What was supposed to be a great year in Philippine basketball is ending on a sad note with the recent passing of legends Lim Eng Beng and Ron Jacobs. Lim was among the best scorers ever to play the sport in the country and is among the top 40 players in PBA history. He lost a three-year battle with liver cancer on December 21. Three days later, Jacobs breathed his last after living on a wheelchair and unable to speak and walk for 14 years since suffering a stroke in 2001.
I never met Coach Ron but I have heard so much about him. I was just starting a basketball-coaching career when he suffered the stroke. He was one of my role models in wanting to pursue this career. And I’m sure so many others had him as their role model too. Some of them have become among the cream of the crop in local hoops like Jong Uichico, Franz Pumaren, Eric Altamirano, Siot Tanquingcen, Pido Jarencio and Binky Favis to name a few. All these coaches have won multiple titles in various leagues. To this day, some of the coaching knowledge he imparted to local mentors is still in use.
It’s fair to say that Jacobs revolutionized the coaching methods in the Philippines. Before he came to the country in 1980, there was very little system in the way teams were training and preparing for games. Local teams banked on talent and passion for the game. They often ran one-on-one plays and fast break attacks. Defense was mostly effort-oriented and hardly tactical. When Coach Ron came, he introduced science in coaching.
Probably his most significant teaching is “help defense” in a man-to-man defensive method. His philosophy is that good man-to-man defense must be executed as a team and not just by five individuals guarding their own man. It starts with the understanding of the ball-you-man principle, which is basically seeing both your man and the ball at the same time. The idea is to be able to offer help if your teammate guarding the man with the ball is beaten off the dribble. And then he also taught defensive strategies versus cuts, screens and post plays among others. Defense became technical and systematic. This likewise changed the offense because one-on-one plays became less effective against an organized team defense.
In training, Jacobs also demonstrated various drills to enhance skills and execution of strategies. His lessons made hoops-talented Pinoys even better at the sport and much more efficient at their craft.
Coach Ron also introduced techniques in preparing for a game, like the use of scouting tools. Local coaches learned how to scout opponents’ plays and tendencies by taking and watching videos. They also learned to use scouting reports that came in various forms. This gave assistant coaches more specific roles and contributions to the team.
I had the privilege of working with Binky Favis, one of Jacobs’ protégés, with the National Team in 2005. Binky was a great teacher of the game and he was very particular with details. It was through him that I learned about the team defense that Coach Ron preached. And his scouting reports were thorough and almost faultless.
Jacobs’ contributions to Philippine basketball are immeasurable. His technical knowledge, work ethic and dedication to teaching have become the barometer for local coaches to emulate. Surely, the level of competition in the sport has gone up after a few years of Jacobs’ stint here. And years since he stopped coaching, local coaches continue to benefit from the teachings of Coach Ron.
Since the stroke 14 years ago, Coach Ron has been unable to do what he loves most – teach the beautiful game of basketball. But friends from the basketball community continued to see him and show their gratitude and appreciation of the valuable lessons they gained from such friendship.
In a way, I’m also glad that Coach Ron can finally rest after the heartbreaking condition that he has endured all these years.
Philippine basketball will always be grateful to him. Farewell Coach Ron. And thank you.