Friday, August 31, 2007


There's something about Pido Jarencio.

In all my years of following UAAP basketball, I have never seen a coach as magnetic, as amusing, as compelling to watch and listen to as Jarencio. When he speaks to his players in the huddle during a time-out, I really enjoy listening to him. His language is colorful, his face is expressive, his energy and love for the game are palpable. Yesterday, I watched the UST-Ateneo game at Araneta, and Pa, Hanks and I were seated in the Patron section near the UST bench. We weren't exactly within earshot, but Coach Pido's voice is so loud and boisterous that we could hear him pretty clearly. Every time he was talking, it wasn't just his players and coaching staff who were hanging onto his every word, even the UST supporters seated behind them were paying rapt attention. At one point during the game, he blustered at his boys, "Ayokong matalo sa mga gagong yun!", jabbing a finger towards the Ateneo side. This made the UST crowd burst into spontaneous laughter, and in spite of myself, I laughed along. It was vintage Pido: a little coarse, but delightfully unpretentious and forthright.
Take his statement in the August 15 episode of The Probe Team, on what he told his players he'd do if he found out any of them were involved in game-rigging: "Bubugbugin ko kayo! Ako mismo bubugbog sa inyo!" :p

My dad is a fan of Pido as well (indeed, he was one of the first to suggest inviting him to coach the Tigers). Having had the chance to enter the UST dugout a few times (privilege of a former team manager), Pa regales us with tales of how Pido is such a down-to-earth character who inspires the respect and loyalty of his players. Perhaps it's because he was a former player himself, but Pido seems to understand not just the mechanics but also the psychology of the game from the players' perspective. When his players commit errors, he berates them but he doesn't attack, and he doesn't engage in verbal abuse (*coughJoeLipacough*). Though he's fond of peppering his speech with choice expletives, the players seem to implicitly know it's not personal, it's just the way Coach is.
When his players miss a shot, there's Pido, shadow-shooting from the sideline, grimacing in vicarious pain. He knows what it's like out on the floor, knows the risks and the breaks of the game, and he doesn't place blame on anyone (even the referees), just reminds his players to bear up and keep their focus.

Pido also goes out of his way to give credit where credit is due, and is known to both verbally and physically convey his praise and encouragement. Classic example was when he kissed his fingers and rubbed Japs Cuan's hands (for luck :p) before Cuan took a couple of crucial free throws during last season's Finals.
Pido gets excited and frustrated like any other coach, but he occasionally breaks the tension with a comic moment in a way that's endearing. He's also generous in giving his second-stringers opportunities to shine, choosing not to rely heavily on his first 5, and gambling on younger, more inexperienced players who have potential, which is why kids like Khasim Mirza, Chester Taylor and Mel Gile have improved dramatically this season. He also manages to communicate with his players in way that motivates them to want to perform better, and makes them believe they CAN do better. In their last game against the Archers (which UST eventually won in spectacular fashion), during a time-out prior to a La Salle possession, Pido pointed to each of the Tigers in front of him and barked, "6-3! 6-4! 6-3! 6-5! 6-1!" I was puzzled at first, wondering if he was talking in code, when it dawned on me that he was rattling off his players' respective heights, his way of telling them they were much taller than the Archers and that they could easily put up a defensive stop.

Pido Jarencio is like a less refined but funnier Coach Carter, stern but forgiving, brash but sensible, tough but lovable. And ultimately, you know he cares-- about the game, about his alma mater, about his players. So it's really no surprise that the UST crowd is the only one that cheers for their coach as much as they cheer for their players. They love Pido, and heck, so do I.

P.S. Ateneo eventually beat UST with a stunning buzzer-beater courtesy of Kirk Long, but the Tigers outplayed the Eagles throughout the entire match. So even though I was a jumping, screaming, rejoicing speck of blue in a sea of yellow, I knew who was the better team that day. Props, UST.


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