Atoy rebuilds Mapua for future

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MANILA -- Coach and PBA legend Atoy Co said yesterday he’s looking forward to reestablishing a winning program at Mapua but the Fortune Cookie knows it won’t be easy and there will be a lot of headaches along the way.


The Cardinals are mired in last place in the NCAA senior men’s basketball standings with a 1-9 record so far this season. Their only win was a 104-99 double overtime decision over San Sebastian last July 1. Since the victory, Mapua has lost eight in a row.

“We’re asking for patience,” said the 61-year-old Co, the PBA’s MVP in 1979. “We’re working on a three-year program but it may take as long as five years unless we’re able to recruit players like Kiefer (Ravena) and Jeron (Teng). We’ve got seven rookies and four second-year players in our lineup. It’s like we’re starting from scratch.”

Co himself is a rookie college coach. His only previous coaching stint was with Crispa when he piloted the Redmanizers to the PABL title in 1991. “Over the last two years, my friend Manny Sy would invite me to watch the UAAP and NCAA and we would analyze the games so when I was invited to coach Mapua, I was prepared,” he said. “The coaching style today is so different from how it was before. When I used to play, coaches relied on the players’ pure talent, their versatility. The game has changed. Before, the play was rough. When you drove in, expect to go down. Today, the game is still physical, a lot of body banging, elbowing but with no intention to hurt. Baby Dalupan coached by instinct and the game was wide open. Then, Tommy (Manotoc) introduced science to coaching. He installed a system, made scouting reports and taught us about rotation, helping and trapping. Tommy’s system is still applicable today with some adjustments. At Mapua, we’re using the San Beda system of (assistant coach) Ed (Cordero).”

Co said Cordero is a big help with the Cardinals. “At practice, I personally try to teach our players how to do things,” he said. “I sometimes jog and shoot with them. I teach them how to shoot the turn-around, fadeaway which was my bread-and-butter during my time. Even at my age, I think I can still keep up with the young players. Coaching involves a lot of teaching. It’s now my full-time job. I’ve given up golf and staying late at our sports bar in Metrowalk (Atoy’s) which my son, now 28, runs. I wake up at 5 or 5:30 to be at the gym by 7 to start practice. Right now, we practice at San Andres Gym while our gym is under renovation. It’s difficult if you don’t have your own gym, you can’t practice when you want to.”

Co said while this season has been a harsh experience, there is some fulfillment. “I accept our limitations,” he said. “We’ve lost some games which we could’ve won if not for late mistakes. Sometimes, we do four-hour practices. It’s like coaching a high school team, starting with basics. But I’m happy when the players do things right. We’re experiencing growing pains, difficult to accept but we must take responsibility. Discipline is very important to me. Like in (Joseph) Eriobu’s case when we benched him in the EAC game.” (The Philippine Star) 

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