By Drei Christopher Villanueva
Since his passing last week, many things have been said about Baby Dalupan, the man who authored the league’s first grand slam in 1976 and helped Crispa establish a league dynasty. From 1975’s Third Conference until the second conference of the 1977 season, the Redmanizers put together six straight championships, a record which remains unbeaten to this day.
“They’re like the Boston Celtics of the PBA during the early days,” said Rain or Shine coach Yeng Guiao, who grew up idolizing Dalupan as his mentor. “Coach Baby had total control of his team. In fact, para na nga siyang mayari ng team (He’s like the owner of the team) because he’s the authority in the team.”
Indeed, so dominant were the Redmanizers with Dalupan at the helm that, in the 1980 All-Filipino conference, the Redmanizers put together a record number of wins – 19 straight games, a streak still unmatched in the 41-year history of the PBA. In fact, the Redmanizers nearly completed a perfect season as they had a chance to sweep the Toyota Tamaraws in Game 3 of their championship series. In Game 3 of the best of five series, Jaworski and co. averted a sweep, halting Crispa’s winning streak and surviving for another game before the Redmanizers eventually claimed victory with a dominant performance in the following game for their eighth championship under “The Maestro”.
Dalupan’s last championship with the Redmanizers was in the 1981 Reinforced Filipino, when the team had the bemoustached Al Green as its import. The Redmanizers had a chance to win another title during the 1982 import-laden conference, but lost to the San Miguel Beermen bannered by Norman Black, Marte Saldana, Manny Paner and coached by Tommy Manotoc. That was the last conference Dalupan coached Crispa, as he would transfer to Great Taste Coffee the following year.
Dalupan’s winning ways didn’t stop there, as he would turn the Coffee Makers into the league’s new powerhouse squad following Crispa and Toyota’s 1983 disbanding. The old man would win five championships with the Gokongwei franchise from 1984 to 1988, before transfering to Purefoods at the latter part of his career. Dalupan’s legend continued with the Hotdogs, then an emerging power behind young talented players like Alvin Patromonio, Jerry Codinera, Jojo Lastimosa, Nelson Asaytono, Glenn Capacio and Dindo Pumaren.
In the 1990 Third Conference, Dalupan would weave his old magic one more time. With his team on the brink of being swept, Dalupan would rally the Hotdogs back in the series and came back from an 0-2 deficit to defeat the Alaska Milkmen, 3-2. It was Dalupan’s 15th and last championship as he would step down from coaching a conference later.
In the history of Philippine basketball, no other coach has won more championships than Dalupan. Although Dalupan’s record of 15 titles, which stood out as the most championships won by any coach until Tim Cone broke the feat in 2014 when the San Mig Coffee Mixers completed a rare grand slam, the old man still holds the most crowns won among Filipino coaches. He led University of the East to 12 championships in the UAAP, the Ateneo Blue Eagles to two titles when the Loyala- based squad was still playing in the NCAA, and, of course, guided the legendary Crispa Redmanizers to four championships in the MICAA, and a championship in the National Open and National Seniors.
In 1970, he would steer the Philippine squad to the Pestasukan title. Longtime Alaska Coach Tim Cone, who had cheered for Toyota during the 1970s, couldn’t help but admire his coaching idol, marveling at the way Dalupan and his Crispa team dominated their rivals.
“When I was growing up, coaching wasn’t a glamour position. I think I like to be a coach,” said Cone. “Some would want to be an astronaut, a president, something that is more glamourous. But guys like Baby Dalupan here, or like Red Auerbach in the United States, they glamorized coaching. It got into the level where we at now where it became a glamorous position…Without Baby doing that in the early times, we would not have the same position that we have now. He kinda blazed the path for us. I think it’s always important to remember the people that came before you. I hope at some point I have an impact in the game like he did. He was the brightest and the best. No one will equal him in terms of how he impacted the coaching profession.”
With Coach Baby’s passing, the sport of basketball may have lost one of its greats, but his accomplishments will never be forgotten. PlayPH joins fans everywhere in saluting the man we will forever remember as The Maestro.
image credits: CNN