Uichico: Leaving ‘hard, but no regrets’

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Uichico: Leaving ‘hard, but no regrets’

Post by Ginebra Tambayan on Thu Jan 12, 2012 9:28 pm

Uichico: Leaving ‘hard, but no regrets’
Reynaldo Belen, InterAKTV · Thursday, January 12, 2012 · 8:00 pm

PBA/Nuki Sabio

For Jong Uichico, it was time to move on.

The soft-spoken mentor spoke to InterAKTV about his decision to leave the San Miguel Corporation umbrella after two decades, a day after making his decision public. The coach will be joining the staff of the SMART-Gilas Pilipinas national program.

He described the decision as ‘hard,’ but added he does not have any regrets about departing.

Earlier this week, he said goodbye to his long-time principal, SMC chairman Danding Cojuangco, as well as Danding’s brother Henry.

“I owe everything to them, my career and my livelihood, so it’s really difficult to part ways with them,” said Uichico.

“But sometimes you need to soul-search and ask yourself if there are other good things for your career. So you need a change of direction.”

Uichico’s involvement with the group started in the 1980s, when he was still playing for La Salle, which Cojuangco supported. As a player, Uichico became part of the Northern Consolidated Cement national program bankrolled by Cojuangco, before beginning his coaching career with the La Salle-Zobel juniors squad.

In 1992, Uichico joined San Miguel as an assistant to Norman Black, and stayed on to assist his coach at NCC, Ron Jacobs, when the latter took over the Beermen in 1997. He took over the helm of the Beermen in 1999 when Jacobs was elevated as consultant of both San Miguel and Ginebra, and he quickly won five championships in two years.

His last title with San Miguel came in 2005, before he moved to Ginebra before the 2006-07 season. He won two titles with the Gin Kings, the last of which happened in the 2007-08 season with Chris Alexander as import.

But through all his success, he has found himself being drawn back to the national team. Curiously, Uichico’s longtime mentor Jacobs first came to the Philippines to run the national basketball program.

“I have served the national team a lot of times, from Coach Norman Black [in the 1994 Asian Games in Hiroshima, Japan], head coach in [the 2002 Asian Games in] Busan, [South Korea,] to assisting Coach Chot Reyes [in the 2007 FIBA Asia Championship in Tokushimam Japan] to Coach Yeng Guiao [in the 2009 FIBA Asia in Tianjin, China] and will continue to serve the national team at any given chance.”

No hard feelings

Uichico’s decision to leave comes a conference after his demotion to “co-coach” alongside Siot Tanquingcen, despite leading Ginebra to its best record in the past four years the previous season. He said that it was really Tanquingcen, his longtime assistant, who was tasked to call the shots for the team.

“We were not co-coach at Ginebra, press release lang ‘yung term na co-coach,” said Uichico.

Observers felt that the multi-titled mentor had been lost in the shuffle at SMC because of his ties to the Cojuangcos. Officials close to SMC president Ramon Ang have dominated the conglomerate’s basketball operations group, leaving Cojuangco loyalists as the odd men out.

But Uichico said he had no hard feelings about his demotion.

“That’s OK. I’m a good soldier and that’s what the management wants. In fact, mas OK nga sa akin because it’s less work for me and I like assisting.”

Upon his departure, Uichico said other people in the coaching staff should be given an opportunity to play a key role for the team.

“I don’t know kung sino ang ipapalit nila sa akin [as lead assistant], but that’s Coach Siot’s call. But I feel Junno Sauler should be given a chance and let him step up.”

Leaving La Salle, too

Uichico said he hasn’t signed a contract yet with SMART-Gilas, although he revealed that he already has a verbal offer. Once he officially joins SMART-Gilas, he said he has to relinquish other basketball coaching-related commitments.

“Yes, my involvement with La Salle should be given up as well,” Uichico said.

Uichico was named team consultant of the Archers last year to help newly-appointed coach Gee Abanilla, after Cojuangco once again committed to help the La Salle basketball program. Curiously, SMART-Gilas is bankrolled by Manuel V. Pangilinan, who also serves as the chief benefactor of the Ateneo basketball program, La Salle’s traditional rival.

(InterAKTV is part of InterAksyon.com, the online news portal of TV5, which is chaired by Pangilinan.)

Source: Interkasyon.com
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