from the most successful NCAA team in San Beda, Cristobal, last season’s assistant commissioner, and Alcantara, Mapua’s high school mentor – Co promises a better showing for the Cardinals next season.
Co said he can only see a few differences in coaching between now and when he last coached in 1991 when the former PBA MVP, two-time PBA grand slam champion, and member of the PBA’s 25 Greatest Players steered the Redmanizers to the second of their back-to-back PBL championships.
“Yung tactics pare-pareho pa rin naman yun eh,” he said. “Kaya lang ang nakikita ko ngayon ang practices, hinihimay na.”
“Pag may play ka, bago kayo dumating sa lima na sama-sama naglalaro, nag-uumpisa sa dalawa, tatlo, apat, bago mo siya ico-combine.”
The chemical engineering graduate said today's collegiate cagers are lucky to somewhat have a refresher course on the basics of the game from their coaches.
“Yung skills tinuturo mo na. Nung araw naman, hindi na tinuturo yun eh,” he said. “Pag kinuha kita, kung ano ka, mag-improve ka sa sarili mo,” he said.
“Kaya sabi ko nga sa mga players eh, napaka-suwerte niyo dahil tinuturo na namin lahat sa inyo in detail ang basketball eh kaya wala ng rason na hindi kayo gumaling.”
Co, who has only been with his team for 10 days, said there are four remaining slots in his roster, but admitted having difficulty in recruiting as he is up against the “elite” teams in the recruitment wars.
“I’m eyeing those teams na may magaling na player pero walang playing time, maybe I can sweet-talk them that here you can get playing time,” he said.